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Sophia Smith Papers, 1861-2001
3 boxes (1 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 10

Founder of Smith College. Contains personal journals, correspondence, family papers, memorabilia, photographs, printed biographical material, and information about the Smith homestead in Hatfield, MA.

Terms of Access and Use:

All files are open to researchers according to the regulations of the College Archives.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Sophia Smith, benefactor of Smith College, was born in Hatfied, MA on August 27, 1796, the fourth of seven children of Joseph Smith, a prosperous farmer, and his wife, Lois White Smith. Of the seven Smith offspring, three died young and only Joseph Jr. married, producing no heirs. Sophia, her sister Harriet and brother Austin shared the family homestead, which still stands at 22 Main Street in Hatfield.

Harriet Smith's death in 1859, followed by Austin's in 1861, left Sophia a wealthy woman attempting to make provisions for the Smith family fortune. Deeply religious, Sophia turned to her pastor, John Morton Greene, as well as other advisers, to discuss her options. Considered were bequests to Amherst College (Reverend Greene's alma mater) and to the nearby Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

Initially, Sophia settled on a variety of projects, including a school for the deaf--a logical choice in light of her own struggles with impaired hearing. Thus, Smith College may, at least in part, owe its very existence to the fact that John Clarke died before she did, endowing a school for the deaf (the Clarke School in Northampton) and prompting Sophia to abandon her plan.

Sophia Smith died on June 12, 1870. The "Last Will and Testament of Miss Sophia Smith" was completed in March of 1870--nine years after her first meeting about the matter with John Greene. This final version supported "the establishment and maintenance of an Institution for the higher education of young women, with the design to furnish for my own sex means and facilities for education equal to those which are afforded now in our Colleges to young men."

"The will went on to state: "It is my opinion that by the education of women, what are called their 'wrongs' will be redressed, their wages adjusted, their weight of influence in reforming the evils of society will be greatly increased, as teachers, as writers, as mothers, as members of society, their power for good will be incalculably enlarged...It is my wish that the institution be so conducted, that during all coming time it shall do the most good to the greatest number. I would have it a perennial blessing to the country and the world."

[Adapated from Sophia Smith's vision: "A perennial blessing to the country and the world" at and ]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sophia Smith Papers cover the period from 1861-the present. The Papers consist of Smith's personal journal from 1861-1870, original correspondence to Mary Lyon Bliss, family papers and memorabilia, including deeds and pew rent information, photographs of Sophia Smith, printed biographical and genealogical material, and information about the Smith homestead in Hatfield, MA.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

All files are open to researchers according to the regulations of the College Archives.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Sophia Smith Papers, Box #, Smith College Archives.

History of the Collection

The materials in the Sophia Smith Papers were donated by members of the John M. Green family, as well as by interested alumnae over time.

Processing Information

Processed by Nanci A. Young.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886