The "Friday Evening" Group
Five Enterprising and Visionary Young Women
Five Baltimore women interested in high-minded discussion and eager for like company met each fortnight to present short papers and discuss their readings with one another. Because these meetings occurred on Friday evenings, they referred to themselves as the “Friday evening.” The members of this club included M. Carey Thomas, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Elizabeth (Bessie) King, Mary (Mamie) Gwinn, and Julia Rogers. The fathers of all but Julia were members of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, University, or both, which afforded them intimate knowledge of the Board’s affairs.
M. Carey Thomas was the daughter of Dr. James Carey Thomas and Mary Whithall Thomas, both prominent Quakers. Thomas is often described as a dominant personality in the group. She was educated first at Cornell, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1877. She then spent a year at Johns Hopkins. There she was allowed to sit for examinations and to attend lectures from behind a screen, but she was not allowed to take courses. After withdrawing, she went abroad to study at the University of Leipzig. As the University of Leipzig also did not grant degrees to women, she eventually transferred to the University of Zurich, where she received a Ph.D., summa cum laude. While dean of the new Bryn Mawr College, Thomas also supervised the curriculum of the Bryn Mawr School, which the women were founding in the late 1880s. In 1893, with the support of Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Thomas was elected President of Bryn Mawr College, and held that post until 1922.
Bessie King’s father was Francis T. King, a friend of Johns Hopkins, first president of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital; and a prominent figure in the Quaker community. Not much else is known about her, except that she did not always get along with the other girls, and that, according to Mamie Gwinn, she may have had more religious tendencies than the others.1
Detail from "Friday Evening" group
N.H. Busey, Baltimore
Special Collections Department
Bryn Mawr College Library
Mamie Gwinn was the youngest of the group and the daughter of Charles John Morris Gwinn, an attorney who drafted the will of Johns Hopkins and the letters offering the Women’s Medical School Fund. She traveled with Thomas when she studied in Europe and later lived with her at Bryn Mawr College. After receiving a Ph.D. in 1888 from that institution, she was a professor of English there until she eloped with Alfred Hodder, another Bryn Mawr professor.
Julia Rogers was primarily raised by her aunt, since her mother died when Julia was only two. She met Mary Garrett in school, and the two were quite close. Rogers studied in 1881-82 at Newnham College, Cambridge, but did not take a degree. She was a founder of the Women’s Civic League in Baltimore and served on the boards of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Faculty Club of Johns Hopkins University. In her will, she left nearly $1 million to Goucher College. With this gift Goucher built a library and named it in her honor.