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during the next two decades, the 1890s and 1900s, Macalester College would distance itself from the ideals of its early founders, establishing a distinct identity as a Presbyterian institution for higher education serving the upper Midwest. Although the college was not technically an institution of the Presbyterian Church—that is, it was not directly controlled by the national organization or the synod—it was “church related.” Two-thirds of the trustees were members of the Presbyterian Church, and the synod could, if it so chose, select their replacements when positions opened. All the college presidents, eachselectedbythesynod,hadbeenordainedPresbyterianministers(uptothe installation of James Wallace in 1894, that is, and he was chosen in a desperate, last-ditch effort to save the college, mainly due to his outspokenness over its financial situation). Presbyterian families in the state and region donated funds to the college through their individual churches, and they sent their children to the new college. By 1905, the first year that records exist on the religious preference of students, 127, or 62 percent, of the 204 students enrolled identified themselves as Presbyterian.1 MacalesterdevelopedthisidentityduringaperiodinwhichthePresbyterian Church, along with such other evangelical denominations as Congregationalists , Methodists, Baptists, and Disciples of Christ, was experiencing significant social, cultural, and scientific challenges to their traditional evangelical beliefs and lifestyles. Rapidly shifting cultural processes, social mores, and educational theories required new responses from religious communities and leadership. As Presbyterianism responded to these challenges over the course of the next College Life and Identity at the Turn of the Century    | nature & revelation several decades, colleges like Macalester were on the front lines of tension between the new and the old.2 U.S. historians characterize the years around the turn of the century as a period in which Americans acknowledged, embraced, and sometimes squared off against cultural and intellectual modernism. Spurred by advances in science and technology and the unrelenting incentives of capitalism, modernism is a term pointing to such things as the expansion of material life brought on by the greater demand for and availability of material goods, the expansion of scientific knowledge and the development of new technologies, the formation of thesocialsciencesanddevelopmentof thefieldof psychology,thealteration of women’srolesandintegrationof womenintothemarketplaceandworkplace, the increasing influence of challenges toreligious thought andpractice, and the rethinking of the role of nations in the world. Indeed, by the 1890s, and with greater acceleration after the turn of the century ,thecultureandtheinstitutionexperiencedsignificantchanges.Traditional authorities were losing their power at the same time as commercialization and professionalization raised those with know-how to the fore, eclipsing religious authorities and those with family connections and old wealth.3 Institutions like Macalester found themselves straddling an uncomfortable position between the new and the old, having to make daily decisions regarding whether to follow traditional ways or embrace new practices. In the case of Macalester, the struggle with modernism is apparent in several areas but particularly in the admission of women, which can be linked to a number of transformations in the college’s mission, curriculum, and public image. This chapter will focus on the transformations spurred by the new coeducational character of the college. Macalester’s struggles with modernism in other areas—including the role of religion and the nation in the world—will be taken up in the next chapter. In the face of all these challenges, religious belief figured as the guiding principle for institutional change, though as we shall see, it, too, was changing. Fall1893isausefulplacetobeginexaminingMacalester’sresponsetomodernismandtheensuingtransformationof theinstitution,foritbroughtnotonlywhat canarguablybeseenasthemostsignificantchangebutalsothepassingof theearly founders’generationandtheoriginalvisionforaChristiancollegeontheprairie. The Admission of Women to Macalester College “Coeducation—yum,yum,”wastheroguisheditorialcommentthatintroduced readers of the Macalester Echo to the new students who were admitted to the College Life and Identity at the Turn of the Century |  college in September 1893.4 The admission of women figured as the institution ’s first brush with modernism—the first, that is, apart from the financial and economic woes stemming from the changing role of capital in the U.S. economic system that had all but bankrupted the school that summer. Beyond that particular set of financial tests,the question of women’s education brought its own set of challenges. In fact, women’s education contested the ideology of thePresbyterianleadersof Macalesteronveryfundamentalgrounds,thatis,on their understanding of gender and the normative behaviors deemed appropriate for Christian men and women. Women’s education was one of a number of challengesthatoccurredinandaroundtheturnof thecentury—challengesthat in no small measure reflected significant rethinking of the underlying assumptions on which the institution was originally developed, a rethinking springing from college leaders’ inevitable engagement with modernism...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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