Vord Brigs
Univerzitet u Južnoj Karolini

37:929 Lič E.

Originalni naučni članak

Pionirka klasične filologije i ženskog obrazovanja u SAD Ejbi Lič (1855-1918)

Ime Ejbi Lič (1855-1918) označava prekretnicu u američkom obrazovanju. Ejbi Lič je bila pionirka visokog obrazovanja koja je ubedila harvardske profesore da drže svoja predavanja devojkama okupljenim u takozvanom „Aneksu” Kembridža u Masačusetsu. „Aneks” je postao koledž Redklif, a Ejbi Lič profesorka klasične filologije na koledžu Vasar, gde je imala vodeću ulogu u razvoju kurikuluma za ženske koledže u fazi formiranja. Ejbi Lič je takođe bila i prva žena predsednik Američkog udruženja za filologiju. Osnovni podaci o Ejbi Lič nalaze se u bazi podataka o klasičnoj filologiji na Univerzitetu u Južnoj Karolini koja predstavlja projekat Društva za klasične studije.

Ključne reči:

Ejbi Lič; žensko obrazovanje; baza podataka o klasičnoj filologiji; Redklif; Harvard; Vasar; Grinou, Dž. B; Eliot, Čarls Vilijam; Godvin, V.V.; Gildersliv, B. L.; Mekerdi, Grejs.

The Database of Classical Scholarship is a project of the Society for Classical Studies (formerly the American Philological Association) and housed at the University of South Carolina. It began after discussions within the Association about supplementing a prior APA project, The Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, edited by Ward Briggs (Westport, CT & London: Greenwood Press, 1994) with biographical entries on those who had died since the book's publication. An electronic database provided the best and most economical solution. The database, begun in 2011, currently comprises the 600 subjects in the original Biographical Dictionary along with approximately 70 entries on subjects deceased since 1994. The biographical research, appearing in the database for the first time in a published form, revealed a wealth of important stories that were all but lost to most classicists, let alone the general public. One of the most important stories is that of Abby Leach, which is presented here in an expanded form. References to entries in the database for individuals mentioned in the article follow in parentheses the first appearance of the individual's name.


Nearly a century has passed since the death of a formative figure in American classical study, a founder of Radcliffe College, the first woman president of the American Philological Association (APA) and an early officer of the American School for Classical Studies at Athens. Yet she remains virtually unknown to most classicists, let alone the larger academic world. Since she published only two articles on classical subjects in her lifetime, she is not a figure of scholarship. Though she took a founding role in the establishment of one of our leading women's colleges, she was never lured into administration but taught Greek at Vassar for her entire career. She belongs to history for her role at Radcliffe, for being elected the first woman president of the APA (1899-1900), and for helping to shape the curricula at women's institutions at the period of formative growth for female education in this country.

Abby Leach was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, on May 28, 1855, the second daughter of Marcus and Eliza Paris Bourne Leach. Her ancestor Lawrence Leach had emigrated from England to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1629, and his son Giles settled near Brockton about 1664. Marcus Leach began his career as a schoolteacher, then tended a family farm until the demands of raising five children born in quick succession required a more lucrative employment. He founded a profitable shoemaking enterprise and was a leader in Brockton's business and social worlds.

Each of Marcus Leach's three daughters attended the Oread Collegiate Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, and each became a teacher. Abby's sister, Anna, elder by two years, graduated with her in 1871, studied at Wellesley and Cornell, became the "lady Principal" at Elmira College in Elmira, New York, and, later, principal of the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. Her sister Edith, younger by six years, graduated from the Oread in 1878 and Smith College in 1883. She went on to teach in private schools in New York and New Haven before returning to Brockton.1

Abby Leach had apparently begun to read Latin while still a young girl, as she said, "reading it for entertainment while her fellow students considered it a burdensome task."2 After graduating from Brockton High School at the age of fourteen in 1869, she went to Oread, where she first learned Greek. Upon graduation at sixteen, she taught briefly at Brockton High School, then returned to Oread, where she taught from 1873 to 1878 and became preceptress in 1876.

