Archive for the ‘Bethlehem Seminary’ Category

“The Cap . . . is . . . an insignia of their order”

JUDITH MURRAY SARGENT has more interesting remarks to make about the Bethlehem Seminary in her Letterbook. She describes the dress, particularly the caps, of the students and also the sisters who teach them as well as the inhabitants of the town.

It is amazing what eronious conceptions are formed of this Seminary—Even at New York, I heard the Gentleman, and the Man of letters, exclaim—“What, immure your Girl with in the Cloistered walls of Bethlehem? Surely then you do not intend her for society[”]—yet, it is true, that there is no undue confinement, nor restraint—Even the sisterhood make frequent excursions to the adjacent Villages—I have heard much of the awkwardness, and the [immature] heart of the Bethlehem scholar, but I could not trace it in a single instance, and there absolutely is, in their manners an elegant care, and simplicity, which is enchantingly prepossessing—Indeed, dwelling there together, they are constantly accustomed to society, and, it is a fact, that Bethlehem is the resort of the genteelest strangers—It is true dancing is not taught in Bethlehem—but if it be taught proper dancing may be a subsequent acquirement, and a young Lady, designed for the great World, may be very soon initiated into its customs—Mean time, at Bethlehem, she [acquires in her] early days, a good foundation —she will imbibe the chastest system of morals, with a fund of benevolence[,] her mind will be stored, and she will receive almost every embellishment.

An exact uniformity in dress is not required—It is a request made to parents, and guardians, that all excess may be avoided, and they are fond of seeing the children in white—The Cap, however, is, if I may be allowed the expression, an insignia of their order— ll the young Ladies put it on — it is made of Cambrick, received a narrow border of Lawn, sets close to the head, and is fastened under the chin, with a pink ribbon—It is of pure white, indeed all the Bethlehem linen is uncommonly white, and although, upon a cursory view, we are induced to think, this same cap could only suit a handsome face —yet, however they manage it, I protest there was not one of the Girls, to whom it did not seem to add a charm—The fashion of the cap worn by the inhabitants, and which, for more than a Century, the Moravian Women have not changed, sets also close to the head but it is a different pattern, and not near so becoming—It is however assumed by every female, of every description—Maids, Wives, and Widows, and, by way of distinction it is fastened by the Maidens, with a red, or pink ribbon by Wives with a blue, and by widows with a white, and this knot of ribbon, is the only ornament worn by a Bethlamite female . . . .

In the next post Judith Sargent Murray describes the funeral customs of the Moravians.

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE. The portrait is of a Young Moravian Girl (1755) by John Valentine Haidt (1700 – 1780). The lacing of the bodice is typical and the cap is as described by Murray.

posted December 26th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Clothes,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent

“Peace on earth, good will to Men”

Before continuing with the description of the Bethlehem Seminary by JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY, let me include a few words about the Seminary’s origins. It was Henrietta Benigna Justine Zinzendorf von Watteville (1725-1789), born in Berthelsdorf, Saxony, the daughter of the founder of the Renewed Moravian Church, who when she came to America with him at age sixteen was encouraged to open a girls’ school. This she did in 1742 in Germantown, Pennsylvania; the school moved to Bethlehem, the center of the Moravian Church in America, in 1749. The first boarding school for girls in America, it welcomed Indians, and in 1785 opened its doors to those not of the Moravian faith. It quickly acquired such a reputation that George Washington personally requested admission for his great nieces. The Countess visited frequently and remained involved with the Seminary throughout her life. The Seminary evolved through the years and in 1953 became part of the coeducational Moravian College at Bethlehem.
Judith Sargent Murray continued her observations on the Seminary.

