For years, I have been fascinated by the connection Bryn Mawr has as a college with its neighboring primary/secondary schools. Both the Baldwin School and the Shipley School were started with the promise of preparing and sending their graduates to Bryn Mawr College for an education of a lifetime. There are traditions and academic philosophies of Bryn Mawr that both preparatory schools adopted in the hopes of not only mimicking Bryn Mawr, but embodying it. These practices not only shaped these schools in many ways, they also managed to stick in ways that they didn’t at Bryn Mawr or conversely fall to the wayside in ways that haven’t occurred at Bryn Mawr.
I am proposing a project that explores the links and ties that Bryn Mawr has historically had to Baldwin and Shipley, displaying the history between the three institutions as well as the significance of Bryn Mawr’s influence on these schools that still display aspects of Bryn Mawr’s history that Bryn Mawr itself has lost. I would like to do this by highlighting the traditions of Baldwin’s Ring Day (where 10th graders receive their class rings), the Marching-In Dinner (where 11th graders receive their class blazers in colors that mirror Bryn Mawr’s class colors), the 12th graders ringing of the school’s bell/gong upon graduation, Banner Day (where the 9th graders come up with a banner to represent their class year), the creation of class songs during students’ time at Baldwin, and the donning of white dresses by students during special occasions including graduation. Additionally, I would like to examine the traditions that Baldwin has developed in its own time as a school and determine whether or not those traditions were influenced by the school’s decision to become a day school. In the case of Shipley, there is hardly any evidence in its public presentation that it was ever a girls boarding school, much less a feeder school to Bryn Mawr. Keeping this in mind, I would like to explore the history of the Shipley School, its original philosophy and mission, and determine the impact that the school’s decision to become a coed non-boarding college preparatory school has had on its mission statement, persona, and acknowledgment (or lack thereof) as a former all-girls school with traditions. From there, Shipley and Baldwin can be compared and contrasted in their decisions to go coed and stay single sex respectively, and how those decisions have impacted their ties to Bryn Mawr physically and philosophically.
In terms of implementation, I am envisioning a physical exhibit at Bryn Mawr that displays the history between the three schools. Due to Baldwin and Shipley’s close proximity yet younger environment age-wise, I would like to put on smaller-scale exhibits in each school that would be mainly for members of those schools’ communities as opposed to the general public. It would be great if they had a hands-on, interactive quality to them. Ideally, I would like to establish a walking tour that goes to historically significant spaces on each school’s campus in regards to traditions, such as the Cloisters and Taylor Bell on Bryn Mawr’s campus, and crafts a narrative between the schools. If there was time and resources, I would work with Bryn Mawr Special Collections and the historians at Shipley and Baldwin to craft an online exhibit, similar to Black at Bryn Mawr, and an archival collection that could be used to compile facts and photos of relevant articles from the three schools. Also, I would interview Provost Osirim, an alum and Board of Trustees member at Baldwin, for an anecdotal look into Baldwin and her opinion on how it compares to Bryn Mawr. I would contact the Shipley School to see if they have anyone currently working there or any alumni who attended Bryn Mawr as well who could speak to their experience at both schools.