This collection consists of documents related to the early efforts to establish Bennington College and to articulate the college’s educational vision and financial plan. This collection also contains documents of the founders and early supporters of the college. The collection includes material created by/for members of the Board of Trustees, the Office of the President, and by individual founders and supporters of the college.
The history of Bennington College began when Vincent Ravi Booth, pastor of the Congregational Church in Old Bennington, proposed the founding of a college for women in Old Bennington at an informal meeting in 1923. In 1924, meetings in North Bennington and New York City drew enthusiastic responses and a vision of Bennington College began to form. The Bennington College Corporation and a Board of Trustees were formed to organize efforts for the college. The Board of Trustees appointed the first president of the college, Robert D. Leigh, in 1928. After the fund-raising goal was reached in 1931, the construction of college buildings began. The first class of students entered Bennington College in fall 1932. The early planning documents of the college and conference documents illustrate a desire to distance Bennington’s admissions requirements and educational plan from “traditional” examinations and curricula, and instead to pursue a “continuous and intelligent application of progressive educational thought to college practice.” Faculty-student cooperation, opportunity for specialization, individual attention and individualized plans of study, small-group teaching, and the inclusion of non-resident work are among the distinctive features of Bennington College highlighted in early correspondence and publications.