Dissatisfied with the seminary approach of Smith that Edith was about to embark upon, and unwilling to try the coeducational system of Anna's Cornell, she decided at the age of twenty-three to pursue an independent course of action to improve her education at a time when higher education for women was rare and advanced study for men and women virtually nonexistent. Fortunately, her combination of fierce determination and unusual tact led to many successes in the male-dominated academic world. She had to overcome not only the prejudices of men against female education but those of many women as well; for it is always true that a goodly percentage of any repressed faction will resist the lifting of that repression as somehow "unnatural."

She went east from Worcester to Cambridge, Massachusetts, determined somehow to take courses from Harvard professors, though powerful forces had been unsuccessfully at work for several years on behalf of women's education at Harvard. Abby Leach broke the barrier by the talents common to all pioneers: pluck, determination, and sheer talent. Of the several convergent forces that ultimately created Radcliffe College, she undoubtedly moved the enterprise well and truly on its way.3

Charles William Eliot (1834-1926) was a thirty-five-year-old MIT chemistry of professor when he began his forty-year tenure as president Harvard University in 1869.4 As progressive a reformer as Harvard would allow, Eliot initiated the elective system, required written examinations, and raised the College's entrance requirements. He moved decisively in the direction of new graduate and professional schools, while consolidating undergraduate instruction within the College. Nevertheless, he moved cautiously with regard to female education, noting in his inaugural address that while the college would not offer formal instruction to females, he would inaugurate a series of lectures for "mature women."5 He chose the first Smith College commencement in 1870 to declare that coeducation "finds no acceptance in New England, with the most insignificant exceptions."6

Three years after Eliot's inaugural, the Women's Education Association was founded in Boston for the purpose of setting for women secondary-level and, later, college-level exams that would be graded by Harvard faculty. The WEA attempted to have Harvard grant degrees on the basis of these exams without residency at the University, but were denied.

Six years later, in 1878, Abby Leach arrived in Cambridge and promptly approached the Eliot Professor of Greek at Harvard, William Watson Goodwin (1831-1912), asking to take private instruction in Greek from him.7 Goodwin was a son of Harvard, who had taken his Ph.D. from Göttingen in 1855, two years after his great contemporary, Basil L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924).8 Just as Gildersleeve had been sympathetic but somewhat helpless in the face of the desire of Martha Carey Thomas (1857-1935) to attend his Greek seminar at Johns Hopkins after she graduated from Cornell in 1877,9 so Goodwin favored the education of women, but, like Gildersleeve, found the logistics impossible and told Leach he could not even consider the proposal. At this point in their interview, he says, he was so touched by her sudden seizure of dejection and disappointment that he thought he might more easily dismiss her if her Greek were not up to standard. When he asked her to translate a passage at sight, her performance was so impressive that he not only agreed to take her on as a student, but he also volunteered to intercede with James Bradstreet Greenough (1833-1901), the professor of Latin, and Francis James Child (1825-1896), the professor of English.10

At this same time, Grace Agassiz, daughter of Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz (1822-1907), was frustrated with her own attempts to find further education and appealed to her mother for help. The blueblood Mrs. Agassiz, widow of the Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), had early in her life run a school for girls in Cambridge so that her husband could continue his scientific work without worrying about the family's income.11 She was well connected in Boston society, full of energy, and fixed upon her cause. Arthur Gilman, director of a girls' school, approached Greenough with the plan developed by his wife, Stella Scott Gilman, and Mrs. Agassiz,12 on the model of Girton College, Cambridge,13 that adjunct classes for women be taught for extra fees by several Harvard professors. As Abby Leach had already made such an arrangement with her professors, and succeeded so well, Greenough received the plan warmly, suggesting that if all the students could show the ability and initiative, not to mention the tact and good sense of Miss Abby Leach, the plan would be assured of success. Greenough persuaded colleagues to join the project (the additional funds were not unwelcome even to senior professors)14 and wrote Eliot about the possibility of instituting the plan. Gilman also wrote Eliot on December 23, 1878, formally proposing the plan, to which Eliot agreed.15 The founders, male and female, including the prime student, Abby Leach, were unique in the women's education movement of the time by being officially opposed both to coeducation and to the seminary-residence model women's school as well; they had no intention of being independent of Harvard or of having faculty other than male Harvard instructors.

