Caroline Hazard, educator, philanthropist, and author, was born in the South Kingstown village of Peace Dale on June 10,1856. She was educated by private tutors in Providence, by attending some courses at Brown University, and by private study in Europe. She worked side-by-side with her father, industrialist and social reformer Rowland G. Hazard, in various business ventures. In addition, she maintained a social center in Peace Dale where she taught sewing and other domestic skills.
In 1899, Caroline was elected to the presidency of Wellesley College after serving on its board of visitors for several years. Feeling unqualified, she reluctantly accepted the post. Her deep commitment to learning, however, endeared her to the faculty. During her tenure, enrollment doubled as did the faculty. She oversaw the establishment of departments in astronomy, economics, English, hygiene and physical education. Music, one of the passions of her life, received its own endowed department and she launched the college’s choir. As president, she erased the institutional debt and began an endowment which totaled $1.3 million in 1910! She gave $95,000 to Wellesley and built, with her own funds, the home subsequently occupied by Wellesley College presidents.
Caroline Hazard was a new type of women’s college president--an upper class lady with a business background and a wealth of social and financial connections to build her institution’s base. She was also a prolific author with many books to her credit along with essays and verse in magazines and newspapers including a column entitled “The Distaff” for the Providence Evening Bulletin. Her special interest was her native South County, an area that became the subject of her poems and her personal recollections. Her major effort was the publication in four volumes of The Works of Rowland G. Hazard, her prominent father, whom she now joins in the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
Caroline was active in many philanthropic organizations, several of which exist today. While she never received a college degree she was the recipient of honorary degrees from at least six colleges, including Brown University.
The final decades of her long life were spent in writing, research, and social work. In the 1920s Caroline began spending her summers in Santa Barbara, California and continued to move between that town and Peace Dale until her death in Santa Barbara at the age of eighty-eight.
- Arlene Violet, Esq.
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