The First 300

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.