By Jessica Jackson '10
March 22, 2010
WENHAM, MA—March is women’s history month, and Gordon College’s new archivist, Rachel Trent, has encountered several noteworthy women in Gordon’s own history. Trent, a resident of Wenham, MA, only began her work in the Gordon archives in January, but has already discovered some exciting photos and anecdotes showcasing the early involvement of some extraordinary women at Gordon.
In the fall of 1889, Baptist pastor Adoniram Judson Gordon founded the Boston Missionary Training Institute, later named after him, Gordon College. The school was launched to offer training to students referred to as “gap persons”; in other words, those who did not possess the financial means to acquire higher education but felt called to Christian work. With today’s students coming from diverse social and financial backgrounds, the College has grown into something even Gordon could not have forecasted.
“Even the earliest classes had women enrolled,” says Trent. “In fact, some of the earliest classes had more women than men enrolled. When Gordon began its athletics program, not only was a men’s basketball team started, but a women’s team was founded at the same time in 1926.”
Gordon received the gifts and services of many exceptional women. Mrs. Elisha M. White, a generous Baptist, and Mrs. Henry W. Peabody both served as trustees and friends of the College, helping oversee the construction of an auditorium in the early 1900s. Isabel W. Wood, a talented woman with her bachelor and master of arts degrees from Brown University, helped to organize the College’s administration and record keeping.
Another remarkable woman who advanced Gordon through her financial contributions was Martha Dodge Frost. In 1915 Frost, in tandem with her substantial monetary gift, bequeathed her house to the school. Months later she again donated funds for the purchase of lands and the construction of buildings. Frost was an unusually successful investor. Consequent donations followed, and years later Frost Hall, which now houses admissions, faculty and administration offices, was dedicated to her honor.
“After her donations Mrs. Frost became a kind of grandmother to the school,” Trent says. “She was always hanging around the campus thereafter. It really brought her closer to God.”
The wife of A. J. Gordon himself, Maria Hale Gordon, in addition to being a wife and mother of six, also contributed greatly to the development of the College by working alongside her husband in both church and school. Trent says Maria was “Adoniram’s equal, in every way.”
A leader in her own right, Maria was a known advocate for the Temperance Movement, a “born teacher,” and multitalented, as evidenced by her studies in piano, violin, singing and foreign languages. She led the Boston Women’s Christian Temperance Union for 20 years, founded and led the Society for the Fatherless and Widows, and served as treasurer and Bible teacher at Gordon, where she also donated funds to cover monthly expenses.
“Gordon’s growth was due in large part to the help and commitment of many women through the years, which was unique in itself,” Trent says. “Many of Gordon’s first graduates were women.”
For more information on the history of Gordon College, please email Rachel Trent or call 978.867.4140.