A Lady belonging to New York, had placed her only daughter in this Seminary, for her education—after an absence of twelve months she visited her—Stopping at the Inn, she sent for her child [—] But impatient to embrace her, she set out to shorten the return of her Messenger—The child appeared, but the growth she had obtained, and the alteration of her head dress, prevented her Mother from distinguishing her, until the pretty creature taking her hand, pressed it with soft, and duteous affection to her lips—The Lady, bursting into tears, would then with impassioned emotion, have clasped her to her bosom—but so exactly regulated were the feelings of the sweet Cherub, that with direct and correct affection she requested—“Be composed my Mother, consider we are in the street, and let me attend you to the Inn, which is just in view[”]—Upon reaching the house, the Lady observed—My Dear there are schools in York—In consenting to this separation, great is the sacrifice made by your Father, and myself—Consider, you are our only child, and if your improvements be not far beyond those which you can make in your nature City, we enjoin it upon you to return [—] O! My Mamma, replied the young sentamentalist, excuse your daughter—do not, I pray you, think of such a step, but let us rather be grateful to that providence, which hath appointed for your Helena an Asylum, where she can receive every information, and at the same time be shielded from every Vice—
Coercive manners are unknown in the school, and hence it is articled, that if a child prove of an uncommonly refractory disposition, she shall be returned to her Parents—I asked a student if they had any punishments, and of what Nature?—and she informed me, that advice, and gentle remonstrance, generally answered every purpose, and if these should prove ineffectual, the name of the incorrigible, with the Nature of her offence, would be recorded—but that in the annals of the Bethlehem school, only one solitary instance of such an event, had hitherto occurred.—Recommended by the superior, and introduced by the above mentioned ladies, we had an opportunity of making many observations—We passed through the several divisions of the school, we examined the tambour, and embroidery, executed by the children [—] never did I see any thing in that line to equal it—We attended to their painting and composition—upon these subjects it would be arrogant of me to decid —but I was beyond expression charmed—We listened with solemn pleasure, as they played and sang in Concert —
“Peace on earth, good will to Men,
Now with us our God is seen,
Glory be to God above
Who is infinite in love.”
Do you not think the tears gushed in the eyes of our Murray—Do you not believe that my heart swelled with transport? . . .

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE. Information on the Seminary’s founder can be found HERE. The portrait is of the Countess with a cittern and was found HERE..

posted December 22nd, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent,Zinzendorf von Watteville, Henrietta Benigna Justine

“an opportunity of acquiring Musick, painting, and geography”

The first husband of JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY was John Stevens whom she married at age eighteen, more to satisfy her parents’ expectations than from love.

The English preacher John Murray met Judith in 1774 when he visited Boston to lecture on Universalism, a doctrine that emphasized universal salvation and an egalitarian view of the world. They commenced a correspondence mostly on religious matters while Murray toured New England. During the war Murray became an army chaplain to prove his sympathy for the American cause. When Judith, her father, and her uncle were suspended from their parish church in Gloucester for their dissident views, they and others formed a new religious organization calling themselves Universalists and choosing John Murray as their pastor.

In 1786 after his business ventures failed, Judith’s husband John went to St. Eustacius in the West Indies to escape his creditors and to attempt to recoup his losses. He died there in 1787. Shortly thereafter Murray proposed to Judith and she married the man she called the “choice of my heart.” Judith’s interest in religion and her own religious beliefs are clearly reflected in her observations of the Bethlehem Seminary in the continuation of the letter to her sister-in-law.

The sisterhood consists, at this time, of about one hundred Maidens, who after a night of such slumbers, as health, and innocence bestow, assemble in an elegant apartment which is a consecrated Chapel—This apartment is properly fixed up, it is furnished with an Organ, and Musick books, and upon the right, and the left, the following inscriptions, in beautiful capitals meet the eye. “God hath appointed us to obtain salvation, by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake, or sleep, we should live together with Him. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath cloathed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” [—] In this Chapel the female Choir, at early dawn, and at closing evening, hymn the praises of the Redeeming God, and prostrating themselves in His presence, the most venerable individual among them, presents their united petitions, and thanksgivings, at the throne of Grace. . . .

At one board they are every day seated, and persons selected for the purpose, prepare their table. The Wash house is at a considerable distance, where the apparel of the sisterhood, the Tutoress, and their pupils, is made fit for use, and in the best possible manner. . . .

Place your daughter at Bethlehem, and, for a very moderate consideration, she will be taught a perfect knowledge of her Mother Tongue—she will be taught the French, and German languages, with the utmost elegance, and propriety—Reading, Writing, Composition, and Arithmetic, will be given her, in as high perfection, as she is capable of attaining them—She is furnished with an opportunity of acquiring Musick, painting, and geography, with the rudiments of Astronomy, and the strictest attention will be paid to her health, and to the purity of her morals—It is, however, in your option, to omit, for your Girl, any of these branches of study—It is scarcely necessary to subjoin, that needle work, in all its varieties, is taught in Bethlehem—An early habit of Order and regularity, without which I sincerely believe, no one important object was ever yet obtained—will also be secured—The pretty Candidate for excellence, is summoned by a bell from her pillow—she must rise at a certain hour, wash and comb, and, neatly apparelled she must attend prayrs—Breakfast succeeds, after which the several employments and amusements of the day take place—By the way, these morning and evening prayrs are playing on their guitars, which they join with their voices, chanting some divine Poem to the praise of the Saviour of sinners—These devotional exercises are performed in a little consecrated chapel, which makes a part of the school building, and into which no male ever enters. Six O clock is the hour of rising, and eight, of retiring to rest—A lamp continues burning throughout the night, and the students are often lulled to sleep, by the soft sounds of vocal, and instrumental Musick—

