1840 - 1903

Martha E. W. Vose

Martha Eliza Waldo Vose, a sixth generation descendant of pilgrim, John Alden, was born in Lancaster, MA, in 1816. When Eliza Knight became the principal in 1838, she brought with her as a teacher her prize pupil from Ipswich Seminary, Martha Vose. Vose’s connections to Wheaton included her aunt, Catherine Vose, who attended the Seminary during its first year. It made sense that Martha Vose would succeed Knight when the opportunity presented itself.

Vose maintained or exceeded normal enrollment rates during her term, according to the board. She also stressed that her teachers advise their students to realize “one thing well learned, is better than a dozen, half committed and not half comprehended.” With this as her motto, it is no surprise that her pupils were required to write reviews of all four subjects every third or fourth lesson.

Vose resigned from Wheaton’s principalship in 1842 and, on 18 October 1847, she married the Reverend Alfred Emerson in Andover, MA. Her friendship with Mrs. Wheaton gave her continued influence at the Seminary, and she had a say in the hiring of Elizabeth Cate as principal in 1847 and A. Ellen Stanton as principal in 1880.

Alfred Emerson became one of the most influential of Wheaton Seminary’s trustees, and the couple were frequent visitors to the Wheaton homestead. Their two daughters, Annie Austin Emerson 1871 and Frances Vose Emerson 1872, graduated from and taught at Wheaton.

Martha Vose Emerson died in Brookline, MA, in 1903. Emerson Dining Hall, built in 1908, is named for the family.

A later alumna commented on the “queenly” Martha Vose’s “flashing eyes and nimble wit.” At her funeral service, Martha Vose Emerson was described as a “woman of unusual strength and sweetness” and a “power for good in all the relations of life.”