Please enjoy this article presented by Library Director and School Archivist Jerrica Blackey P’19. This first article focuses on Martha Hazeltine – a woman who not only graduated from New Hampton but went on to become the first female principal and who was instrumental in the growth of the school at the time.
Our First Female Principal
Martha Hazeltine graduated in 1827 from the New Hampton Academical and Theological Institution – an institute which later became New Hampton School. That year she began her career as the school’s first lady Principal of the Female Department. Together with Rebecca Hadley, they welcomed seventeen pupils for the summer term.
For the first few years, the ladies held classes in the summer and fall terms. When Miss Hazeltine was not teaching, she continued her education learning Greek, Hebrew, Italian, political economy, moral science, rhetoric, biblical, and classical literature. She joined language classes in Boston when she was not teaching, often consulting the Academy teachers on science and biblical studies. In her spare time, Hazeline studied history and poetry. She avoided fiction altogether, citing it a waste of time, and learned primarily to pass all her knowledge onto her students. In Miss Hazeltine’s memoir written by her friend and co-worker at the Academy (later Principal), Sarah Sleeper elegantly wrote,
“Her instruction electrified her pupils with a desire to drink deep at the fountain of knowledge. All thirsted for information. And probably the fact, that many of the truths communicated to pupils, were new to the teacher, perhaps acquired by the midnight lamp the night previous, imparted a life to the instruction, which tended to render it much more interesting and effective. She learned with her pupils; but she was their pioneer” (Sleeper 59).
Soon after, the school became increasingly popular as word spread of her teachings. The school hired more teachers as the classes grew, and she turned her attention to the biblical literature – a passion of hers as she was a celebrant of the bible. She never wavered from anything of which she thought her students would greatly benefit.
In 1832 Miss Hazeltine contemplated joining a missionary with Joseph Smith who later became her husband. Instead, in 1833 she formed the “Literary and Missionary Association” at New Hampton for young ladies to promote foreign missions. Dues were .50¢ annually, and membership extended to others outside the Academy. She would appeal to those among the Association to help supply the school with what was necessary, including the library books she desperately needed now that her school enrolled over 100 pupils.
She became one of the first philanthropists for the Female Seminary. The value of a girl’s education continued to be a priority of Miss Hazeltine. When through the Association she would receive appeals from women who did not have the finances to do missionary work or schooling at the Academy, she made a point to have the Association pay their way. After a few years of its formation, they amended their doctrine in 1838 to include,
“The Female Education be henceforth considered as a distinct object of our Association; and that, as this object is not specifically recognised in our present name, we be henceforth known in our associated capacity as The Young Ladies’ Literary and Missionary Association and Education Society of the New Hampton Female Seminary” (Sleeper 111).
Miss Hazeltine did not stop at philanthropy. She continued growing the school by appealing again to every lady, wife, minister, deacon and any other influential individual to look around them for women who would benefit from an education. She often wrote these folks asking, “Does not conscience often whisper in your ear, that you are losing time, that you are wasting talent, by withholding your exertions in her behalf?” (Sleeper 113).
Miss Hazeltine would “give up her school” and retire to domestic life, finally marrying the Rev. Joseph Smith on August 14, 1840. This decision came after she felt that she had provided the Academy with a firm basis to support its permanency. She was the principal for twelve years (1827-1839).
Sleeper, Sarah. Memoir of the Late Martha Hazeltine Smith. Joseph Smith, 1843.