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Sarah Parke Morrison papers, 1855-1913

A Guide to her Papers at the Indiana University Archives

Processed by Dina M. Kellams
Electronic finding aid encoded by Magia Ghetu

Summary Information

Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management
1320 East Tenth Street
Herman B Wells Library E460
Bloomington, IN 47405-7000
Phone: 812-855-1127

Morrison, Sarah Parke, 1833-1916.

Sarah Parke Morrison papers,1855-1913

Collection No.

.2 cubic feet

Materials are in English

Sarah Parke Morrison became the first woman admitted to Indiana University in 1867. Collection consists of personal papers of Sarah Parke Morrison in three series: Correspondence, 1897-1913, consisting primarily of outgoing correspondence. Frequent correspondents include former Indiana University President William Lowe Bryan and Registrar John W. Cravens. The correspondence all dates from the years after she left IU and much of it discusses her desire that women become members of the various University boards. Schedules, 1855-1856, consists of a single schedule of a typical day for Morrison at the Western Female College; and Writings, 1911-1912, includes a handwritten account of Morrison's entrance and experience as the first female student at IU and a small pamphlet of Morrison's poetry published in 1912.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Advance notice is required.

Biographical Note

In 1867, Sarah Parke Morrison became the first woman admitted to Indiana University.

Morrison's parents, John and Catherine, were themselves well-educated. John graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1828, at which time he returned to his hometown Salem, Indiana and opened the Washington County Seminary. At the Seminary John was in charge of Catherine Morris' education for six years. In 1830, Catherine's parents sent her to the Quaker-run Westtown Boarding School near Philadelphia, where she studied for two years. Upon her return to Salem, John asked her to marry him, which Catherine, with her parents consent, agreed to. They were married September 11, 1832 and their first child, Sarah, was born in 1834.

In addition to the Washington County Seminary, John and Catherine worked together to open the Salem Female Seminary in 1835. Instead of hiring the customary male teaching assistants, they employed young female teachers from the East, a rarity in this time.

After a considerable amount of home schooling, Catherine decided it was time for her daughter Sarah to receive more formal training. Sarah attended Mount Holyoke Seminary, graduating from that institution in 1857. She went on to Vassar College, where she was a pupil-teacher and later to Williams College to do post-graduate work.

After studying at Williams, Sarah returned home to Salem. While preparing to attend the 1867 Indiana University commencement, Sarah's father, formerly president of the IU Board of Trustees and now Treasurer of the State, remarked to Sarah that it was time for the University to open its doors to women. Sarah agreed, and with the inducement of a five dollar bill, she also agreed to prepare an appeal to the Board of Trustees.

The Trustees failed to find any clause in the University's charter that barred women from entering the University so they declared women could enter under the same terms as men. Sarah, at 34 years of age and years of education behind her, had no desire to attend Indiana University and hoped some other woman would step forward. To her disappointment, no young woman came forward. Rather than allow her victory to fall hollow, she decided to enter as a freshman in the fall of 1867.

Sarah completed the four year program in two years, graduating in 1869. Four years after her graduation, Sarah was appointed tutor and in 1874 she became IU's first female faculty member when she was named adjunct professor of English literature. Despite Sarah's success as a student, the male students did not readily accept her as their superior. She only stayed at IU for one more year, at which time she left for other pursuits.

Sarah remained an active alumna of the University, however, frequently writing the Board of Trustees inquiring why women have not been placed as members of the various University boards. To voice her protest, she began returning her alumni ballots for the Board of Trustees marked "for some woman."

Sarah Parke Morrison died in 1919 and is buried in Indianapolis.


Organized in three series: Correspondence, Schedules, and Writings.

Scope and Content Note

The Sarah Parke Morrison papers comprise .2 cubic feet and are organized in three series: Correspondence, Schedules, and Writings. Most files also include transcriptions of the contents.

The Correspondence series, 1897-1913, is arranged alphabetically and consists primarily of Morrison's outgoing correspondence. Frequent correspondents include former Indiana University president William Lowe Bryan and IU Secretary and Registrar John Cravens. Always fighting for equal rights, much of Morrison's correspondence discusses her wish for women in the University community to rise in status and become members of the Board of Trustees and Alumni Board (Morrison did not want to become a board member herself - in a letter addressed to "Alma Mater" Morrison mentions she would much rather her dear Alma Mater use her influence to send her to Congress!).

The second series, Schedules, 1855-1856, contains a single schedule of a typical day for Morrison at the Western Female College.