In 1879, under the management of seven women with ties to the Harvard faculty,16 the "Plan for Private Collegiate Instruction for Women" was realized in two rooms at the Carret House, 6 Appian Way, where girls could take courses in Greek, Latin, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, philosophy, political economy, history, music, mathematics, physics, and natural history by some forty-one Harvard professors.17 All the work of Gilman and Mrs. Agassiz might very well not have reached this stage without the fortitude and talent of Abby Leach, performing so well for Goodwin at their initial meeting. She indeed was, as she was called, the "nucleus" or the "wedge"18 that opened the way for generations of Radcliffe students; indeed, when she returned to speak at Radcliffe's twenty-fifth commencement, president Le Baron Russell Briggs said, "No one can speak more fitly at a Radcliffe Commencement than she who was the Commencement of Radcliffe."19

The Society for the Private Collegiate Instruction for Women (also called "the Annex"), with Mrs. Agassiz as the president20 and Gilman as secretary,21 opened its doors to twenty-seven students, among them Abby Leach, who took five courses, including Sanskrit. Over the next three years, she took courses on Aeschylus, Pindar, and Aristotle from Goodwin while teaching at the Girls' Latin School in Boston.

In 1883 Leach was invited to join the faculty of Vassar as an instructor in Greek and Latin. Since Harvard still did not grant degrees to women, Vassar two years later rewarded her Harvard coursework and examinations with a B.A. and M.A. Promotion to associate professor (1886) and full professor and head of the Greek department (1889) followed in a timely manner, and she remained head of her department for almost three decades. One of her students called her "remarkably fine and handsome looking,"22 and indeed photographs of the period show a striking woman.23

Abby Leach (1855-1918)


It is clear from her lectures that she was a stimulating teacher, concerned that her students confront the intellectual questions of the day and maintain intellectual vigor throughout their lives. She maintained her own academic vitality by following M. Carey Thomas both to Johns Hopkins, where she studied for a year with Gildersleeve, and to Leipzig in 1886-87, with side trips to Italy and Greece.

Service and political activity in the profession seem to have come more easily to her than scholarship. In 1888 she became a member of the managing committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, a position she held until her death. She was a member of the Council of the American Institute for Archaeology. She also became active in the administration of the APA, serving as president in 1899-1900 at the age of forty-five,24following Clement Lawrence Smith (1844-1909), and in the reign of secretary-treasurer Herbert Weir Smyth (1857-1937), both men of Harvard (Smyth had also taught for M. Carey Thomas at Bryn Mawr).25 It is not unreasonable to assume that her presidency was the result of her service to the American School, her success as a teacher at Vassar, her Harvard connections, and her general capability; she had published nothing of a scholarly nature. It would be thirty-three years before the next female president, Elizabeth Hazleton Haight (1872-1964), in 1933-34.

