Author: Frances Densmore

Recipient: not specified

Date: undated

Location: Frances Theresa Densmore Letters 1884-86, Letter No. 4, Record Group 30/156, Oberlin College Archives

Document Type: Typed Letter Copy



2 sketch
Fig 9: An example of Densmore’s pencil sketches, titled in 1953, “Warner hall, chapel organ, and piano.” It was originally made in 1886.

This letter is undated, but was likely written in 1885. It reveals Densmore’s disdain for restrictions placed on women at Oberlin. As seen in Singular Charm and Superb Character”- The Life of Adelia Antoinette Field Johnston and Reference Document 1, rules and moral standards were strictly upheld because co-education was under harsh scrutiny from its critics. “Ladies of the institution” seems to have been written mockingly, as it is clear that Densmore wanted to walk during a beautiful time of day, perfect for sketching. This was also unfortunate since Delphine Hanna, the Physical Director for women, recommended exercise, daily walks, and calisthenics. She was dedicated to women at Oberlin, as she took the position without pay initially.1 Densmore described her in Letter 55A, “so quietly dignified and seems to have so much character… I have taken a wonderful liking to her.” Hanna is mentioned in multiple letters of Densmore’s. At Oberlin Densmore met successful professional women like Hannah who inspired her to pursue her own career goals.



2-1No. 4

The weather has been perfectly charming for a day or two, sunny and so warm that my outside wraps were uncomfortable. It seems a pity that the “ladies of the institution” are not allowed to walk for recreation on Sundays as I should be very xd glad to improve the one of these golden hours by a long stroll. Yesterday afternoon I started off along with my sketch-book under my arm for an airing and, if possible, a picture also. Had not gone far into the suburbs when before I found an orchard near a lonely villa, the fence was exactly the right height for a book rest and the shadows under a long row of grand appl old apple trees were lovely, so I began a very pretty sketch which I hope to finish the first of next week.
Transcribed by Natalia Shevin


1 Harriet Louise Keeler. The Life of Adelia A. Field Johnston Who Served Oberlin College for Thirty-Seven Years … (Cleveland: Britton Printing Company, 1912), 136.