American College for Girls records, 1880s-1979

Summary Information


These records contain information related to the formation of the American College for Girls. They document the founders' attempts to define the mission of a Christian women's college within the Ottoman Empire.

At a Glance

Call No.:
Bib ID:
6799283 View CLIO record
American College for Girls (Istanbul, Turkey)
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Physical Description:
18 linear feet (37 document boxes)
English , Bulgarian , Turkish .
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.



The American College for Girls records comprise eight series. In addition, there is a vital documents series, a substantial collection of photographs, and a sizable body of records that include both colleges.

The collection also contains personal papers of some of the leading figures in the history of each institution, notably Cyrus Hamlin, George Washburn, Christopher Robert, Caleb F. Gates, Mary Mills Patrick and Caroline Borden. Cyrus Hamlin's earliest papers date from the 1830s, while the correspondence of the correspondence Caleb Gates and Mary Patrick extends into their retirement years as they continued to remain in close touch with their colleagues and former students.

The earliest records of ACG date from 1890, the year of its founding with a charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The records are not as complete for the early years as for the later ones. Nevertheless, they document the pioneering role of ACG in opening higher education to women in the Near East and thereby enrich our understanding of the dramatic changes in the changes in the status of women during the twentieth century.

The collection contains a large proportion of college officials in Istanbul and the Office York. The vital role played by the trustees and material support to both colleges is well documented. Throughout the correspondence that concerns the operations of the colleges there can be found many commentaries on events in Turkey and the outlying regions of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, the administrators of both institutions reported on their travels in Europe and the Near East. They wrote about Turkey and conditions during the Russo-Turkish conflict and both World Wars. Finally, they followed with great interest the modernization in Turkey and sought to adapt their own institutions to the far-reaching changes in Turkish society. Thus, while theses records contain the history of two American colleges, they are also significant sources for the study of modern Turkey. Accordingly, extensive descriptions of each record series are provided.

  • Series 1: Records of the Trustees

  • Series II: Records of the President

  • Series III: Records of the Dean

    There are seven folders of dean's records. Three cover the period of Louise B. Wallace's deanship, mainly the period 1914-1919. Subjects relate primarily to the difficulties involved in bringing over new faculty in the light of wartime conditions.

    Eleanor Burns became dean in 1924 and in 1932 received the added responsibilities of American vice president when the two colleges were merged. She served until her retirement in 1950. Earlier she held positions as registrar and professor of physics. Much of her correspondence can be found in the records of the New York Office. In the Dean's files there is an account of a memorial assembly held at the college following her death in 1952.

  • Series IV: Records of the Secretary and Bursar

    These records deal with administrative and financial matters, but many transactions between the college campus and the New York Office were directly affected by policies of the Turkish Government. Finances were complicated by the fact that tuition rates had to be adjusted to fluctuations of the Turkish lira. Faculty salaries were affected by conditions during World War I, particularly when the Turkish Government imposed a personal tax on college personnel in April 1915.

    Mary Patrick's letters to Susan Olmstead, secretary and bursar, while largely administrative, are sprinkled with comments about life at the college as well as about events in Turkey. Patrick's fundraising trips to the United States also involve correspondence with the New York Office. She continued to be active in raising funds after her retirement in 1924 and thus continued to correspond through 1926. The records contain information on teachers' salaries, currency rates, scholarship awards, and travel arrangements.

    Kathryn Adams, Patrick's successor, writes about the effect of Ataturk's reforms. For example, the college was asked not to distinguish any longer among the nationalities of the Republic when identifying students, unless their legal residence was outside Turkey. The Government also required that the teaching of the Greek and Armenian languages be dropped.

    Adams also kept Olmstead informed as to how new faculty members adjusted to life at ACG, along with writing about the difficulties involved in filling the places of longtime members of the faculty who retired. Olmstead in turn reported to Adams regarding decisions by the trustees and the state of financial support.

  • Series V: Records of the Office of the Faculty

    The faculty records are fragmentary. There were meetings of the faculty and committees of the faculty, but apparently very few documents remain. There is a report of a 1909 faculty meeting and a folder of memos addressed to the "Educational Committee" regarding candidates for faculty appointment (1919-20). In addition, there is a proposal for a Home Economics Department (1920), a faculty handbook (1927) and some correspondence between individual faculty members and the New York Office. Finally, this series contains a mimeographed faculty, staff and community directory, dated 1961-1962.

