Gordon College Women's History Series
From the Editor: Progressive at its inception in 1889, A. J. Gordon's Boston Missionary Training School admitted both white and African American women. Throughout its evolution as Gordon College of Theology and Missions to Gordon Divinity School and now Gordon College, women's contributions as faithful Christian servants have been evident and many. The following is the first of several new profiles, based on excellent materials found in the Gordon College's archives and special collections, which we hope will serve as a testament to that fact.
By Dan Hayner '09
When Rev. Nathan R. Wood, Gordon College and Divinity School President from 1910-1944, first visited Martha Dodge Frost at her home, he told her about several 'gifted and intelligent' young women who attended the college. The wealthy, widowed Bostonian quickly interpreted the visit as a solicitation for funds. Yes, Mrs. Frost belonged to First Baptist Church of Arlington, Massachusetts, where Wood's father served as pastor. But she hadn't attended services in years and didn't know the man who showed up at her door or his father.
Besides, she explained, she could not give to the school because she had just given a donation to a local hospital. Rev. Wood smiled and told her he was simply seeking another friend of the school, not money.
Nonetheless, Mrs. Frost claimed to have endured many 'long days and sleepless nights' that ultimately 'convicted me to give' as a result of Rev. Wood's visit. And she could not stop thinking about those four female students who, at the time, were living in the front parlor of a home on Tremont Street a few blocks from the school.
So in spite of the brusqueness of that initial visit, Martha Dodge Frost did donate, helping the College take one of its earliest and biggest steps forward as an institution and ensuring its mission for preparing young women and men for Christian service.
Wood called it "a gift of divine help," one that made possible "that which was impossible with men." In 1915 he announced to College trustees Mrs. Frost's gift of $75,000 to the Gordon Bible Institute, describing it as the answer to the trustees' prayerful vision to expand the school, which by then had outgrown its original accommodations in the basement of Clarendon Street Baptist Church. The gift helped purchase property on the Fenway in Boston as well as the construction of a building on the site.
Mrs. Frost, who owned several properties around Boston, not only financed that original purchase and construction of the Fenway property, but later, after learning that the school would have to mortgage part of the expense of the property, offered an additional $45,000 to pay off the debt in full.
The gift was transformative not only for the young college but also for the donor herself. In her last years before her death in 1925, Frost adopted the school and its students as her own. The widow, whose life had been lonely and empty, suddenly found great joy in the school that she'd been so compelled to support.
Thirty years after her death when Gordon moved from the Fenway to the North Shore, the College trustees voted to carry on the memory of Mrs. Frost by naming the campus's eminent Frost Hall in her honor.
Wood, Nathan R., A School of Christ. Boston: Gordon College of Theology and Missions, 1953.
Available in Jenks Library's Archives.