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? . . .