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Skidmore College

Making history

March 2, 2017

Women’s History Month is only 30 years old, but it honors women’s contributions to America from the 17th century forward. And Skidmore certainly played a significant role in the 20th century, starting in 1903 as the Young Women’s Industrial Club, to help Saratoga’s working-class girls learn both life and job skills, and becoming a four-year baccalaureate-granting women’s college by 1922. Its founder and nurturer, the remarkable Lucy Skidmore Scribner, devoted all her energy and wealth to her project to improve women’s lives.

lucy scribner
The founder at a festive Skidmore "field day"

Scribner was petite but formidable. Gravely ill with typhoid fever in 1905, she told her doctors she had important work to do and sent them away. She learned to bicycle at age 40. When Model-T cars first appeared, she learned to drive one; when the car seat bothered her long-damaged spine, she had it replaced with a wooden church pew. She oversaw operations, raised funds, and presided over college ceremonies until her death in 1931. Here are more tidbits about Lucy Scribner.

The ever-pragmatic Scribner denied having any grand vision for the growth of her club, simply hoping “to better present conditions” for girls and young women. She was fortunate, she said, that her staff included “women of broader ideas.” And for over a century, her institution has been producing women of broad ideas, creative thought, and transformative action.

In the “This is Skidmore” podcast below, Skidmore’s archivist recounts more tales of Lucy Scribner and the college’s early days:

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