J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucinda Foote’s Entrance Examination

Last week I shared the account of a Yale entrance examination for a seven-year-old in 1757. Here’s another notable Yale applicant from 1783.

Once again the story includes the Rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles, by then president of the college. In his diary for 22 December, he wrote:
I examined Miss Lucinda Foot aet. [i.e., aged] 12, Daugh. of the Revd Mr Foot of Cheshire [Connecticut]. She has learned the 4 Orat. agt. Cataline, the four first Books of the Aeneid, & St. Jno.’s Gospel in Greek. I exam’d her not only where she had learned but indifferently elsewhere in Virgil, Tully, & the Greek Testament, & found her well fitted to be admitted into the Freshman Class. She was born May 19, 1772. I gave her the followg. Certificate or Diploma on Parchment.

(L. S.) Prases Collegij Yalensis, Omnibus S. P. D.
Vobis notum sit quod Dominam
Lucindam Foot Aetat 12. Examine probavi, eanique in Linguis edoctis, Latina et Graeca, laudabilem progressum fecisse; eo ut familiariter et reddidisse & tractasse reperivi, tum verba tum Sententias, alibi in Aeneide Virgilii, in selectis Ciceronis Orationibus, et in Graeco Testamento. Testorque omnino illam, nisi Sexus ratione, idoneam ut in Classem Recentium in Universitate Yalensi Alumna admitteretur. Datum e Bibliotheca Collegij Yalensis, 22 die Decembris, Anno Salutis MDCCLXXXIII.
An English translation of that document:
The President of Yale College, to all to whom these Presents shall come,—Greeting: Be it known to you, that I have examined Miss Lucinda Foote,—twelve years old,—and have found that in the Learned languages,—the Latin and the Greek.—she has made commendable progress,—giving the true meaning of passages in the Eneid of Virgil, the Select Orations of Cicero, and in the Greek Testament; and that she is fully qualified, except in regard to sex, to be received, as a Pupil of the Freshman Class in Yale University. Given in the College Library, the 22 of December, 1783.
Lucinda Foote was not, of course, admitted to the college. Not because she would be only twelve years old at the start of the next academic year, but because she would still be only a girl.

A family chronicler later wrote, “She pursued a full course of College Studies, and also studied the Hebrew, with President Stiles, subsequent to the date of this Certificate.” Unfortunately, Stiles’s diary, which is quite detailed, doesn’t confirm that. Stiles did remain in contact with her father, a fellow minister, but never mentioned Lucinda again.

It does seem certain that Lucinda Foote remained, as her descendants said, “altogether a woman of much learning and great mental power.” She grew up to marry Dr. Thomas T. Cornwall of Middletown in 1790. According to The Foote Family (1849), they had nine children between 1791 and 1801, a very high number, and then another in 1811. Nonetheless, she lived until 1834. Her husband died twelve years later, aged seventy-eight, having practiced medicine for more than half a century.

(Yale finally admitted young women as undergraduates in 1969. The photo above shows the university’s Mead Visitor Center, in a 1767 house on Elm Street.)


Diane Mayr said...

Picture book in your future, John? If not, let me know!

J. L. Bell said...

All yours, Diane!

Diane Mayr said...

Thanks! (But don't hold your breath waiting...)