Leach exerted most influence, though, as president of the American Association of Collegiate Alumnae, founded in 1881 (later the American Association of University Women). She spoke often before school and alumnae groups on the nature of education and on aspects of Greek literature and civilization. Like M. Carey Thomas and others, she argued in person and in print for a women's college curriculum free of courses associated with homemaking: "Really, I should feel that the 'female college,' which has but lately been ousted from our terminology, had returned in full force if chemistry and physiology and biology were to be taught merely to subserve the ends of the household."26 "... the [women's] college can render a student no greater service than to help her to know herself and to encourage her to take life seriously, and find something that she can do with pleasure to herself and profit to others."27 She believed in women's ability to undertake serious scholarship, but only under special circumstances:

In ordinary senses, the claims of children and home and society make too heavy drafts upon a woman's time to make it possible for her to keep pace in any line of work with those who are devoting to that line all their time and thought. Unless a woman has a recognized profession, and pursues it after marriage, which is obviously far from desirable in all cases, she certainly must find self-support hard if she is left a widow in straitened circumstances.28

Her complaints could have been written yesterday. She observed, "If we look dispassionately at the results of education today, we are forcibly impressed with the eager pursuit of amusement."29 She decried the "hero of the hour," "the successful athlete," and claimed that "teaching is not looked on as a profession," because students are taught "meaningless toil, without profit or satisfaction."30 Not only should subjects be thoroughly taught, but "the moral tone shall be sound and healthy. Instead of holding up careers to captivate the imagination, instead of building up the ideal of 'getting on in the world,' teach the dignity of work; teach how life finds worth and value only when it is actively spent; that a life of idleness, of mere amusement, is a worthless life that can bring no beauty or strength of character, but only weakness and discontent and moral decay."31 She scorned "expediency and compromise," defending Greek against charges of impracticality, saying that no study "outrivals the Greek in what it has to offer for the enrichment of thought and feeling."32 Recurrent among her themes is the Stoic-American need for individuality and high moral character, achieved through hard work:

A young teacher is helped by wise pedagogical training, but there is always danger that too much stress will be laid upon method and too little upon individuality.33

The function of the woman's college is not to champion the cause of woman in the battle of life, but to send her forth broadened and strengthened and resourceful to champion her own cause.34

What then is the essential life? That which best guards your individuality.35

The true test of education is how far it fixes in the mind and heart high ideals of life and conduct.36

... for character is the true test of the worth of education.37

Discover for yourself with humility and courage your work, not measuring its value by praise or even by success, not letting yourself be discouraged when you meet with temporary failure and defeat, but earnestly working in your own best way, being always greater than the work, with reach beyond your grasp, and always sincere and true.38

Though she championed scholarship to the numerous women she prepared for the best graduate schools,39 Leach herself never completed a Ph.D. Her first classical publication was her APA presidential address, "The Athenian Democracy in the Light of Greek Literature."40 She spoke of the dangers of democracy yielding to demagoguery and tyranny. The theme is well-known from Herodotus on, but Leach shows an admirable command of the ancient literature, adducing quotations from Aristophanes, Aeschines, Plato, and many others. She concludes on an encouraging note for her particular audience:

[The] safeguard [of democracy] lies in education, the education that is fundamental, that develops, as Plato teaches, the whole man, physically, intellectually and morally, and stamps ineffaceable ideals upon the heart and mind.41

Her only other scholarly production was published fifteen years later, again in Gildersleeve's American Journal of Philology, and also reads more like an address to a sophisticated audience than an article for learned readers. "The Fatalism of the Greeks" argues against the popular notion that the Greeks were fatalistic.42 Again her themes of individuality and fortitude come to the foreground. Citing Demosthenes, Sophocles, Homer, and many others, she declares the greatness of the Greeks lay in their freedom: "Freedom of thought, freedom of action, love of the beautiful, incessant activity, joy in living, eager emulation in pursuit of honor and glory, fertility of resource and confidence in their own resolute daring," all of which were "diametrically opposed to any fatalistic doctrine."43

