Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles

eunice_cowles*Excerpt From the Cowles Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.which contain correspondence, writings, biographical information, Caldwell and Cowles family papers and a photograph. Chiefly focusing on Eunice Stanwood Caldwell Cowles amd her connections to Mary Lyon and Zilpah P. Grant Banister through both Mount Holyoke and Ipswich Female Seminaries.

“Eunice Caldwell was born on February 4, 1811, in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Captain John Caldwell and Eunice Stanwood Caldwell. Her father, a sailor, drowned in the Kennebec River in 1835.

She attended Ipswich Female Seminary from 1828 to 1829, where she met and began a lasting friendship with Mary Lyon, a teacher and an assistant to Zilpah P. Grant, the school’s principal, from 1828 to 1839. She graduated from Ipswich in 1829 and was a teacher there from 1830-1835.

She served as the first principal of Wheaton Female Seminary (later Wheaton College) in Norton, Massachusetts in 1836. She left her position at Wheaton for Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, where she was Associate Principal from 1837-1838. She married the Reverend John Phelps Cowles in 1838 and followed him to Oberlin College, where he was professor of Hebrew.

In 1844 they returned to reopen Ipswich Female Seminary which they ran until it closed in 1876. The Cowles’s had three daughters. Cowles died at the age of ninety-two on September 10, 1903 in Ipswich, Massachusetts.”


The Ipswich Female Seminary was established in April 1828 by Zilpah Grant and 24-year-old Mary Lyon for the secondary and college-level education of young women. Girls were prepared for careers as teachers and provided with rigorous studies in academic subjects and “standards of personal conduct and discipline.” It was the first endowed Seminary for women and the first to give diplomas to its graduates.


Ipswich Female Seminary

The Ipswich Female Seminary was on the left at the location of the Christian Science Church.

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6 replies »

  1. For additional information on the Stanwood family and the House on “Green Street or Green Lane” go to Internet archive: Source: A History of the Stanwood Family in America -by Ethel Stanwood Bolton. Published 1899 Rockwell & Churchill Press, Boston MA page 124. Available at: An older picture of the house is on page 124.


  2. Was the house they lived on at 18 Green Street?
    Were the Cowles family on Spring Street the ancestors of John Cowles?


    • Yes, old maps show that their house was at 16 Green St. where the former Caldwell Nursing Home on Green Street is. The house at the front appears to be their home, great altered, but I’m not sure about that. The property was deeded to Stone Bridge Condos by Frederick Cowles, surely the same family, but I do not know if he is related to the Cowles on Highwood off of Spring St. The house at 18 Green St. was built by Isaac Stanwood in 1812.


  3. I would just like to add a possible correction to your story. “In 1844 they returned to reopen Ipswich Female Seminary which they ran until it closed in 1876. The Cowles’s had three daughters.” According to my research the Cowels had three daughters and two sons. Mary b. 1839 in Elyria, Ohio d. 1925, Roxana b. Elyria Ohio, John P Cowels Jr. b. 1844 Oberlin Ohio d. 1893 lost in Nicaragua, Henry A. Cowels b. 1845 Ipswich MA, d. 1864 Ipswich MA, and Susan Abby Cowels b. 1848 dd. 1923. Susan Abby Cowels was the second wife of Daniel Fuller Appleton who co founded the Waltham Watch Company of Waltham, MA.


  4. Having spent years with the “players” of the Ipswich Female Seminary when I did my doctoral dissertation on Zilpah Grant Banister, I, too, was happy to see Eunice Caldwell Cowles featured today. I always called her the “Greek chorus” in the Zilpah-Mary story. She possessed the best qualities of both her mentors, but she was her own woman and never held back with her own, reasoned observations.


  5. I’m glad you did this profile of Eunice Caldwell Cowles, because IMO she does not get enough credit for the success of the Ipswich Female Seminary. Yes, Zilpah Grant and Mary Lyon played a big role in getting it started, but it was Cowles and her husband who led the school for more than 30 years and educated generations of young women. She was apparently a force to be reckoned with, and a brilliant mathematician, and her husband (who was Zilpah Grant’s cousin) was a genius, teaching languages and literature for many years even after he became blind. The school would likely have been a mere blip on the educational radar screen if not for Rev. and Mrs. Cowles.


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