In the middle of the nineteenth century, Frances Wood Shimer and Cinderella Gregory journeyed west from New York State with plans to educate the frontier. They landed in northwestern Illinois in 1853 and founded Mt. Carroll Seminary, one of the nation's first preparatory academies for women. Early course catalogs list home economics and etiquette classes alongside “intellectual mathematics” and the study of electricity. In 1896, now 70 years old and seeking to ensure her school's survival, Frances Shimer allied it to the University of Chicago. The renamed Frances Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago began to provide college-level courses in 1909. The schools' association burgeoned in the mid-twentieth century when Shimer adopted a curriculum based on then Chicago president Robert Hutchins's belief that undergraduate education should have “no vocational aim” but should instead furnish “a common stock of fundamental ideas.”
Shimer became an autonomous four-year college and began accepting men in 1951. The school thrived academically for the next two decades but ran into financial trouble in the early 1970s, filing for bankruptcy in the spring of 1977. A mayoral invitation to relocate from the isolated campus in Mt. Carroll to Waukegan saved Shimer. The 60 students and 13 faculty members who remained packed up and moved the school themselves and voted to adopt a uniform salary structure, which at the end of the century was still paying its employees based on seniority instead of job title.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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