150 Years of Continuous Women's Education

During the final days of the Civil War, Dr. William Ward and his wife, Eliza Ward, envisioned a school for young women in Nashville that would evolve into one of the nation's most prestigious institutions. As the New South dawned, Ward Seminary opened its doors in September 1865. Merging with Belmont College for Young Women in 1913, Ward-Belmont operated as a college preparatory school, music conservatory, and junior college. In 1951, the high school division moved farther west, reopening as the Harpeth Hall School after Ward-Belmont's sudden closure. Ward Seminary, Belmont College, Ward-Belmont, and Harpeth Hall are simply separate chapters of one continuous story. As Harpeth Hall celebrates 150 years, its story reflects a unique case study and provides a lens through which to understand the evolution of all-girls education in the United States. The Harpeth Hall School remains one of the oldest all-girls college preparatory schools in the South.

All-Girls Education from Ward Seminary to Harpeth Hall, 1865-2015 by Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel

1848-02-01 00:00:00

Declaration of Sentiments sparks women's rights movement

The first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York.

1860-05-01 00:00:00

The Occupied City

Nashville’s position as a center for transportation, trade, and manufacturing makes it vitally important to the Confederacy during the American Civil War, but the city remains undefended by the Confederate army.

1860-10-24 00:00:00

First National Women's Rights Convention

The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place on October 24, 1860 in Worcester, Massachusetts attracting more than 1,000 participants.

1863-01-01 00:00:00

President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approaches its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declares "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

1865-04-01 00:00:00

End of the American Civil War

Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox on April 9, 1965 and ends the bloodiest conflict in the nation's history.

1865-09-04 00:00:00

Opening of Ward Seminary

Ward Seminary is founded by Eliza Hudson Ward and William Eldred Ward and opens in September in downtown Nashville with 46 students.

1865-12-01 00:00:00

Thirteenth Amendment Abolishes Slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified in December 1865. One of three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the American Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude.

1866-01-13 00:00:00

Ward Seminary relocates downtown

Ward Seminary purchases property on Eighth Avenue, today Rosa Parks Blvd.

1869-05-15 00:00:00

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form National Woman Suffrage Association

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association.

1870-05-01 00:00:00

Athens of the South

Nashville’s reputation as a commercial, cultural, and educational center grows tremendously following the Civil War.

1879-01-01 00:00:00

Merger of Edgefield Seminary and Ward Seminary

Edgefield Seminary, operated in East Nashville by Mrs. Henri Weber, merges with Ward Seminary. Mrs. Weber joins the Ward Seminary faculty.

1887-06-01 00:00:00

Death of Dr. William Eldred Ward

1889-01-01 00:00:00

Tennessee woman suffrage organizations form

Lide Meriwether founds Tennessee's first suffrage organization in Memphis in 1889. The second appears in Mayville in 1893; the third, in Nashville a year later. By 1897, the year of the Centennial Celebration in Nashville, ten towns have suffrage societies.

1890-01-01 00:00:00

Opening of Belmont College for Young Women

Susan L. Heron and Ida E. Hood open Belmont College for Young Women with 90 students on the former Belle Monte Estate of Adelicia Acklen.

1890-05-01 00:00:00

National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) forms

The National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the movement's mainstream organization, NAWSA wages state-by-state campaigns to obtain voting rights for women.

1892-01-01 00:00:00

Dr. John D. Blanton becomes President of Ward Seminary

Initially an instructor of mathematics at Ward Seminary, Dr. John D. Blanton is named President of Ward Seminary and goes on to have an impressive tenure spanning more than four decades.

1896-07-01 00:00:00

The National Association of Colored Women's Club (NACWC) forms

The National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC) is formed, bringing together more than 100 black women's clubs.

1897-01-01 00:00:00

First organized basketball game

Ward Seminary is the first women’s basketball team in Nashville, forming in 1895, and one of the first organized basketball squads in the South. Ward Seminary competes with Vanderbilt University women’s basketball team in 1897 resulting in a score of Vanderbilt 5, Ward Seminary 0.

1897-05-01 00:00:00

Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition

The Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition is an exposition staged between May and October 1897 in Nashville.

1897-05-01 00:00:00

Suffragists meet at Centennial Exposition's Woman's Building

Suffragists meet at the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition's Woman's Building to hear speeches by suffrage leaders from Kentucky and Alabama.

1897-06-01 00:00:00

Death of Eliza Hudson Ward

1900-05-01 00:00:00

Powder City

The first decades of the twentieth century in Nashville are clouded by tragedy: natural disasters, fires, epidemics, war, and the onset of the Great Depression. Yet Nashville meets every adversity with resolve. Nashville’s population reaches 154,000 by 1930, an indication of the rapid growth the city continues to see in the first decades of the 20th century.

1902-05-28 00:00:00

Anne Dallas Dudley becomes prominent activist in women's suffrage movement

Anne Dallas Dudley becomes a prominent activist in the women's suffrage movement in the United States.

1904-01-01 00:00:00

Dr. Ira D. Landrith named Regent of Belmont College for Young Women

Dr. Landrith assumes the daily administrative duties of Belmont College as Ms. Hood and Ms. Heron near retirement.

1907-01-01 00:00:00

Opening of Ward Place

Ward Seminary opens a “suburban” annex called Ward Place located on the St. Thomas Midtown Hospital Campus between West End Avenue and Charlotte Avenue.

1913-01-01 00:00:00

Opening of Ward-Belmont School

Ward-Belmont School opens in September with President Dr. Ira D. Landrith (former regent of Belmont College) and Vice-President Dr. J.D. Blanton (former president of Ward Seminary at the helm.