Writings, 1911-1912, includes a handwritten account of Morrison's entrance and experience as the first female student at Indiana University. She discusses her reluctance to be the first woman to enter the University and her hopes that another woman would step forward. After realizing that would not occur, Morrison entered IU and a description of her reception and coursework is also included. This account was later prepared by Frances Higgins for publication in the Indianapolis Star and appeared in the October 1919 Alumni Quarterly with the title "Some sidelights of fifty years ago." Also includes is a small pamphlet of Morrison's poetry published in 1912.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information
Accession 0734.
Usage Restrictions
Copyright interests for this collection have not been transferred to the Trustees of Indiana University. For more information, contact the Indiana University Archivist.
Preferred Citation
[Item], Sarah Parke Morrison papers, Collection C54, Office of University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Processing Information
Processed by Dina M. Kellams

Completed in June 2000. Updated and revised in 2011 by Dina M. Kellams.

Series: Correspondence, 1897-1913 

Box 1 Alma Mater,

14 July 1904  [image]View item(s)

16 January 1905  [image]View item(s)

to unknown, re: family history, Among Ourselves , undated 

re: photographs [image]View item(s)

re: photograph and paper [image]View item(s)

Babine, Alexis, 21 June 1898   [image]View item(s)

Board of Trustees,

21 January 1904  [image]View item(s)

19 January 1906  [image]View item(s)

7 March 1911  [image]View item(s)

Bryan, William Lowe,

1 May 1903  [image]View item(s)

21 January 1904  [image]View item(s)

4 October 1904  [image]View item(s)

22 February 1905  [image]View item(s)

9 March 1905  [image]View item(s)

4 December 1905  [image]View item(s)

7 December 1905  [image]View item(s)

29 August 1908  [image]View item(s)

circa 30 August 1910  [image]View item(s)

undated  [image]View item(s)

Committee on Alumni Building, 27 March 1911   [image]View item(s)

Cravens, John W.,

21 April 1898  [image]View item(s)

4 June 1903  [image]View item(s)

10 August 1903  [image]View item(s)

17 August 1903  [image]View item(s)

29 September 1903  [image]View item(s)

3 November 1903  [image]View item(s)

25 November 1903  [image]View item(s)

30 November 1903  [image]View item(s)

1 December 1903  [image]View item(s)

9 June 1904  [image]View item(s)

22 November 1904  [image]View item(s)

21 February 1905  [image]View item(s)

9 March 1905  [image]View item(s)

19 February 1908  [image]View item(s)

8 May 1909  [image]View item(s)

1 September 1909  [image]View item(s)

28 March 1910  [image]View item(s)

27 June 1910  [image]View item(s)

after June 1910  [image]View item(s)

Enclosure: letter to SPM from Joseph S. Jenckes, June 11, 1910

15 August 1910  [image]View item(s)

2 June 1913  [image]View item(s)

2 August 1913  [image]View item(s)

22 August 1913  [image]View item(s)

Danforth, George F.,

29 November 1902  [image]View item(s)

11 February 1903  [image]View item(s)

King, A.W., 1903  [image]View item(s)

(2nd page missing)

Kirby, Sarah D., circa 1910   [image]View item(s)


Contents: SPM's ballots "for some woman"

3 June 1906   [image]View item(s)

5 March 1910   [image]View item(s)

Mimger, Emma R., 30 April 1901   [image]View item(s)


18 April 1898   [image]View item(s)

17 September 1908  [image]View item(s)

circa 1908   [image]View item(s)

Smith, Ulysses H.,

25 June 1902  [image]View item(s)

24 December 1902  [image]View item(s)

9 April 1905  [image]View item(s)

4 June 1909  [image]View item(s)

5 June 1909  [image]View item(s)

undated  [image]View item(s)

"The Student" (newspaper), 30 August 1910   [image]View item(s)

Swain, Joseph,

20 December 1897  [image]View item(s)

27 May 1898  [image]View item(s)

3 June 1898  [image]View item(s)

Woodburn, Joseph, circa 15 November 1903  [image]View item(s)

Series: Schedules, 1855-1856  

Box 1 Schedule from Western Female College (Ohio), 1855-1856   [image]View item(s)

Series: Writings, 1911-1912  

Box 1 "My experience at State University, " 1911   [image]View item(s)

"Three short poems: Tamar's Curse, The Cry of the Child-Angel and "Wild Oats,"" 1912   [image]View item(s)