Mary L. Wentworth:
To the editor:
It was a disappointment to find that in his Friday guest column (“Heart of Smith College’s first president in right place,” Gazette), John M. Connolly of Smith College did not back the suggestion that a statue of Sophia Smith be erected in her honor at an appropriate campus spot. This omission puts him in the position of being an apologist for the college.
If L. Clarke Seelye’s “heart was in the right place,” as Connolly asserts, why did he allow the most prominent building on campus, constructed in 1910, to be named after the usurper of Smith’s legacy, John M. Greene?
How come Seelye, who was president for 37 years, allowed college catalogs to give credit to Greene? For instance, even as late as 1945, the catalog states, “Smith College began in the mind of a New England minister. To John Morton Greene is due the realization that we see today.”
Is this Seelye-initiated fiction maintained because it is feared that if Sophia Smith were given her due, Rally Day on Feb. 22, for example, might include an annual assessment of the progress that our society was making toward the goals that she laid out in her will?
Such a report would have included answers to the following questions: Had women’s wages increased to the point that their children did not have to be put to work in the textile mills of Lowell and Lawrence? Had women’s working conditions improved? Had the eight-hour day become standard? Had married women gained the legal right to keep the money they earned from working outside the home? Did married women have the right to own property? Could a husband be brought to court for beating or raping his wife? Did women have the right to vote? Had women received the protection of their rights under an amended Constitution?
Connolly calls Sophia Smith “a quiet revolutionary.” A more accurate term would be “a passionate feminist,” a designation that still sends tremors through the patriarchal world. Her feminism is demonstrated, for example, in her will where she listed 19 people who were to receive financial bequests. All of them were women, including John M. Greene’s wife. He didn’t receive so much as a nickel.
Mary L. Wentworth