Ellen M. Haskell Named Principal

Named the eighth principal of Wheaton in 1876, Miss Haskell brought a different approach and demeanor to the school. Students remembered her as a “Christian Gentlewoman,” carrying herself with elegance and charm. Her most notable change was abolishing or modifying many of Mrs. Metcalf’s strict rules and establishing a more democratic atmosphere.

Despite her positive impact on student life at Wheaton, the trustees believed that the deeply religious Miss Haskell was not sufficiently committed to urging the students to publicly declare their Christian conversion. Miss Haskell’s tenure was also marked by falling enrollment, probably caused by renovations and additions made to Seminary Hall in 1878, which would have interfered significantly with teaching and made living in the nearby Boarding House noisy, dirty, and uncomfortable.

The board of trustees, despite the displeasure their decision caused Mrs. Wheaton, accepted Haskell’s resignation in 1879. Miss Haskell also may have felt her leadership threatened by the assistant principal, Mary Briggs, a popular, jovial teacher, who had probably expected to replace Mrs. Metcalf. She was again passed over in 1879.