Apart from her pioneering work in the establishment of Radcliffe, Leach's greatest contribution came as a teacher and role model for the women who passed through her classes. She brought considerable force to the classroom and a uniquely personal style that attracted many undergraduates, who felt it part of their education to sit in her beginning Greek class. This was one of the first beginning Greek classes of its kind in an institution of the stature of Vassar: prior to this time, college students had learned the rudiments of Greek at preparatory schools. But Greek was now declining in the schools and it was clear that it would soon wither at the collegiate level if introductory courses such as hers were not undertaken by the colleges. It was her mission to lead students from the elements of the Greek alphabet through the dramatists to Plato and Aristotle. She was able to place her students in the best graduate schools. In 1893, assisted by professional instructors in music and dramatics, Leach directed Vassar's successful production of Sophocles' Antigone in the original Greek, performed at the Poughkeepsie Opera House and attended by classicists from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Cornell.44

In person Leach was impressive, authoritative, generous, and tactful, but distant. She could also be quite inflexible. Her scrupulous concern for her students' well-being and her championing of Greek gave way over thirty years to her feeling "fiercely possessive about her subject and her department."45 Her achievements at Vassar might have been greater had she not been in conflict with a colleague as humorous and accessible as Leach was reserved and remote--- Grace Harriet Macurdy (1866-1946), a considerable scholar specializing in the royal women of the Hellenistic period.46 She came to Vassar ten years after Leach and remained for forty-four years, maintaining an active scholarly life throughout her career. Whether the cause of the dispute was jealousy, envy, or intrigue, it remains the single, if minor, blemish on the life and career of this exemplary pioneering student and teacher.

Abby Leach died of cancer at the age of sixty-three on December 29, 1918, and was buried at her family home in Brockton.

[1] "Prominent among the teachers of the latter half [of the Harris Ray Greene administration] was Miss Abbie Leach, dignified, scholarly, and of high ambition." History of Oread Collegiate Institute, Worcester, Mass. (1849-1881), M. Burtwright, ed. (New Haven 1905) 235.

[2] Cited by A. T. Zwart, "Abbie Leach," Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge, Mass. 1971) 2:379.

[3] On the general subject of the founding of Radcliffe College, see S. Schwager, “Harvard Women’: A History of the founding of Radcliffe College” (Ph.D. Diss. Harvard 1982)’ W.E. Byerly, “Radcliffe College Thirty Years After,” Harvard Graduates’ Magazine (December 1909) 233-35; H.L. Horowitz, Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s (New York 1984) 95-104; Radcliffe College, An Acre for Education (Cambridge, Mass., 1938; later ed. by D. McCord, 1958); S.E. Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard (Cambridge, Mass., 1936); Mabel Newcomer, A Century of Higher Education for American Women (New York, 1959) 41; J.B. Warner, “Radcliffe Colege,” The Harvard Graduates’ Magazine (March 1894) 329-45; T. Woody, A History of Women’s Education in the United States (New York 1929) 1:348-62.

[4] H. Hawkins, Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot (New York 1972).

[5] For excerpts from the address and the lecture scheme, see D. E. Howells, A Century to Celebrate: Radcliffe College, 1879-1979 (Cambridge, Mass., 1978) viii, 1.

[6] Horowitz (above, n.3) 97.

[7] On Goodwin, see A Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, W.W.Briggs, ed. (Westport, Conn., 1994) 224-26.

[8] On Gildersleeve, see Classical Scholarship; A Biographical Encyclopedia W.W. Briggs and W. M. Calder, eds. (New York: 1990) 93-118.

[9] She was allowed only to attend his lectures, and then she had to sit behind a black curtain so as not to be “an unnecessary distraction.” Unlike Leach, who was able to sit for the examination without residency or even class attendance. But, though she passed her first year with commendation, the strain on herself and Gildersleeve was so great that she withdrew on October 8, 1878. See H.L. Horowitz, The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (New York 1994) 74-98; H. Hawkins, Pioneer: A History of the Johns Hopkins University, 1874-1889 (Ithaca, NY 1960) 260-62; and The Letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, W.W. Briggs, Jr., ed. (Baltimore 1987) 163-64, 227-28; 383-84. Abby Leach did not share M. Carey Thomas’s good fortune of having a father on the board of trustees.

[10] On Greenough see Briggs (above, n. 7) 233-35.

