Women's Financial Support

It was often through the financial support of women that Union College was able to expand or even survive. An early president of the college, Eliphalet Nott, saw the institution through times of great financial distress. He had three wives. Nott married his second wife, Gertrude Tibbits, who had been widowed and left with substantial wealth. As Somers states in his Encyclopedia of Union College History, with this inherited wealth, the couple "...personally bought parcels of land on the hill; by 1812 they had assembled about three hundred acres at a cost of $13,692.96. The College built North and South Colleges on this property in 1814."Gertrude, however, died after an illness, and Eliphalet married his third wife, Urania, who went on to support the institution in other ways.

Gertrude Peebles Tibbets Nott signs this document which bequeths her finances over to her new husband, Eliphalet Nott. From the Nott Family Collection (SCA-0294). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Nott Memorial under construction, undated. Photograph held in the Picture File (SCA-1026). Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Nott Memorial interior, approximately 1903. Photograph from the Picture File (SCA-1026).  Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Schaffer Library. 

Building the College Inside and Out

Mrs. Alexander Brown, the sister-in-law of Howard Potter, who was the head of the Alumni Association in the 1870s, provided funds for the construction of the Nott Memorial.7

In 1877, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, a wealthy philanthropist with some connections to the college, donated $50,000 for a scholarship for Southern students,8 as well as an additional $3,000 to establish Union College's first collection for its art department.9

Butterfield Hall was built in 1918, possibly on the grounds of a former farmhouse.10 This was constructed for the Chemistry department with money bequethed in the will of Julia Lorillard Butterfield, who desired a memorial to her late husband, Daniel Butterfield, alum of the Class of 1849.11

This image is of a portrait painted of Catherine Lorillard Wolfe by Alexandre Cabanel in 1876. It is in the public domain courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Margaret Slocum Sage, 1910. Image in the public domain courtesy of the Library of Congress. 

Margaret Sage

Margaret Sage, the widow of Russell Sage, left the largest donation that the College had ever received up to this point of $646,000 from her estate when she died in 1918, which the College received in 1920. She herself had been educated at the Emma Willard School. These funds allowed faculty salaries to be raised by forty percent, which was certainly substantial, although salaries remained rather low.12 

6 Somers, 135.
7 Ibid., 520.
8 Ibid., 320.
9 Hough, Franklin B. Historical Sketch of Union College . Washington: Government Printing Office, 1876: 51. Information courtesy of the Permanent Collection at Union College.
10 Somers, 128.
11 Ibid., 129.
12 Ibid., 270.


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