Cornelia Warren

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Cornelia Warren
Cornelia Lyman Warren.png
1871 painting by Alexandre Cabanel
Cornelia Lyman Warren

(1857-03-21)March 21, 1857
DiedJune 5, 1921(1921-06-05) (aged 64)
Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Occupationfarmer, philanthropist
Years active1880–1913

Cornelia Warren (March 21, 1857 – June 5, 1921) was an American farmer and an educational and social service philanthropist, widely known for her investment in social improvement projects. She was a trustee of Wellesley College, bought the location for Denison House and ran a model farm in Waltham, Massachusetts. She bequeathed her large estate to establish trust funds for maintaining hospitals, educational facilities, community projects and cultural venues in and around Boston, Massachusetts and Westbrook, Maine.

Early life[edit]

Cornelia Lyman Warren was born on March 21, 1857 at her family's estate, Cedar Hill in Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Susan Cornelia (née Clarke) and Samuel Dennis Warren.[1] Her father was a self-made businessman and the founder the Cumberland Paper Mills in Westbrook, Maine, who amassed a fortune and established a trust fund to support his six children:[2] Samuel II (1852–1910), who would become a businessman and lawyer; Henry (1854–1899), who was later a noted linguistic scholar; Ned (1860–1928), who grew up to be a collector of art and antiquities; and Fiske (1862–1938), who would later espouse utopist politics.[3] Warren's mother was the daughter of Dorus Clarke, a Congregationalist minister[4] and she, "a powerful and dominant personality",[5] was the parent who was most often present in the children's lives.[6]

Warren was influenced by her father's charity toward his millworkers,[7] having built family housing units with water and electricity for them, at a time when millworkers typically were required to live in basic dormitories provided by their employers.[8] After 1863, when the family purchased property on Boston's Beacon Hill, the Cedar Hill estate became a summer home.[9] As a confirmation that the family had attained the pinnacle of Boston society, they had portraits painted in 1871 by Alexandre Cabanel.[10] Attending private schools and supplementing her education with trips to Europe to study music and language, Warren graduated in 1873.[11][10] Passing the entrance examinations given by Harvard University, she elected to be privately tutored by George Herbert Palmer and George Holmes Howison for the next three years, rather than pursue a university degree.[10]


Warren was part of a group of friends which included Emily Greene Balch, Katharine Coman, and Vida Scudder, all of whom had ties to Wellesley College.[12] As was expected of women of her social class Warren became involved in social betterment schemes, such as the Fatherless and Widow's Society, for which she served as trustee beginning in 1879;[13] the Boston Home for Incurables, of which she became a trustee in 1884;[14] as well as providing funds for educational facilities like the Bradford Academy in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the International Institute for Girls [es] in San Sebastián, Spain; Robert College in Constantinople; and the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama.[15] She inherited Cedar Hill in 1888 and showed business acumen in the running of the estate, adding a farm, which utilized environmentally friendly agricultural processes and a dairy, which incorporated the era's ideas of sanitary processing.[16] In 1889, she and her Wellesley circle founded the College Settlement Association, along with women from other New England colleges.[17] In her management of the family businesses, she drove the plan to establish profit-sharing for the employees at both the mill in 1891 and her farm at Cedar Hill. The plan was devised to increase worker confidence as well as their earnings.[18]

Having written poetry since childhood, in 1892,[19] Warren published a novel, Miss Wilton, extolling the virtues of both Americanism and Christianity,[20][21] to mixed reviews.[22][23] That same year, she became the treasurer of the College Settlement Association and would serve in that capacity for the next eight years.[24] 1892 was also the year that the Associations' Denison House opened, which had been paid for with monies supplied by Warren.[25] The settlement house worked to provide links to education and employment for women and included access to a library, nursery, school, and a gymnasium, the latter of which was purchased by Warren.[26] In 1896, though she had long opened the grounds of Cedar Hill for social events, Warren constructed a maze on the property of silver spruce for the enjoyment of herself and neighbors.[16][27]

When Helena Dudley, the director of Denison House from 1893 to 1912, retired, Warren built her a house at Cedar Hill. Dudley lived there until Warren's death in 1921.[25]

In 1900, Warren joined the Board of Trustees for Wellesley College,[28] but increasingly, was responsible for the care of her mother until she died in 1901.[29] In 1903, Warren provided funding for a renovation of the Warren Block (between Main and Cumberland Streets in Westbrook, Maine), a building used for social activities in the town. She also equipped the Warren Manual Training School, which provided trade education to both boys and girls, and provided the monies for the community tennis courts and pool.[30] In 1908, she published A Memorial of My Mother.[31][11] In 1913, after having served thirteen years on the board for Wellesley,[15][32] she gave up the post, which her brother Fiske described as the happiest work of her life.[33]

Death and legacy[edit]

Warren died on June 5, 1921 at Cedar Hill[1] and her will bequeathed the estate to the Girl Scouts of Massachusetts.[34] Warren also left funds to the Waltham Hospital and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, among many other educational and cultural organizations. She left a trust to provide for public facilities to be built in Westbrook[35] and donated the Waltham Land Trust to the state to be used for the Harvard School of Landscape Architecture and Massachusetts Agricultural College.[33] Her 1871 portrait is in the permanent collection of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.[36]



  1. ^ a b The Boston Post 1921, p. 17.
  2. ^ Green 1989, pp. 13–14.
  3. ^ Green 1989, p. xv.
  4. ^ Green 1989, p. 16.
  5. ^ Green 1989, p. 50.
  6. ^ Green 1989, pp. 36–37.
  7. ^ Green 1989, p. 46.
  8. ^ Green 1989, pp. 24–25.
  9. ^ Green 1989, p. 53.
  10. ^ a b c Green 1989, p. 69.
  11. ^ a b Vasquez 2010, p. 63.
  12. ^ Green 1989, p. 107.
  13. ^ The Boston Post 1879, p. 3.
  14. ^ Green 1989, p. 102.
  15. ^ a b Green 1989, p. 136.
  16. ^ a b Vasquez 2010, p. 65.
  17. ^ Green 1989, pp. 110–111.
  18. ^ Green 1989, pp. 25, 189.
  19. ^ Green 1989, p. 70.
  20. ^ Green 1989, p. 137.
  21. ^ The Boston Evening Transcript 1892, p. 5.
  22. ^ The Buffalo Commercial 1892, p. 4.
  23. ^ The Indianapolis Journal 1892, p. 3.
  24. ^ Green 1989, p. 140.
  25. ^ a b Green 1989, p. 141.
  26. ^ Green 1989, p. 142.
  27. ^ The Boston Globe 1905, p. 17.
  28. ^ Wellesley College Record 1900, p. ix.
  29. ^ Green 1989, pp. 162–163.
  30. ^ Vasquez 2010, pp. 65–66.
  31. ^ Green 1989, p. 18.
  32. ^ The Wellesley Legenda 1913, p. 10.
  33. ^ a b Green 1989, p. 221.
  34. ^ The Fitchburg Sentinel 1925, p. 14.
  35. ^ Vasquez 2010, p. 66.
  36. ^ The Athenaeum 2014.