Baldwin School, Shipley School and Waldron Mercy Academy

The Baldwin School

The Baldwin School, an independent school for girls in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade, was founded in 1888 by Florence Baldwin as a preparatory school for young women planning to enter nearby Bryn Mawr College. Assisted by her sisters, Anna and Helen, Florence conducted classes in their mother’s house on the corner of Morris and Montgomery Avenues. In 1896, the school leased the Bryn Mawr Hotel, located across from the Baldwin home, for the winter months. In 1922, the school purchased the hotel and its grounds and within three years added the Schoolhouse which now houses the Middle and Upper Schools. The last boarders graduated in 1974, and the Residence, or main building of the former hotel, was converted into offices and faculty apartments as well as art and music studios.

In 1975, the Lower School was added to the Baldwin campus, and in 1998 a new Early Childhood Education Center was opened especially for Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten girls.

Today, there are more than 4,000 Baldwin alumni, and they live in nearly every state of the United States and in many foreign countries. Many of them return every spring for reunions.

In 1998-99, 604 girls entered the familiar wrought iron gates to study at Baldwin. Of those, 22 percent receive financial aid, including full scholarships. As a college preparatory school, Baldwin sends all of its graduates on to higher education. Seniors choose such colleges and universities as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Stanford, Williams, Wellesley, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1998-99, 38 percent of the senior class achieved recognition as both National Merit Scholars and Commended Students.

Baldwin still honors the aims set by Miss Baldwin, adapting them to the needs of today. The school’s commitment to remaining a single sex institution assures young women the opportunity to develop competence, confidence, and responsibility in a diverse and caring community.

Formerly the Bryn Mawr Hotel, The Residence of The Baldwin School was designed by the distinguished architect Frank Furness and constructed in 1892. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Florence Baldwin was born in 1858 in Wisconsin. After graduating from the Howland School in upstate New York, she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Illinois Wesleyan College and studied at Cornell University. She founded Baldwin as a prep school upon the request of Dr. James E. Rhoades, president of Bryn Mawr College. After its first year, Miss Baldwin’s School sent four of its five graduates to Bryn Mawr.

By 1896, the school had grown to over 100 day and boarding students. Florence left the school in 1906 and married James Nugent. She died in 1926.

Young Baldwin students.
Sports at Baldwin School.
Lab class.
The Residence may be Baldwin’s most famous building, but it is not the only one on the 25-acre campus. A three story science building was opened in 1961 and enlarged in 1995 to accommodate the growing number of girls interested in studying the sciences.
The four story Schoolhouse was completely modernized to provide for technological capabilities in 1998, but the elegance and warmth of its architecture were maintained. Today’s campus also includes a gymnasium, indoor pool and outdoor pools, tennis courts and several playing fields.

The Shipley School

Shipley Sisters (c.1894). Founded the Shipley School in 1894 to prepare young women for Bryn Mawr College.

The Shipley School, now a coeducational day school in Bryn Mawr, was founded in 1894 by the three Shipley sisters, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Katharine, to prepare young women for Bryn Mawr College. The children of a Quaker father who encouraged his daughters in intellectual pursuits, the sisters themselves were well educated and well traveled. All had studied abroad and Katharine graduated in the first class at Bryn Mawr. Theirs was not to be a mere finishing school. The Shipleys’ aim was: “to fit [the student] to enter college with a mind trained to habits of scientific study.” They also emphasized “character building.”

By 1913, the School had 75 boarding students and 39 teachers. The early brochures describe Shipley as a “home school,” not a “school away from home.” Students lived in three residences and studied in the “schoolhouse”, purchased in 1895, faced in brick in 1906, and still standing as the main School building. Students were expected to participate in the life of the community in addition to pursuing their academic studies.
And while they look quite demure in their Commencement dresses and went regularly to concerts and the theater, they played basketball and baseball and rode bicycles and horses.
They also earned scholarships to Bryn Mawr. “Fortiter in re, leniter in modo” (“Courage for the deed, grace for the doing”) was and is the School motto. From the beginnings there was an emphasis on each individual developing her own abilities and talents. There never was a “Shipley mold.”
In 1998, with 795 students in Pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, Shipley on the surface is a very different place from what it was in 1894. It no longer has boarders; it has been coeducational for 25 years. Boys and girls go on to a wide variety of colleges. The genius of the Shipley sisters was to establish a mission which allowed for flexibility in changing times.
Students c. 2000.
Their emphasis on academic excellence and on concern for the body and spirit as well as the mind of each individual child is still the basis of Shipley’s mission and philosophy.


Waldron Mercy Academy

A 1932 aerial survey of the Sisters of Mercy Convent and Schools. Waldron Academy for Boys is shown in the right forefront.

The vision of two Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley and Mother Mary Patricia Waldron, enabled the establishment of Waldron Mercy Academy and its sister high school, Merion Mercy Academy. Mother Catherine McAuley, an Irish heiress who dedicated her entire fortune to helping the poor in Dublin, founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831. In 1861, under the leadership of 26-year-old Mother Mary Patricia Waldron, the first ten Sisters of Mercy arrived in Philadelphia from Manchester, New Hampshire, to serve the poor, the sick and the uneducated.

The Move to Merion. In 1884, Mother Mary Patricia Waldron purchased the eight acre Baner property in Merion as a country retreat for sisters who became ill while ministering in the city. In 1885, the Sisters of Mercy acquired the adjoining Morgan estate, a 13-room stone homestead that served as St. Anne’s Convent, and a farmhouse which accommodated the Village School for poor, local farm children.

Separate Schools Established. In 1885, in this same convent, the Sisters of Mercy started Mater Misericordiae, an academy for young ladies and little boys under 12 years of age. By 1892, the academy facility was inadequate and a new building named Mater Misericordiae Academy was begun. The building had classrooms, accommodations for female boarding students and living quarters for the sisters. The male boarding students remained at St. Anne’s until 1923 when Waldron Academy for Boys was built on its site.

Further Developments. To meet the ever-evolving needs of students, significant growth and changes have taken place within the historic walls of Waldron Mercy Academy throughout the years. In 1946, the practice of boarding students ended. During the 1950s, in addition to the sisters, others joined the Waldron faculty in increasing numbers. A pre-school and a Montessori program followed, enrolling both boys and girls.

In September 1987, Waldron Academy for Boys and Merion Mercy Academy for Girls (Lower School) officially merged and reopened as Waldron Mercy Academy in a newly renovated facility. Today students from pre-school to eighth grade attend Waldron Mercy Academy, an educational ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, where academic excellence is achieved in the spirit of openness, trust, hospitality and outreach.

Sister Mary Walburga, principal at Waldron Academy for Boys from 1929 to 1957, interacts with her “gentlemen in gray.”
A view of Waldron Mercy Academy as seen from along Montgomery Avenue.
The 1930 graduating class of Waldron Academy for Boys.
The Waldron Academy for Boys Band.
May Day activities at Mater Misericordiae Academy c. 1930s.
Academy students continue to serve the poor through the school’s community outreach program.