Glossary of Key Terms

Anglo-Saxonism (n): a racialized political ideology that became widespread among white Americans in the mid-nineteenth century. Anglo-Saxonists believed in the superiority of the English-speaking race and looked to early medieval Britain for their ethnic origins. They considered the colonial period to be the advent of (white) American identity.  Anglo-Saxonism was gained authority from its promotion in academia, particularly departments of English and History. Bryn Mawr was one of many American colleges that also  projected Anglo-Saxonism through the construction of Gothic revival architecture that looked to the buildings of Oxford and Cambridge Universities as models. 

Christian civilizing mission (n): a project of the nineteenth-century closely tied to colonialism, imperialism, and Westward Expansion that professed an obligation to proselytize non-Christians, especially those considered uncivilized because they resisted assimilation to Euro-North American social practices and values.

Classical Curriculum (n): a course of study at colleges in Europe and, later North America, that foregrounded Latin and Greek language and literature and prioritized Western European traditions. Rome and Greece were valorized as pinnacles of culture, art, and literature, and Western Europe was positioned as the inheritor of that legacy. This curriculum was intended to shape students both intellectually and socially.

Cottage System (n): a residential structure developed at women’s colleges to maintain a domestic environment. Cottages aspired to provide supportive, home-like accommodations in which women’s femininity and sociability were preserved. Designed to resemble comfortable houses, these freestanding structures accommodated small group of 20 to 80 students, who were supervised by an older female residential Matron. 

Cult of true womanhood (n): a collection of Christian virtues, such as piety, delicacy, submissiveness, and purity, that was  venerated as an ideal for nineteenth-century Anglo-American women. It was related to  then-current pseudo-medical theories about women’s biologically determined social function as mothers and wives. Anna Brackett: “she is merely so many maternal organs carefully contrived for only one special purpose and that, the perpetuation of the race.” (Zschoche, 560).

Freedman (n.): a formerly enslaved person; in the late nineteenth century, a term commonly used in reference to Southern Blacks liberated in the wake of the Civil War.

Friendship (n.): the fellowship or community of Friends (Quakers); membership in the Society of Friends.

Guarded (adj.): an environment where Quaker values are taught and secular influence is restricted​.

High Victorian Gothic (n): High Victorian Gothic is an architectural style developed in Britain during the mid to late nineteenth century. It is characterized by polychrome (multicolored) building materials, varying texture, verticality (buttresses, spires, pointed arches, towers), and ornate decoration. 

Industrial Curriculum (n): industrial or manual schools offered training in agriculture and the mechanical trades as a supplement to academics. In the nineteenth-century, many schools for formerly enslaved and Indigenous peoples offered an Industrial Curriculum, at times prioritizing manual over academic training. 

Inner Light (n.): a personal sense of the divine.

Paternalism (n): the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority to restrict self-determination of those subordinate to them, while claiming to serve the latter’s best interest.

Plain dress (n): the donning of purposefully archaic and unfashionable garments coupled with rejection of sartorial excess and a preference for functionality in order to make a public statement regarding an individuals’ rejection of worldly influence.

Quaker (n): member of the Christian denomination known as the Society of Religious Friends founded in 1650 by George Fox inEngland.Central beliefs included pacifism, simplicity, and cultivating anInner Light in oneself and honoring it in others.

Race suicide (n): describes when the death rate of a racial group exceeds its birth rate, resulting in demographic decline. This idea was used to stoke fear of racial extinction among white Americans in the late nineteenth century, especially in response to increased immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Blame was often placed on “old-stock” (middle- and upper-class white) women for not bearing enough children, especially women who delayed or opted out of motherhood due to their  educational or professional ambitions. 

Separate spheres (n): an ideology that ascribed binary gender roles to the public (male) and private (female) realms. The liberation of the middle- and upper-classes from labor, brought about by Industrialization, made possible this social organization. Nevertheless, it was claimed to be grounded in biological differences between the sexes, and therefore invoked the authority of nature and God.

Simplicity (n.): a core tenant of Quakerism that promotes living without extravagance in personal comportment, worship, and one’s material possessions and so as todirect financial and other resources toward meaningful and socially beneficial ends

Tanning (n.): Leather was an essential material for the horse trappings and machinery that precipitated the first industrial revolution, but tanning was a highly extractive industry that required the clearing of large areas of land for wood and continued westward expansion.

White supremacy (n): an ideology that positions white people as superior to and destined to hold control over people of other races. It encompasses systems of power that support and sustain inequities benefitting white people based on a belief in the inherent inferiority of other races.

Worldly (adj.): referring to anything non-Quaker. Clothes and architecture or clothing not made of simple, quality materials were considered worldly, as was an education that was too secular.​