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August 24, 2009
Julia Russell Eells, Head of School

A New Lesson in History

I am pretty sure I was not alone as a seventh grader wondering why I had to learn about history.  Dates and facts about events and people in the past seemed irrelevant to me --  I was always more interested in the here-and-now and the what’s-to-come.

More than two years ago the Lincoln community began talking about ways that we might celebrate and commemorate Lincoln’s 125th Anniversary and I have to admit, a little bit of that seventh grader in me surfaced.  I was less interested in acknowledging birthdays and more interested in planning for our future. As meetings with alumnae, students, trustees, parents and faculty and staff progressed, my perspective broadened as I began to appreciate the teaching and learning moments better, as well as the points of pride for institutions that can come from these reflections back on our history.

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a young mother was committed to open a school in Providence that would provide her daughter and other girls access and tools to take their rightful places in the world.  Until that moment in 1884, there were few or no educational opportunities for girls in this city, let alone New England.  Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA had opened a few years earlier and Winsor and Wheeler Schools were not yet imagined.

This is where the dates and facts about events and people in the past get interesting for me.

This determined mother founded Lincoln in 1884 and then, decades later, those who led Lincoln in the 1970s held fiercely onto our commitment to keep girls at the center of our classrooms.  Imagine the strength, patience and courage it has taken to support and fulfill our important mission during these challenging times. The appreciation of the history of something that is so relevant to us – our school – reminds us how critical our understanding of history is in understanding individual courage, in finding inspiration to carry forward, and in fighting indifference in our communities and in our world.

One and one-quarter centuries after the founding of this culture-shifting school, our graduates are members of the most informed and best connected population that has walked this earth. With this important perspective and all the tools needed to “take our rightful place in the world,” we possess a certain responsibility to act as courageously as did those who imagined the beginnings and secured the future of Lincoln School.  That’s a good enough reason to learn history for me.



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