From the Basement

A blog about St. Joseph's Academy, researched in Seton Hill's Archives

Archives Internship – Week 1 (Overview)

Last week was my first week interning in Seton Hill University’s Archives.  I didn’t do much since it was my first week, so I just focused on acclimating myself with the way everything here is organized. I read a final paper from a previous student who interned here to get a grasp of exactly what I’ll be doing during the semester, and then I proceeded to go through the file boxes and folders within them just to familiarize myself with the setup.

For the rest of my internship, I will be researching St. Joseph’s Academy of Seton Hill, the elementary and high school established in 1883 with the opening of its administration building in 1889, roughly twenty-nine years prior to the university’s establishment. Mr. Bill Black sent me the Register of the Saint Joseph Academy Records, a Word document approximately thirty pages long detailing the location of all the various files, which was my primary tool in understanding the organization of the filing system here.  I read through the entire document because it’s like reading a very detailed glossary or index, and reading it made me aware of what I’ll be looking for in the future so certain words will pop out to me during my research.

An overview of the Academy’s history is provided by Sister Mary Electa Boyle in her book, Mother Seton’s Sisters of Charity in Western Pennsylvania, as described in the Register.  In her book, Sister Mary Electa explains how the Academy was first located in what was previously known as the Stokes Mansion with Sister Adelaide Dunn as its first “directress.”  The school was an all-girls institution relying heavily on “finishing school” methods of education, meaning the girls were taught much about literature, history, languages, music, needle-work, art, speech, and social propriety.  Arithmetic was covered slightly, and science was taught with even less importance than arithmetic.

The school initially taught three years of high school, but with the induction of Sister Rose Marie Maher as directress, the length of school was expanded to four years.  Eventually the Sisters began to implement more college preparatory strategies into the school’s standards, requiring a college entrance examination in order to graduate high school.  When Seton Hill College was opened in 1918, the Academy had to make some adjustments so a college and an elementary/high school could coexist.  The schools had to be separate, which meant the more experienced teachers that previously taught at the high school level were moved to the college.  The college required more materials and resources than the high school had, and with the expansion of the college to provide those materials to the students, St. Joseph’s Academy was closed in 1947 to allow Seton Hill College to continue in its expansion.

Through my research, I will be expanding on this brief summary to provide a presentation of the inner workings of Academy during its existence by examining financial materials, student records, personal student accounts, directress files and reports, and other materials related to everyday happenings at the Academy.

On a more personal note, I hope to find a connection to feminism through my research, just because of my own interest in feminist history. I think it will be interesting to analyze student accounts and miscellaneous materials about everyday student activities, and since it was an all-girls school, I’m hoping to find something related to first-wave feminist movements.

posted by karyssablair in Progress Report,Summary of Information and have No Comments