Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Open Access


Degree Name

MA in Women's History


Matilda Hamilton Fee was one of the founders and administrators at Berea College in Kentucky. Berea College opened in 1866 as one of the first interracial and coeducational colleges in the South. In the field of history, women are overlooked and treated as insignificant contributors to institutions of higher education. This research fills the gaps by exploring how Matilda and her husband, Rev. John G. Fee, built Berea College as an institution that valued educating all people regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Matilda’s role varied from wife and mother, to community organizer, to school administrator. As such, she was the first to navigate the complicated relationships between race and gender, southern politics and culture, and the role of religion in education. In this thesis, I discuss how Matilda Hamilton Fee’s involvement in the founding and early years of Berea College are both historically significant and grossly understudied. Additionally, this research shows how Matilda created and implemented school policies as the first president of the Ladies Board of Care. This research highlights women’s early roles in higher education administration and shows how critical women, and Matilda, were to the early survival of coeducational and interracial higher education.

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