Sophia Smith Papers
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 http://www.smith.edu/collegerelations/history/sophia.html and http://clio.fivecolleges.edu/smith/sophia/ ]