  • Series VI: Records of the Office of the Trustees, New York

    The New York Office of the Near East College Association served as the link between the college and its supporters in the United States. For many years, beginning in the 1920s, the office was headed by Albert Staub. These records are comprised of the two major sub-series: one the correspondence with ACG's President, Kathryn Adams, and the other, the correspondence with Dean Eleanor Burns.

    ACG's inadequate endowment meant that fundraising continued to be a major concern for Adams and this is reflected in the records. The Near East College Association raised money but it was apportioned among several colleges.

    In 1924, ACG organized a Social Service Center and Adams reports on the significance of its work. The assistance the center provided to village residents was important as outreach for the college as well as providing useful experience for those students interested in social work as a career.

    In 1928, Adams reported that Mrs. Charles A. Lindbergh, mother of the famous pilot, had joined the faculty as a visiting Professor of Chemistry, while Alice Morrow, sister of Dwight Morrow, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, agreed to act as hostess for visiting dignitaries. It was hoped and expected that Mrs. Lindbergh would afterward use her influence on behalf of the college. Unfortunately, she was not happy there and Adams later wrote that "a tremendous load has been taken from me," when Mrs. Lindbergh left (January 14, 1929). Miss Morrow, on the other hand, remained and was supportive of the college. Adams's letters are informative. She reports on activities of the alumnae and on the visits of dignitaries to Istanbul.

    There is a folder of correspondence from Dr. Marion Talbot, who served as acting president of ACG during 1931 and 1932. Her letters discuss the difficulties the college was experiencing, due in part to the impact of the worldwide economic crisis. In addition, there are several folders of correspondence from Dr. Virginia Gildersleeve, dean of Barnard College, who served as a trustee of ACG for many years.

    The correspondence of Burns reflects her responsibilities for recruitment of faculty as well as the procurement and awarding of scholarships. Moreover, she discusses in detail specific problems that arose between the college and the Turkish Minister of Education. Many of her letters refer to attached enclosures such as translations of articles from the Turkish press, but these are not filed with the correspondence and may have been lost.

    There is an exchange of correspondence between Staub and Mary Patrick covering the years 1922-23, the last of Patrick's years as president. The next correspondence is dated 1933-1935, which includes the years of Patrick's retirement, but that is hardly an accurate description for she remained active in fundraising and continued a lively interest in the affairs of the college.

  • Series VII: Financial Records, 1899-1946

    While this series essentially covers financial matters, it is in the form of correspondence that includes discussion of the reasons for property acquisition, new buildings, supplies, and other expenditures. It is therefore of interest apart from strictly monetary concerns.

    There are a number of letters from Mary Mills Patrick and William W. Peet that discuss the 1905 fire at the Uskudar campus as well as the move from Uskudar to Arnavutköy. In one letter, dated July 31, 1911, Peet refers to a major event outside the campus. On the anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Constitution, July 22, two large fires broke out in Istanbul that destroyed no less than 10,000 houses and rendered 50,000-60,000 homeless. The suspicion exists, Peet reports, "that the fires are the work of incendiaries and that it is one form of reactionary protest against the present government." As a precaution, the college hired a night watchman.

    Mary Patrick reports on developments at the college and also on her fundraising efforts in the United States. After her retirement in 1924, the correspondence in this series tends to deal more exclusively with financial matters. There are some useful summary documents; e.g., the construction costs of each building on the Arnavutkoy campus as of its completion in 1915 (Lucius E. Thayer correspondence to Leolin H. Keeney, June 24,1932, Box 32, Folder 16).

    The records of the 1930s and the World War II era document the financial difficulties involved in operating the college during the Great Depression and the wartime years. Shortly after World War II, there is a report on the college, dated May 10,1947, by President Floyd Black on his return to the campus after a four-month absence in the U.S. (Box 32, Folder 25a).

    Another document worth noting is in the file of Business Manager A. W. Sellar. It is a six-page "History of the Musurus Palace at Arnavutköy", which was built in the early nineteenth century on the site that later became part of the ACG campus. The document is dated August 7,1929 (Box 32, Folder 25c).