[11] L. A. Paton, Elizabeth Cary Agassiz: A Biography (Boston and New York 1919) 192-274.

[12] A copy of the letter exists in the diary of Arthur Gilman, Radcliffe College Archives, Cambridge, Mass.

[13] In 1865 women were permitted for the first time to take the Cambridge Local Examinations. In 1869 Emily Davies rented a small house and began a college with the cooperation of the Cambridge examiners. Her students soon passed the Tripos with honors, and a residence hall was built by Alfred Waterhouse at Girton, a Cambridge suburb. B. Stephen, Girton College 1869-1932 (Cambridge 1933) 1-69.

[14] Horowitz (above, n.3) 102.

[15] The letter, in the Radcliffe Archives, is excerpted in Paton (above, n.7) 196-97.

[16] In addition to Mrs. Agassiz and Gilman's wife, Stella, were Mary H. Cooke, Mary B. Greenough, and Ellen Hooper Gurney, wives of Harvard professors, and Alice Mary Longfellow and Lilian Horsford, daughters of Harvard professors. Howells (above, n. 5) 3.

[17] Howells (above, n. 5) 6. The committee was careful not to appear to favor coeducation but also not separate educational facilities. As she put it, "My object was to get the collegiate instruction for women and at the same time conciliate both those who wished women to be immediately admitted to the classes with the young men and " those who wished them never to be so admitted."

[18] Howells (above, n. 5) 3; L. Baker, I'm Radcliffe! Fly Me!: The Seven Sisters and the Failure of Women's Education (New York 1976) 161.

[19] Howells (above, n. 5) 3.

[20] When the Annex became Radcliffe College in 1894, she remained as president, serving until 1899. Radcliffe gave its first A.M. in 1890, its first Ph.D. in 1902.

[21] W. E. Byerly, "Arthur Gilman and the Harvard Annex," Harvard Graduates' Magazine 18 (1909-10) 586-87.

[22] Zwart (above, n.2) 380.

[23] History of the Oread Collegiate Institute (Boston 1905) 297.

[24] Somewhat, but not especially, young for the office, her five predecessors had been 42, 49, 49, 47, and 54 respectively, her five successors 37, 48, 50, 44, and 47.

[25] For Smith see Briggs (above, n.7) 595-96; Smyth, 602-04.

[26] "The Ideal Curriculum for a Woman's College," Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 3 (December 1898), cited in R. Frankfort, Collegiate Women: Domesticity and Career in Turn-of-the-Century America (New York 1977) 89.

[27] Above, n.26, 16.

[28] Above, n.26, 19-20.

[29] "The True Test of the Worth of Education," Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 13 (February 1906) 14.

[30] "Some Present Needs in Education," Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 4 (February 1901) 9-22.

[31] Above, n.30, 22.

[32] "Address by Prof. Abby Leach," Harvard Graduates' Magazine 17 (1908-09) 107.

[33] Above, n.30, 13.

[34] Above, n.27, 21.

[35] Above, n.32, 108.

[36] Above, n.29, 15.

[37] Above, n.29, 18.

[38] Above, n. 32, 108.

[39] "All cannot be scholars, you say. Assuredly not. But let us have a more profound respect for scholarship, pure and simple, for the man who can enlarge the borders of knowledge and in disregard of material things, who lives the intellectual life with singleness of purpose." (above, n. 29) 15.

[40] American Journal of Philology 21 (1900) 361-77. The speech was delivered at Madison, Wis., July, 1900.

[41] Above, n. 40, 376.

[42] AJP 36 (1915) 373-401; reprinted in The Greek Genius and Its Influence, L. Cooper, ed. (New Haven: 1917; repr. Ithaca, N.Y. 1952) 132-55.

[43] Above, n. 42, 401.

[44] New York Times (January 20; April 30; May 27, 1893).

[45] Zwart, (above, n. 2) 380.

[46] For Macurdy (above, n.7) 392-93.


