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Founders collection

Identifier:  1MF-Founders

Scope and Contents

Collection consists of the records of Wellesley College's founders, Henry Fowle Durant and Pauline Adeline Durant, dating from 1837, 1851-1991. Collection includes four series. Series I. Durant family biographical and subject files (1837-1991) includes multiple biographical files on Henry and Pauline Durant, including specifically on Henry’s name change from Henry Welles Smith to Henry Fowle Durant (to distinguish himself from the other Henry Smiths in his field), on Henry’s birthplace (Hanover, New Hampshire), and on his death. Also includes records of the Durants’ real estate properties, wills, and related documents. Includes files on the Library of Mount Holyoke College (where Henry Fowle Durant was a Trustee), the Funeral Eulogy of Susanna Smith (Henry’s mother), the memorial service for Pauline Durant, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, and the 1894 Legenda which includes a section titled ‘The Founders of Wellesley' by Katharine Lee Bates. Series II. Durant family correspondence, diaries, and photographs (1852-1898) includes copies of letters by the Durants held at the Boston University Library, personal correspondence, diaries, and sketches (including diaries of Henry’s relative Mary Smith), photographs of individuals and an exhibition on the founding of the college, and copies of letters from the Durants to Mary Bucklin and William Governor Claflin (held by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums. Series III. Writings by Henry F. Durant (1859-1860, 1877-1890) includes “The Bible in the Public Schools,” “A Few Thoughts on the Study of the Bible,” “Argument in the Case of Cochrane vs. Perry by Henry Durant,” “Address on James Otis,” “Influence of Rural Life,” and his sermon “The Spirit of the College.” Series IV. Reverend E. P. Tenney's "The Life of Henry Fowle Durant" (1855-1936) includes notes and drafts of Reverend E. P. Tenny’s unpublished biographical work “The Life of Henry Fowle Durant,” as well as related correspondence and news clippings.


  • 1837, 1851-1991


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. To make an appointment to view materials, please contact the Archives staff by email at or by phone at (781) 283-3745.

Conditions Governing Use

The Wellesley College Archives welcomes researchers to use materials in the public domain, to make fair use of copyrighted materials as defined by copyright law, and to request permission to use works whose copyright is held by Wellesley College. All materials from the Archives, regardless of copyright status, should be attributed to the Wellesley College Archives, Library and Technology Services when cited, quoted, or reproduced.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Fowle Durant (1822-1881) was born Henry Welles Smith; he changed his name when he moved to Boston in 1847 and found too many other practicing lawyers shared the name Henry Smith. Mr. Henry Fowle Durant and Mrs. Pauline Adeline Fowle Durant were grandchildren of Captain John Fowle, who was an officer in the American Revolution, and lived in Watertown, Massachusetts. Captain John Fowle’s son, John “Jack” Fowle, married Paulina Cazenove; they were Pauline Adeline Fowle’s parents. Captain John Fowle’s daughter, Harriet Fowle, married William Smith; they were Henry Welles Smith (later Henry Fowle Durant)’s parents. On May 23, 1854, Henry Fowle Durant married his cousin Pauline Adeline Fowle (1832-1917). Henry Fowle Durant was a successful lawyer, making $10,000 a year by 1850; part of his later fortune used to found Wellesley College was the result of taking legal fees from a rubber company in the form of stock. Mr. and Mrs. Durant had a son, Henry “Harry” Fowle Durant (born 1855), and a daughter, Pauline Cazenove Durant (born 1857). Their daughter passed away after six weeks, and their son passed away at eight years old, after the Durant’s had acquired the three hundred acres of land eventually used to found Wellesley College, initially planned as a country estate for the family. Following his son’s death, Henry Fowle Durant underwent a religious conversion; he had already been a practicing Christian, but he was inspired to become a devoted evangelical. He quit his law practice and became a lay preacher across New England. In 1867 the Durants made the decision to dedicate their estate next to Lake Waban to the education of women. The college's charter was signed on March 17, 1870. It was renamed from the Wellesley Female Seminary to Wellesley College in March 1973. The College opened September 1875; the first graduating class was Class of 1879. [Information from: Glasscock, Jean, and Katharine Canby Balderston. Wellesley College, 1875-1975: a Century of Women. Wellesley College, 1975. Pages 2-9.]


4 boxes

Language of Materials



1MF Founders collection is an artificial collection. Artificial collections are created by Archivists bringing together multiple smaller acquisitions to the archives from multiple creators, and organizing them based on their subject. This is unlike most archival collections which are organized by provenance, meaning by the original creator, and which maintain the original creator’s arrangement of the collection. The Founders collection is intellectually arranged in four series. Series I. Durant family biographical and subject files (1837-1991), Series II. Durant family correspondence, diaries, and photographs (1852-1898), Series III. Writings by Henry F. Durant (1859-1860, 1877-1890), and Series IV. Reverend E. P. Tenney's "The Life of Henry Fowle Durant" (1855-1936).

Related Materials

See also: Object collection, Series X. Fowle and Durant family, 1823-1863.
Wellesley College. Founders collection, 1837, 1851-1991: a container list
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Wellesley College Archives Repository