  • Series VIII: Publicity, Official Events and Historical, General

    This series contains some printed materials--pamphlets and newspaper articles pertaining to ACG and major events in the Near East. News clippings date from the early 1900s to the late 1940s and include portrait photographs with brief biographical data on some faculty members (Box 33, Folders 1-2). There are fundraising pamphlets and brochures dating to 1907 and 1909. Materials relating to official events at the college include a richly detailed scrapbook containing Charter Day speeches, extracts from letters, commencement programs, news clippings and memorabilia covering the period from the 1880s to 1907 (Box 34, Folder 1: This material is fragile).

    There is a 46-page typescript copy of a journal kept by Nettie Dodd from 1866 -1868. Her sister was Isabel Dodd, a longtime faculty member at ACG, her brother, William S. Dodd, was a medical missionary in Turkey.

    Several articles by Mary Mills Patrick and others focus on the work of the college and the education of women. They span the period from 1908 to 1955.

    Finally, there are a number of studies of the college including doctoral dissertations, M.A. theses and historical essays on the general subject of education in Turkey. Most are in typescript. A brief account by Dr. Floyd Black, written in 1944, relates his experiences with ACG while teaching at Robert College, and during the first year of his presidency.

  • Series IX: Minutes

  • Series X: Photographs

  • Series XI: Microfilms

  • Additional I


This collection is arranged in 11 series and 1 additional series.

Using the Collection

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); American College for Girls records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

See also: Robert College Records, George A. Plimpton papers, Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve papers

The Bakhmeteff Archive has the following collections: Crane Family Papers and Committee for the Education of Russian Youth in Exile (CERYE) Records


Additions are expected

Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Robert College. Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--2006.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Professor Michael A. Lutzker, Director of the Program in Archival Management and Historical Editing at New York University, and Catherine Thompson, a graduate of the Program.

Finding aid written by Professor Michael A. Lutzker and Catherine Thompson in 1988.

Collection is processed to folder level.

Revision Description

2008-11-07 File created.

2009/01/16 xml document instange created by Patrick Lawlor

2009-12-23 xml document instance edited by Patrick Lawlor

2009-05-19 xml document instance edited by Catherine N. Carson

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Historical Note

The American College for Girls was an outgrowth of an educational experiment called The Home School founded in 1871 in Istanbul by the Woman's Board of Missions and a group of women educators from Boston. Under the leadership of May Mills Patrick, and with the support of Sarah L. Bowker, Caroline Borden and other Boston women, the school was granted an act of incorporation as an educational institution in 1890 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Home School had been gradually adding post-high school course work over the years and in June 1891 conferred Bachelor of Arts degrees on its first seven graduates. As in the case of Robert College, ACG enrolled the Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire. The first Turkish women attended surreptitiously, but more openly and in increasing numbers following the Young Turk uprising of 1908.

The American College for Girls was an outgrowth of an educational experiment called The Home School founded in 1871 in Istanbul by the Woman's Board of Missions* and a group of women educators from Boston. Under the leadership of May Mills Patrick, and with the I support of Sarah L. Bowker, Caroline Borden and other Boston women, the school was granted an act of incorporation as an educational institution in 1890 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Home School had been gradually adding post-high school course work over the years and in June 1891 conferred Bachelor of Arts degrees on its first seven graduates. As in the case of Robert College, ACG enrolled the Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire. The first Turkish women attended surreptitiously, but more openly and in increasing numbers following the Young Turk uprising of 1908.

The process of recruiting faculty members was a difficult one and some instructors pursued graduate work while they taught. In December 1905 a disastrous fire destroyed Barton Hall, the main instructional building, but fortunately no lives were lost. In the next few years Dr. Patrick increased her efforts to expand the college's facilities and by 1914 property had been purchased at Arnavutköy and four new buildings constructed. A fifth, Bingham Hall, was added in 1924. In the meantime the college had secured a second charter from the Massachusetts legislature in 1908 allowing it to develop independently from the restrictions of the Woman's Board of Missions.

The dedication of the new campus was followed in the same year by the outbreak of World War I. Remarkably, the college survived the privations of wartime Istanbul and the Turkish government permitted it to function even after the U.S. declared war on Turkey's allies, the Central Powers. Although some students represented nationalities at war with each other they continued to pursue their education side by side during the four years of the conflict.

