Under the 1834 charter (an Act to Incorporate the Oberlin Collegiate
Institute),12 persons were authorized to serve on the board
of trustees. The president of the College was made an ex-officio
member in 1834. In 1850 the charter was amended so that the name
of the institution could be changed to Oberlin College. The number
of trustees was increased in 1874 to l8 and in 1878 to 24, divided
into six classes of four, elected to serve for six years. Four of
the additional members were elected in 1878, the others in 1880.
In 1878 the trustees authorized participation by the alumni in
the selection of one trustee each year. Until 1892, candidates were
selected by the alumni, but election was by vote of the trustees.
Since then alumni have elected their representatives directly. The
membership of the board was expanded to 28 in 1970.
Mrs. Adelia A. Field Johnston, professor of medieval history at
Oberlin College, became the first woman to be named to the board
in 1901-02. Between 1900 and 1960 only six other women were elected.
They were Harriet Louis Keeler, who served from 1915 to 1924; Katharine
Wright Haskell (1924-1929); A. Beatrice Doerschuk (1926-1955); Cliffe
Johnson Merriam (1930-1936); Adena Miller Rich (1934-1960); and
Kathryn Louise Hopwood (1956-1968). During the next 30 years the
number of women on the board tripled.
Scope and Content
The records of the board of trustees consist mainly of the following
records series: charter and bylaws (printed), 1903-1966; minutes
of meetings, 1834-1965 (1834-1964 on microfilm); minutes of the
executive committee, 1924-1967; document files supporting the minutes
of meetings of the board, 1833-1968; and committees. Committee records
include those of the Presidential Committee, 1878-1961; Investment
Committee, 1892-1894,1903-1973; Budget Committee, 1892-1959; Presidential
Search Committees, 1945-46, 1959, 1970, and 1975. Indexes exist
for the meetings of the board of trustees and the Prudential Committee,
but they only cover the years of 1834 to 1904.
Records making up the early years of the document files give the
appearance Shaving been informally kept or of having been recreated
after they had been dispersed. Some of the pre-Civil War documents
(e.g., student labor accounts of the 1830s) may have been selected
for this file by Robert S. Fletcher during his research into the
history of Oberlin College. Material of the 1830s, inch including
that at on the subject of coeducation, is random in nature. Some
documents for the years 1853-1863 and 1864-1869 are in the records
of the Office of the Treasurer. There are no items for the years
1875-1878, one item for 1879, and none for 1880, 1882-83 and 1887-1891.
It is likely that a fire in 1903 destroyed many of the records,
because several items of the 1870s are charred and stuck together
as if they had been drenched by water.
Around 1893 the documents are more formal in nature and complete
in scope. On June 25, 1900, the file numbers begin with DF197, and
from that point on they continue in chronological and numerical
order. (Prior to 1899 the College treasurer also served as its secretary.
The first secretaryGeorge M. Jonesbegan his duties in
September, and he may have begun the document numbering system.)
Documents dated after June 7, 1968, are in the Office of the Secretary
of the College.
Subjects relating to womens history may be identified by
researchers through the available indexes (name and subject). A
firm grasp of the institutions history is necessary if one
is to interconnect the records of the board of trustees with the
womens history subjects.
By way of illustration, index entries exist for Womens Board
of Managers (Ladies Board); Women; Womens Department;
Mrs. Pelton (endowment for the female department); literary societies;
missionaries; Mrs. Mary L. P. Kinney; and Mrs. Adelia A. Field Johnston.
Theboard acted on such issues as the status of women, womens
athletic association, Womens Club, womens gym, womens
day of prayer, and womens studies.