"Address by Prof. Abby Leach." Harvard Graduates' Magazine 17 (1908-09).

AJP 36 (1915) 373-401; reprinted in The Greek Genius and Its Influence, L. Cooper, ed. (New Haven: 1917; repr. Ithaca, N.Y. 1952) 132-55.

American Journal of Philology 21 (1900) 361-77.

Baker, L. I'm Radcliffe! Fly Me!: The Seven Sisters and the Failure of Women's Education. New York, 1976.

Briggs, W. W.,ed. A Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists. Westport, Conn., 1994.

Briggs, W. W. and W. M. Calder, eds. Classical Scholarship; A Biographical Encyclopedia. New York, 1990.

Briggs Jr., W. W., ed. The Letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve. Baltimore, 1987.

Burtwright, M., ed. History of Oread Collegiate Institute, Worcester, Mass. (1849-1881). New Haven, 1905.

Byerly, W. E. "Arthur Gilman and the Harvard Annex." Harvard Graduates' Magazine 18 (1909-10), 586-87.

Byerly, W. E. "Radcliffe College Thirty Years After." Harvard Graduates' Magazine (December 1909), 233-35.

Frankfort, R. Collegiate Women: Domesticity and Career in Turn-of-the-Century America. New York, 1977.

Hawkins, H. Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot. New York, 1972.

Hawkins, H. Pioneer: A History of the Johns Hopkins University, 1874-1889. Ithaca, NY, 1960.

Burt Wright, Martha. History of the Oread Collegiate Institute. Boston, 1905.

Horowitz, H. L. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York, 1984.

Horowitz, H. L. The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas. New York, 1994.

Howells, D. E. A Century to Celebrate: Radcliffe College, 1879-1979. Cambridge, Mass., 1978.

Morison, S. E. Three Centuries of Harvard. Cambridge, Mass., 1936.

Newcomer, Mabel. A Century of Higher Education for American Women. New York, 1959.

New York Times (January 20; April 30; May 27, 1893).

Paton, L. A. Elizabeth Cary Agassiz: A Biography. Boston and New York, 1919.

Radcliffe College, An Acre for Education. Cambridge, Mass., 1938. Later ed. by D. McCord, 1958.

Schwager, S. "Harvard Women: A History of the founding of Radcliffe College". Ph.D. Diss. Harvard, 1982.

"Some Present Needs in Education." Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 4 (February 1901), 9-22.

Stephen, B. Girton College 1869-1932. Cambridge, 1933.

"The True Test of the Worth of Education." Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 13 (February 1906).

Warner, J.B. "Radcliffe Colege. " The Harvard Graduates’ Magazine (March 1894), 329-45.

Woody, T. A History of Women’s Education in the United States, Vol. 1. New York, 1929.

Zwart, A. T. "Abbie Leach." Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 2. Cambridge, Mass., 1971.

Ward Briggs
Carolina Distinguished Professor of
Classics Emeritus
Louise Fry Scudder Professor of
Humanities Emeritus 
University of South Carolina

37:929 Lič E.

Original scientific article

A Pioneer in Classics Education for Women: Abby Leach (1855-1918)

Abby Leach (1855-1918) was a seminal figure in American education. A pioneer in women’s higher education, she persuaded professors at Harvard to deliver their lectures to girls assembled in “The Annex” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The Annex” eventually became Radcliffe College. Leach went on to become a professor of Classics at Vassar, where she played a leading role in developing curriculum for women’s colleges at their formative stage, and she was the first woman president of the American Philological Association. The basic data about Abby Leach are presented in the Database of Classical Scholarship, a project of the Society for Classical Studies, housed at the University of South Carolina.


Abby Leach; women’s education; Database of Classical Scholarship; Radcliffe; Harvard; Vassar; Greenough, J.B.; Eliot, Charles William; Goodwin, W.W.; Gildersleeve, B.L.; Macurdy, Grace

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