Woman of the Century/Mary Fletcher Wells
WELLS, Miss Mary Fletcher, philanthropist and educator, was born in Villenova, Chautauqua county, N. Y. Her father, Roderic Mcintosh Wells, was of Scotch origin. Her mother, whose maiden name was Mary Greenleaf. was of French extraction. Mary was the sixth of ten children. When three years old, she began to attend school. In her childhood her father moved his family to Michigan. Her parents were devout Methodists, and their house was a house of prayer and a home for the itinerant minister. Mary's thirst for knowledge was not in the least abated by the hardships and privations of pioneer life. She worked, read and studied incessantly. She began to teach at fourteen years of age, still pursuing her studies. She prepared to enter Michigan University, but in those days women were not admitted, and her only resource was to take the course under private teachers. Before she was twenty, her health failed. Physicians pronounced her disease consumption and said she would never rally; but there was work for her to do, and she recovered a good degree of health. She taught successfully in high schools and seminaries in Indiana, and for several years was the associate editor of the "Indiana School Journal." Failing health obliged her to rest. When the Civil War broke out, she received the news with much seriousness. She saw, as by inspiration, that the war was to emancipate the slave, that the liberated slave must have teachers, and she must be one of those teachers. During the war she received a letter from President Lincoln, asking her to take charge of a contraband school near Washington. Her health was then insufficient, and she was obliged to decline. A few months later, there came another call, to which she responded, and for nearly two years, in the hospital in Louisville, Ky., she watched beside the sick and dying soldiers. With the close of the war came a renewal of the call to teach the freedmen, and she went to Athens, Ala. She was cordially welcomed by Chaplain and Mrs. Anderson, and she had for her assistants Mrs. Anderson and Mr. Starkweather, a Wisconsin soldier. At the hour appointed for opening, there came in a multitude, three-hundred strong. MARY FLETCHER WELLS. Miss Wells remained at the head of Trinity School twenty-seven years. From the crude beginning in 1865 has been developed a flourishing institution, with boarding, industrial and normal departments, sending out every year many teachers, who do efficient work among their people. From that school, under the American Missionary Society, have grown a church and many auxiliary societies. Failing health has made rest and change imperative, and she is now living in her summer home in Chautauqua, where, in 1878. she was among the first to join the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. She was graduated in the class of 1882. She traveled with the Fisk Jubilee Singers the first four months of their introduction to the public.