The school is divided into a number of apartments, each apartment, to its dimensions, contains a smaller, or larger number of Ladies, Every division hath its particular intendant, or tutoress, and over all there is a Superior [—] The Lodging Room is on a separate story, in a lofty situation, and accommodated with a ventilator—The Culinary apartment is under the ground floor, and the diet is wholesome and sufficiently varied—Twice in the course of a year, they pass a public examination at which the Reverend teacher of the Bethlehem society presides, and every sunday collects the whole Congregation [—] Men, Women, and children, in the great, or common Chapel, which exhibits some very affecting selections from scriptures—Performances upon a very fine Organ, accompanied by a Violin, and bass viol, constitute a very delightful part of public Worship in Bethlehem—Singing you know is among the essential Rites of the Moravian Religion, and their music is next to divine—Church service is performed alternately in English, and German, and its matter is rational, and instructive—

The young ladies are much accustomed to walking, and Bethlehem abounds with delightfully Romantic promenades—Every fine evening, guarded by one or other of the Governantees, without whom they never make an excursion, they pursue the pleasingly salutary exercise—Regular stages from Elizabeth Town, Lancaster, and Philadelphia, to this Seminary, have recently been appointed—This produces the children who have friends in the Towns from which the stages set out, or in, those through which they pass, upon a post evening, in the great road—

More of Judith’s letter in the next post.

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE.

posted December 19th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Murray, John,Murray, Judith Sargent

Education for Women: the Bethehem Seminary

JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY (1751-1820), born in Massachusetts, was an essayist, poet, and playwright who believed that women should have the opportunity to receive an education equal to that of men. She was also one of the few women of her time to keep letter books over a long period of time—most women did not think their letters serious enough to be worth saving. (In 1984, 20 volumes of 5,000 letters by Murray were discovered in Natchez, Miss. in a house near her daughter’s where she died.) Murray and her husband had visited the Bethlehem Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1790 and she sent her cousin’s wife Dorcas Sargent an extensive description of the town of Bethlehem as well as the school for young girls located there and run by Moravians: its founding, its physical appearance, its curriculum, etc. The next several posts contain excerpts from that letter which will give the reader a feeling for the school which Maria Jay was attending. (See two previous posts.)

. . . . I have this morning been endeavouring to summon before me, the several events of our journey, for the purpose of selecting for you, something which may be calculated for your amusement, and as you are so usefully engaged, in forming the opening mind, I think I cannot do better, than to make for you a little sketch of our Bethlehem tour —
We were drawn thither, by the fame of that Seminary, and high as our expectations were raised, we are obliged to acknowledge them far surpassed—Bethlehem is in the State of Pennsylvania, situated fifty four miles North of Philadelphia—It is a beautiful Village, which may, without the smallest enthusiasm, be pronounced a terrestrial Paradise—It is true, we do not wander through Orange, and through Citron Groves, but nature hath shaped the most enchanting walks, embowering shades, meadows, hills, and dales greet the eye, with most refreshing Variety—Parallel rivers pursue their glassy course—the margins of which are planted by the most flourishing and highly perfumed locusts, Cedars, Chestnuts and a variety of trees bearing in their season, the most delicious fruit—Now the fertilizing stream murmurs along, in a direct line now indented, or projecting, its Borders still ornamented by the richest foliage, its diversified meanderings exhibit the most pleasing, and romantic views—
Upon an eminence in Bethlehem, the cultivated scene opens before us —a chain of verdant hills encircle it, and this little Eden, is embosomed in the midst—The Town, with a very few exceptions is built with stone, and the dwellings are generally planned upon a large scale—The house of the Brethren, that of the Sisterhood, the Asylum for widows, and the Seminary for young Ladies, are uncommonly elevated and capacious, and there is an air of dignified simplicity remarkably exemplified, through the several structures—The greatest Order, and unanimity, is preserved in Bethlehem, even their water works are characteristic—the inhabitants are supplied from one spring, a cistern conveys it to their kitchens, by the aid of a pump, worked by a water Machine, the cedar pipes receive it, and the ready spout issues at pleasure, the purifying stream in every dwelling—
The Town was originally founded by Germans—Many natives of Europe now reside there, and they preserve their ancient customs with much exactness—A great variety of Arts, and manufactures, are carried to high perfection in Bethlehem, among which is the business of the Tanner, Clothier, stocker[,] Weaver, Tin Works, Blacksmith, Gold and silver smith, saw and sythe Maker, Wheel Wright, and Chaise and harness maker—Grist Mills are fashioned upon the best plan, and they have a Brewery after the English model, Printing, and book binding are said to be finished in the neatest manner—in short they exhibit, and encourage, all the common Crafts—
Their Religion seems to be a system of Benevolence—its foundation is true Philanthropy, upon which broad base, is erected the super structure of Philanthropy—I admire, beyond expression, the regularity conspicuous in every department, and the Virgin Choir derive all the advantages, which the Cloistered Maiden can boast, without connecting her restraints—I inquired of one of the sisters, if it were in her power to quit her engagements—Our doors, Madam, replied the charming Recluse, are always open—but once relinquishing this retreat, a reentrance is very difficult—the Circle of Amiable Women dwell together in perfect Amity, every one cultivating and exercising her different talent, the profits arriving there from, constituting a common fund—Never did I see all kinds of needle work carried to higher perfection—every flower produced by prolific Nature, is exactly imitated, as to render it only not impossible to designate them—I never saw them surpassed, by any imported from Europe, and with the beauty, richness, and exquisite shading of their embroidery I was highly pleased—as we pass through the apartments, the tambour embroidery, flowers, etc etc are displayed for sale—I requested that their Value was beyond my reach—Neither is the Loom, or the distaff neglected—Cloths of a superior kind are manufactured in Bethlehem—and we were shown the art of spinning, without a wheel!

