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HCW Feature

A Community of Tradition

Hartford College for Women was a special place that many called home.

Hartford College for Women began as Mount Holyoke in Hartford, a “noble experiment” in 1933. The strength and potential for the college to grow was rooted in the belief that women’s education and an empowering community were the perfect foundation for success. Over the next nine decades, the college grew to be so much more. It became a place that many called home, steeped in traditions and celebrations that are not forgotten.

Laura Johnson, third dean and first president at Hartford College for Women at dinner with students.

Laura Johnson, third dean and first president at Hartford College for Women at dinner with students.

The nooks and crannies of Butterworth Hall, with its oak paneling, grandfather clock, Oriental carpets, sunroom, and second floor windowed alcove, offered the perfect setting for informal discussions in the coffee room, bridge games, knitting sessions, and gatherings in the upstairs living room to listen to the record player. In the beautiful gardens and amongst the tall oak trees, students could be heard singing folk songs while gently strumming their guitars.

In Cheney Hall, there was a science lab in the basement. There were also the traditional lecture-style classrooms upstairs that transformed into an open space for Truda Kaschmann to teach dance.

In the early days on campus, there was no internet, no cell phones, papers were crafted on typewriters, and real books were found by looking in a card catalog.

Many alumnae remember serving tea and cookies in Laura Johnson’s office. The afternoon tea service was presented with detailed specifications and often included an invitation for the student to join the conversation Laura Johnson was having with community professionals.

Hartford College for Women was known for encouraging students to find their voice and impact change. On October 15, 1969, Moratorium Day, students linked arms with professors and marched in solidarity to protest the war in Vietnam.

Alumnae remember…MotherDaughter Teas, Father-Daughter Dinners, Candlelight Ball, weekends at Isola Bella, tennis matches at Elizabeth Park, Mountain Day at Simsbury State Park, Commencement Ball at Stanley, Miss Community Chest, Halloween parties, handmade Valentine’s cards, St. Patty’s Day, jazz at the Simsbury House, Medieval Banquet, Oktoberfest, sporting events, Thanksgiving Teas, the Christmas Formals, and Shakespeare’s Birthday dinners. What do you remember?

Spring and Winter Weekends were always a cause for celebration and unique party favors. Mixers at Trinity, Wesleyan, and Yale gave students a chance to dance and socialize.

As the years went by, fashion changed with the times as the dress code requiring skirts was abolished. Students wore jeans, tie-dye shirts, peasant blouses, Fair Isle sweaters, kilts, knee socks, and Liberty of London scarves. There were beanies, Villager skirts, bell bottomed pants, oversized sweatshirts, and slip dresses with chunky boots.

It wasn’t unusual for students to be invited to their professors’ homes for informal group discussions on English literature, life, and career aspirations. The teaching techniques were focused on critical thinking and a global perspective to learning. During her 30-year tenure, President Laura Johnson established Hartford College for Women as a place for women who wanted to learn and teachers who loved to teach.

Although each decade was shaped by world events and had its own unique fashions, one thing always remained the same—Hartford College for Women was a supportive, empowering community that many called home. The traditions live on in the stories shared at 50th reunions, with today’s students in the LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) program, in the pages of Highlander yearbooks, and in alumnae’s memories. The design of the LEAD program was inspired by the way students at Hartford College for Women were challenged and supported. The Hartford College for Women legacy is proudly continued and celebrated by today’s students.

Excerpts from this story were taken from alumnae reflections previously shared in Hartford College for Women publications.

Group photo featured in the 1970 Highlander yearbook.

Group photo featured in the 1970 Highlander yearbook.