1916-01-01 00:00:00

Ira Landrith and Prohibitionist Party

Dr. Ira D. Landrith resigns as Ward-Belmont's president and becomes presidential candidate of Prohibitionist Party for the 1916 U.S. presidential election.

1916-02-01 00:00:00

Dr. J.D. Blanton becomes President of Ward-Belmont School

Following Ira Landrith's resignation, Dr. J.D. Blanton, who previously served as Ward Seminary's president and Ward-Belmont's vice-president, assumes the duties of Ward-Belmont president.

1920-02-01 00:00:00

Tennessee General Assembly ratifies Nineteenth Amendment

Tennessee's state legislature ratifies the amendment as the decisive 36th state needed to amend the U.S. Constitution and give women the right to vote. The legislature's historic vote inaugurates a new era for women and for politics and secures Tennessee's place in the annals of American women's history.

1921-06-01 00:00:00

Death of Susan L. Heron

1925-01-01 00:00:00

SACS Accreditation

Ward-Belmont School receives accreditation as the first junior college through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

1928-01-01 00:00:00

Change in name for Ward-Belmont music

Ward-Belmont School of Music changes to Ward-Belmont Conservatory of Music.

1929-01-01 00:00:00

Carillon installed in Ward-Belmont Bell Tower

This carillon of 23 bronze bells is the first carillon in Tennessee and one of the first 25 carillons in North America.

1930-05-01 00:00:00

The Wall Street of the South, and its Collapse and Recovery

The collapse of Caldwell and Company, a Nashville investment bank, and the coming of the Great Depression once again require resolve and recovery for Nashville.

1932-01-01 00:00:00

Minnie Pearl graduates from Ward-Belmont

Sarah Colley Cannon, better known as Minnie Pearl, graduates from The Ward-Belmont School of Expression. Pearl goes on to become an iconic American country and comedian who appears at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years. She was named the first Ward-Belmont/ Harpeth Hall Distinguished Alumna in 1993.

1933-06-01 00:00:00

Death of Dr. J.D. Blanton

1933-06-01 00:00:00

Death of Ida E. Hood

1933-09-01 00:00:00

Dr. John Barton named Ward-Belmont president

After the death of Dr. J.D. Blanton in 1933, John W. Barton, who had been vice-president since 1927, becomes Ward-Belmont’s third president.

1934-01-01 00:00:00

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visits Ward-Belmont

Official accounts note the beautiful sight of the "entire drive lined with white-clad girls" cheering as the black car enter[s] the gate and "Hail to the Chief" play[s] on the bell carillon.

1936-06-01 00:00:00

Cornelia Clark Fort graduates from Ward-Belmont

Cornelia Clark Fort graduates from Ward-Belmont’s high school. She later witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack from the air, served as an aviator in WWII, and was the first female pilot to die on active duty in 1943.

1939-01-01 00:00:00

Dr. Joseph Burke named President of Ward-Belmont School

Dr. Joseph Burke was hired in 1938 as the dean of academics and is appointed president in 1939, a position he holds until 1945.

1945-01-01 00:00:00

Dr. Robert Provine named President of Ward-Belmont

Dr. Robert Calhoun Provine taught Philosophy at Vanderbilt University before his appointment as Ward-Belmont's last president. He serves for six years until the school's closing. Known as a true southern gentleman, Provine and his family move to rural Williamson County to raise their five children and run a small commercial farm after 1951.

1950-05-01 00:00:00

The Nashville Way

Nashville in the mid-20th century is not without internal struggles, especially in the emerging modern Civil Rights Movement.

1951-01-01 00:00:00

TN Baptists assume control of Ward-Belmont School

Ward-Belmont ownership transfers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention for the assumption of $600,000 in debt.

1951-01-01 00:00:00

Belmont College reopens

Belmont College (now Belmont University) reopens on Ward-Belmont’s campus as a co-educational Baptist college. Currently ranked No. 5 in the Regional Universities South category and named for the seventh consecutive year as one of the top “Up-and-Comer” universities by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University celebrates its 125th anniversary during academic year 2015-2016.

1951-09-01 00:00:00

The Harpeth Hall School opens

In the wake of Ward-Belmont's sudden sale in 1951, local community leaders and alumnae rally quickly and urgently to pull off a seemingly improbably feat. In less than six months, Ward-Belmont’s college preparatory division is moved to the P.M. Estes estate and reopens as The Harpeth Hall School in September 1951 with 16 founding faculty members, 15 of whom came from Ward-Belmont.

1951-09-17 00:00:00

Susan S. Souby appointed first Harpeth Hall Head of School

Susan S. Souby is appointed first Harpeth Hall Head of School. She previously served as Ward-Belmont's college preparatory principal.

1952-01-01 00:00:00

SACS Accreditation

Harpeth Hall receives accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

1952-12-01 00:00:00

Ward-Belmont traditions carry over to Harpeth Hall

Ward-Belmont's crowning of a May Queen is adapted to celebrate Harpeth Hall's Lady of the Hall. Additionally, Step Singing continues as a ceremony at which seniors pass the torch of leadership to juniors as they pledge to "transmit this school not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us." Traditions of singing and the wearing of white dresses remain largely unchanged from the Ward-Belmont days.

1953-01-01 00:00:00

Buliding expansion includes completion of Bullard Gymnasium

While some classes are still held in Souby Hall, a dedicated academic building with classrooms and a dining hall is completed by 1952, and Bullard Gymnasium, named for founding trustee George N. Bullard, is completed in 1953.

150 Years of Continuous Women's Education

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