See complete letter HERE. Bonnie Hurd Smith is an author and the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society. The paragraphing in the letter has been added by Smith. She describes the contributions of Judith Sargent Murray in this VIDEO. See other posts by Murray HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. See also another POST about the Seminary. The portrait of Murray is by John Singleton Copley (Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection).

posted December 12th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent

“Apply diligently, and play heartily”

SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY wrote again to her husband John on 12 November 1794 expressing her satisfaction with their children.

. . . . To-day I’ve recd. a letter from Maria from Bethlehem, I’ll inclose it for your satisfaction. We have as much reason as ever Parents had to be grateful on account of our Children. I ask’d your dr. little son [William, 1789-1858] what I should tell you of his little sister [Sarah “Sally” Louisa, 1792-1813]. He said I should tell you she talk’d enough to employ three tongues to repeat. In short, if it was not for your little Counter-parts, I should want chearfulness & vigour to enable me to perform a variety of extra duties that devolve upon me in consequence of your absence. To-morrow I shall resume my pen.

Don’t you just love the reference to the children as “your little Counter-parts”? Sarah wrote a note to Maria on November 19 asking “what studies engage your attention at present, & which of the Ladies you are indebted to for instruction,” and advising her to “Read as much history as you conveniently can, & let me know what it relates to. Without Geography history will be but a blind study, you will therefore I am sure be attentive to that. . . . ”

Upon learning of his daughter Maria’s enrollment in the Bethlehem Academy John Jay wrote her this letter dated 9 December 1794. He was always giving advice to his children in a rather pedantic way.

Mama informs me that you had sollicited, and obtained her consent, to pass some months at Bethlehem, from an Expectation that you would there have better means of Improvement than at New York. Your motive certainly was laudable, and I sincerely wish your Expectations may be realized. As much will depend on yourself, as well as on your Teachers. I flatter myself that they will derive Credit, and your Friends Pleasure, from the Progress you will make. I do not mean by this remark, to urge you to unceasing application. Exercise and Relaxation are essential to Health; and Health is a Blessing without which no other temporal ones can be enjoyed. Apply diligently, and play heartily. I need not add properly, of that I am sure you will be mindful.
Your Brother [Peter Augustus] is well, and assures you of his affection. We hope by the Blessing of Providence to be home next Spring. I shall be happy then to take the earliest opportunity of seeing you; and of assuring you that, by being, what I am persuaded you will be, prudent, amiable and accomplished, and ever mindful of your Creator, you may rely on the Esteem, Love and attachment of
My dear Maria
Your very affectionate Father
John Jay

source: Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, compiled and edited by Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, and Janet M. Wedge (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2005), 241, 243, 247. Jay’s portrait is by John Trumbull, dated 1794 when the two were in London, Trumbull serving as Jay’s secretary. It is at the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, NY.

posted December 8th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Education,Jay, John,Jay, Maria,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Jay, Sarah Louisa,Jay, William,Trumbull, John

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