Ada Howard

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Ada Howard (1829 - 1907), first president of Wellesley

Ada Howard (December 19, 1829 - 1907) was the first president of Wellesley College.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Ada Howard, born on December 19, 1829 in Temple, New Hampshire, was the daughter of Lydia Adaline Cowden and William Hawkins Howard.[2] Her father was a teacher, scholar, and scientific agriculturalist. Three of her great-grandfathers were officers during the Revolutionary War.[2]

She was taught by her father and at New Ipswich Academy and Lowell High School.[2] Howard graduated from Mount Holyoke College (then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in 1853[1] and then continued her studies with private teachers.[2]


After graduation she moved to Ohio, where she taught at the Western College. In Illinois, she worked for the Knox College as the principal of the Woman's Department and a faculty member.[1][3] In 1886, when she taught at the college, there were separate classrooms and curriculums for men and women. She felt that women should have the same opportunities for education as men. Unable to influence President William Curtis to create an equal co-educational program, she resigned in 1867, shortly after she had become principal. That day nearly all of the students did not show up for classes and demanded Curtis' resignation. The next day, Curtis resigned. Howard's position was reinstated. She also was made professor of literary criticism, rhetoric, and moral philosophy.[3] Howard also taught at Mount Holyoke and Oxford Female Institute.[2] She moved to New Jersey, where she ran a school for girls, Ivy Hall, in Bridgeton.[1]

She was president of Wellesley beginning in 1875. The founder, Henry Fowle Durant, was very involved in the administration and decision-making of the college.[1] She followed his lead, but his insistence that staff be of the evangelical Christian faith made hiring staff difficult. There was a division in the college between faculty members hired by Durant that supported his position and other staff members who did not support Durant's nearly fanatical beliefs. Conflict at the college escalated at the same time that Durant and Howard's health declined. Durant stopped coming to the campus.[4] Durant died in 1881 and she resigned shortly after due to health reasons. She then lived in New York City, where she died in 1907.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Presidential History". Wellesley College. Retrieved February 10, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Miss Ada L. Howard". New Hampshire Women: A Collection of Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Daughters and Residents of the Granite State ... New Hampshire Publishing Company. 1895. p. 29. 
  3. ^ a b "Ada Howard". Mt. Holyoke College. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  4. ^ Jana Nidiffer; Carolyn Terry Bashaw (January 4, 2001). Women Administrators in Higher Education: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. SUNY Press. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0-7914-4818-2.