Woman of the Century/Mary Emilie Cobb
COBB, Mrs. Mary Emilie, educator and philanthropist, born in Elmira, N. Y., 31st October, 1838. Her father, Dr. George Wells, a descendant of Thomas Wells, one of the earliest settlers of Hartford, Conn., and the first colonial governor, was early in life a physician and afterwards a preacher of the Disciples' Church. Leaving Connecticut when he was nineteen years old, his life was spent in central New York and northern Pennsylvania. Airs. Cobb's maternal grandfather was Dr. Ebenezer Pratt, also of an old New England family. A graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont, after a few years spent in the practice of medicine, he became a teacher, in which profession he was for many years prominent in Chautauqua county and in Ovid, N. Y., and in Troy, Pa. Thus the passion for study and literature and the love for teaching, early shown by Mary E. Wells, were an inherited tendency fostered by early influence. At eight years of age she began to write verses, and about the same time to collect, wash, dress and teach the stray and forlorn children of the neighborhood. During her school years she was a contributor to Elmira and Troy papers and to the "Ladies' Christian Annual" and "Arthur's Home Magazine," of Philadelphia. At fifteen she began to teach as an assistant to Dr. Pratt, her grandfather, and under his influence became ambitious to excel in that profession, writing often on topics connected with it. besides her stories and poems for children. She became the wife in 1856 of S. N. Rockwell, of Troy, Pa., and resided in Iowa for several years, continuing to teach and write. Previous to 1870 she had published two juvenile books, "Tom Miller" (Philadelphia, 1872). and "Rose Thorpe's Ambition" (Philadelphia, 1875), and had written much for religious and educational publications. "Facts and Thoughts About Reform Schools," in the "Educational Monthly," of New York, and many articles in the "Children's Hour," of Philadelphia, were illustrated by her brother, C. H. Wells, an artist, of Philadelphia. She has contributed some articles to "Scribner's Magazine," and one of her MARY EMILIE COBB. poems, "Acquainted with Grief," was widely copied. Mrs. Rockwell had become deeply interested in reformatory institutions for boys and girls, and she gave herself with enthusiasm to a work which seemed to open just the field for which her preferences and pursuits had prepared her. After some years spent as a teacher in schools of that kind in Philadelphia, New York and Providence, her work as assistant superintendent of the Connecticut Industrial School for Girls, in Middletown, attracted the attention of leading philanthropists and reformers, as seeming to give a practical solution of many questions in relation to reformatory and industrial training, which were then widely discussed. In 1876 the National Prison Congress met in New York. Mrs. Rockwell went upon a public platform for the first time and read a paper upon the topic assigned, "The Training and Disposal of Delinquent Children." Early in 1879, having been left alone with a little daughter of eight years, she accepted the position of superintendent of the Wisconsin Industrial School, in Milwaukee. There she remained seven years, during which time the school grew from thirty-eight pupils and three teachers, in one building, to two-hundred-twenty-five pupils and twenty assistants, and occupying three large and well appointed buildings, designed, erected and fitted up under her direction. In 1882 Mrs. Rockwell became the wife of Dewey A. Cobb, assistant superintendent of that school, and for four years they remained at its head, removing in 1886 to Philadelphia, where Mr. Cobb entered into business, desiring that Mrs. Cobb should retire from school work, to which she had given twenty-five years of continuous service. In Philadelphia she is an active member of the board of managers of the Woman's Christian Association, having been an editor of its organ, "Faith and Works," for three years, and she is one of the editors of the "National Baptist," Philadelphia. As secretary of Foulke and Long Institute and Industrial Training School, she is actively supervising the erection of its new building in Philadelphia. Mrs. Cobb has long been a member of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections and of the Association for the Advancement of Women, and she has several times read papers before those bodies. She is an advocate of institutional training, rather than of the "placing-out" system, for neglected and destitute children. She is earnest and practical in the promotion of manual training and technical education, and to her patient study and efforts much of the success of that movement in several States may be traced. Her more important recent papers have been "The Duty of the State to its Dependent Children," and "Training and Employments in Reformatories."