One of Dr. Patrick's strongest convictions was that medical education be available to women. In 1920 a medical department was opened at ACG together with the founding of The American Hospital (subsequently known as the Admiral Bristol Hospital). By 1924, however, the trustees of the college concluded that they could not continue to fund the medical department. Shortly afterward the Turkish government decided to limit such professional training to its own educational institutions.

In 1924 Dr. Patrick retired and was succeeded by Kathryn Newell Adams, who had headed the English Department since 1920. She served until 1931.

Prior to the appointment of Paul Monroe in 1932 as the president of both Robert College and the American College for Girls, the two institutions had begun sharing instructors for certain elective classes. The stringencies imposed by the depression led to further consolidation.

When ill health compelled the retirement of Dr. Monroe in 1935, he was succeeded as head of the two institutions by Dr. Walter Livingston Wright, Jr., an Ottoman scholar whose extensive knowledge of the Near East served the colleges well during an era of profound change in Turkey. President Wright faced the continuous task of maintaining academic standards in the face of financial stringency. The curriculum underwent revision as the college strove to adapt to the needs of a nation undergoing modernization.

As Europe's crises of the late 1930s brought war in 1939, it became increasingly difficult to attract qualified teachers. Moreover, when the U.S. became involved in 1941, President Wright was called to Washington to serve as an advisor on Near Eastern affairs. Dean Harold L. Scott, who had served Robert College in several capacities since 1911, guided the institutions through most of the war years acting as president. In 1944 Floyd Henson Black was appointed president of the college. His first teaching position had been as a tutor at Robert College in 1911. In 1914 he had returned to the United States and after completing his doctorate at Harvard he it returned in 1919 to teach Latin. In 1926 he was appointed president of the American College in Sofia where he served for the next eighteen years. By 1944, however, the war forced the closing of the college in Sofia and Floyd Black returned, this time to a combined Robert College and American College for Girls, to lead it into the postwar years. By the war's end the college was highly respected in Turkey and there was no difficulty attracting students. The problems centered on a shortage of faculty and the college's aging physical facilities. Financial constraints and an overburdened faculty threatened an erosion of academic standards, even while extracurricular activities, drama, and athletics flourished. The college found itself at a crossroads and with the impending retirement of Dr. Black in 1955, the faculty sought to re-evaluate the academic needs of the institution while the trustees undertook to seek new sources of funding.

In 1955 Dr. Duncan Ballantine, President of Reed College, was appointed by a joint presidential search committee composed of RC and ACG trustees. His mandate was to revitalize the academic programs at the college. After a year-long study sweeping changes were made. The orta, which trained eleven to fourteen-year-old youngsters, was phased out. The four-year lise was made comparable to the three-year Turkish lise and designated Robert Academy. The collegiate division was granted permission by the Turkish Government to award Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees as well as Masters degrees in both fields. The college program was reorganized into three departments, the Engineering School, the School of Business Administration, and the School of Science and Foreign Languages. All three departments were to be coeducational.


1863 - Robert College founded by Hamlin and Robert.

1871 - American College for Girls (originally known as The Home School) founded in Gedikpaşa.

1874 - American College for Girls moved to Üsküdar.

1912 - Engineering school opened at Robert College (with first civil engineering program in Turkey).

1914 - American College for Girls moved to Arnavutköy campus.

1932 - Administration of RC and ACG united under leadership of a single president.

1958 - Three new schools added to the degree-granting Yüksek (Higher Education) Division of Robert College. Boards of Trustees and endowment funds of both Colleges merged under the name of the Trustees of Robert College of Istanbul.

1971 - Robert College Yüksek transferred to the Turkish Government and now carries on the Robert academic tradition as Boğaziçi University. Robert Academy and ACG combined physically on the Arnavutköy campus as a co- educational six-year preparatory school.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches for other collections at Columbia University, through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, and through ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

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American College for Girls (Istanbul, Turkey) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Patrick, Mary Mills, 1850-1940 CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Robert College (Istanbul, Turkey) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Istanbul (Turkey) CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Turkey -- Description and travel CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Turkey -- History -- 1878-1909 CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Education -- Turkey CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Universities and colleges -- Turkey -- Istanbul -- History -- 19th century CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Universities and colleges -- Turkey -- Istanbul -- History -- 20th century CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Women -- Education -- Turkey CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Women -- Turkey CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID
Women missionaries -- Turkey CLIO Catalog ArchiveGRID