The Moral and Religious Ideals of Students at Vassar College and Wellesley College, 1865-1900


  • Ángel de Jesús Cortés Holy Cross College


Students, Idealists, Vassar, Wellesley, Humanities, Ethics, Morals, Religion, Intellectual, Art, Literature, Philosophy


This article examines the moral and religious ideals of students at Vassar College and Wellesley College during the period 1865 to 1900. Students of this persuasion recorded their musings on ideals such as beauty, purity, and sincerity in literary publications, class notes, student papers, and reminiscences. Although Idealists’ lofty preoccupations do not deny the larger social forces transforming collegiate culture, it does suggest the presence of an intellectually serious undergraduate whose interests were decidedly normative.

Author Biography

Ángel de Jesús Cortés, Holy Cross College

Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Ángel de Jesús Cortés has earned degrees from Biola University (B.A. in psychology), the University of Denver (M.A. in religious studies), the University of Colorado (M.A. in history), and the University of Notre Dame (M.A. and PhD in history). His dissertation, “Student Idealists and the Specter of Natural Science, 1870-1910,” broke new ground by examining at length the intellectual life of undergraduate men and women. He is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Holy Cross College. He lives in South Bend, Indiana, with his wife and three children.