Let This Life Speak: The Legacy of Henry Joel Cadbury

By Margaret Hope Bacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Teaching and Learning

Established as a coeducational boarding school under the care of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1799, Westtown had managed its adolescent boys and girls through the years by enforcing a strict separation of the sexes. The long brick school building was divided into a "boys' end" and a "girls' end," boys' grounds and girls' grounds. In the early days there were separate classes, and boys and girls sat at opposite ends of a long dining room. Boys and girls in fact were never supposed to see each other, except at meeting, or when brothers and sisters or first cousins were allowed chaperoned visits once every two weeks.

After the Civil War, some of these rules had been liberalized. Boys and girls began to have meals together in 1881 and classes together in 1889. When the pond was frozen they were allowed to skate together. Still, social segregation was very much in place when Henry Cadbury arrived as a young teacher in the fall of 1905. For a boy to make an unauthorized trip to the girls' end was a punishable offense.

As a teacher, however, twenty-one-year-old Henry Cadbury was not subject to any of these regulations. He was just becoming interested in the opposite sex, and the situation was delightful.

When you are about as young or younger than some of the senior boys you can have pretty good fun if you are at a boarding school and have the run of all the grounds with none of the restrictions that the students had. So I had a great deal of fun with other teachers and the boys and girls at Westtown School. I had the privilege, which no other young man had, of taking young women out canoeing in the afternoon. They were very strict about these things, but being a teacher I was myself the chaperone, you understand, which made everything perfectly valid.1

-15-

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