Since its inception in 1851, Lasell University has been deeply committed to the advancement of women. Originally known as Lasell Female Seminary, the university has been the brief home to countless talented and brilliant women. From writers, to artists, to designers, there is no shortage of amazing stories through the 170+ years of Lasell. In the present day, we remember these women’s marks on Lasell as their names are attributed to many of the buildings on Lasell’s campus. Today, I’ve compiled a list of just three extremely influential women in Lasell’s history. For reference, these stories come from the book Lasell: A History of the First Junior College for Women by Donald J. Winslow.
Miss Caroline Carpenter
If you’ve been to Lasell’s campus you’re probably already familiar with the name of Miss Caroline Carpenter. The namesake for Woodland Road’s Carpenter House, Miss Carpenter served a huge role in Lasell’s history. Born in 1833, Caroline came to Lasell in 1873 after the death of her father. She taught mathematics, Latin, English, and history. She even became preceptress (head of the school) at various times when President Charles Bragdon was away. Winslow writes of her, “The influence of a remarkable woman such as Caroline Carpenter on generations of young women is incalculable. Of buoyant spirit, wit, unselfish disposition, and loyalty to the institution, she served for thirty-four years as an example not only to pupils but to her colleagues as well” (115). For many years, Caroline held the title of “Queen of Lasell”.
Miss Martha Ransom
Miss Martha Ransom was a huge influence on Lasell in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sister-in-law of President Bragdon, Martha served many roles at Lasell. Physical education was extremely important to campus culture in this period. She was the first swim instructor at Lasell—and one of the first in the entire country—when there was a swimming pool and bowling alley under the gymnasium. She was actually the one who had been influential in coordinating the new construction of a new gymnasium and pool. Over her 25 years at Lasell, she taught countless young women how to swim, among a variety of other physical activities. After her retirement, she stayed a part of the Lasell community for years. She is deceived as “A handsome woman, of an outgoing, friendly disposition, Martha Ransom contributed a great deal to the strength and character of Lasell” (59).
Another namesake of a popular Lasell dormitory, Elizabeth Gardner is one of Lasell’s most famous alumni. At the university, Elizabeth studied art in the class of 1856. After her education at Lasell, Elizabeth went on to run an art school with her professor Imogene Robinson, before the pair went off to Paris to study. While in Paris, she notably applied to the police to be allowed to wear men’s clothing and she cut her hair short, both of which she used to disguise herself to gain entry into male-only spaces of education. In France, “she was the first American woman to exhibit in the Paris Salon”, an extremely prestigious art showcase (34). If you’ve ever been to the Lasell’ Brennan Library, you’ve likely seen her painting The Judgement of Paris. This is just one of her many beautiful paintings.