Sophia Smith is the founder of Smith College
. In her will which she completed only three months before her death she left a bequest of $400,000 to be used for
"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."
Thanks to that bequest Smith College was chartered in 1871 and opened
Smith was born August 27, 1796 in Hatfield, just outside of
Northampton. Her parents were Joseph
Smith, a prosperous farmer, and his wife, Lois
White Smith. She was the fourth child out of seven, and the first daughter.
Her sister Harriet Smith's died in 1859, followed by her brother Austin's
in 1861 leaving her wealthy and alone in the world.
Because of her deep religious convictions Smith turned to her pastor John Morton Greene as well as other advisor in order to help her determine what to do with her money when she died. One suggestion was a
bequest to Amherst College
(Reverend Greene's alma mater) or to
nearby Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was not yet a full fledged college, but was
educating young women. Another possibility considered was a school for the deaf since by the age of 40 Smith was quite deaf, despite many operations that attempted to correct the problem. John Clarke died before Smith did, endowing a school for the deaf:
the acclaimed Clarke School also in
There is some debate as to how much of the vision of Smith College was based on Sophia Smith's ideas rather than those of her mentor. Some people claim that she was yielding and submissive, and the plan was all John M. Greene's idea. Others, including Quentin Quesnell who wrote a book entitled "The
of Sophia Smith," feel that her interest in women's education was genuine and on-going.