Banister, Zilpah P. Grant, 1794-1874. 

Papers, 1820-1874. 

[MS 0506]

Mount Holyoke College Collections Online

Terms of Use

Introduction and Notes

The entire collection of Zilpah P. Grant Banister's papers at Mount Holyoke College consists of 1.1 linear ft. of material and cover the dates 1803-1971.  See the College Archives manuscript register for information about the entire collection.  Series A and B are also available on microfilm (1988).  The digitized portions of the collection that are available online are highlighted below:
  • Series A. Correspondence, 1822-1874
  • Series B. Writings, 1820-1874
  • Series C. Biographical material
  • Series D. Maps and charts (under construction)
  • Series E. Photographs and portaits

Scope and Content Note

The major portion of the collection consists of letters written by or to Banister, dating from 1822-1874.  Banister's 60 letters to friends, family members, former students, and colleagues reflect her activities at Adams Female Academy and Ipswich Female Seminary and provide information about her views on education and religion, her travels, and her health and financial affairs.  Many of the 172 letters to Banister are from former Adams and Ipswich students who describe their work as teachers and often explain their inability to repay loans from the Society for the Education of Females.  Other correspondents include Mary Lyon, Catharine Beecher, Joseph Emerson, and Cynthia Farrar and Jane Van Allen, missionaries active in Ahmadnagar, India, and Gabon, Africa.

The collection also includes other writings by Banister, notably a notebook kept as a student at Byfield Female Seminary in 1820, several essays and notes on teaching methods, ca. 1828-1856.

Related Collection

Grant Family Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Smith College (Zilpah Grant Banister correspondence available in digital format)

Finding Aids Note

The following alphabetical indexes to Series A (Correspondence) are available: In addition, selective summaries of the contents of letters are available (with links to the letters they describe):

Biographical Note

Zilpah Polly Grant Banister was born on May 30, 1794 in Norfolk, Connecticut. In 1820 she enrolled in the Byfield Female Seminary in Masachusetts under Reverend Joseph Emerson. She then taught at various schools around Norfolk until she began organizing the Adams Female Academy in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which opened in 1824. Here she worked as principal with Mary Lyon as her assistant. In 1828 she received an invitation to organize a school in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She remained at Ipswich Female Seminary until her retirement in 1839. On September 7, 1841, Grant married William B. Banister and moved with him to Newburyport, Massachusetts. She continued to be active to promote women's education, and published a pamphlet entitled Hints on Education in 1856. Zilpah P. Grant Banister died on December 3, 1874 in Newburyport.

Further reading:

  • Guilford, L. T. (Linda Thayer).  The Use of a Life : Memorials of Mrs. Z. P. Grant Banister.  New York : American Tract Society, 1885.
  • Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary.  Edwart T. James, ed.  Harvard University Press, 1971.  Biographical sketch prepared by Sydney R. McLean.
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