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Prudence Crandall collection

Identifier: MS-021

Scope and Contents

The Lear Center holds material related to the life of Prudence Crandall. The archive was left to Connecticut College by Helen Earle Gilbert Sellers, who was at work on a biography of Crandall at the time of her death in 1951. There are 23 letters and one manuscript of poems by Crandall, including three letters to the abolitionist Simeon Jocelyn detailing the opposition to her school. Most of the remaining letters are to her husband, Calvin Philleo. There are also nearly three dozen manuscripts of correspondence and business records of Philleo. The remainder of the collection consists of photographs of Crandall, her family members, and their places of residence and Helen Sellers' research materials and correspondence related to her biography.


  • Creation: 1833 - 2002


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Prudence Crandall was a teacher in the 19th century who worked to further women's suffrage and to provide equal educational opportunities for women from different races and backgrounds. She was born on September 3, 1803 in Hopkinton, Rhode Island to a Quaker family of farmers. .Her parents were Pardon Crandall and Esther Carpenter. When Prudence was 10 years old, her family moved to Canterbury, Connecticut. She attended the New England Friends Boarding School in Providence for a few years and also taught at a school in Plainfield, Connecticut for a short time.

In 1831, a few Connecticut citizens asked Prudence Crandall to organize a school for girls. Crandall agreed to take on this task and her school for girls functioned successfully until a controversy arose in 1832. The cause of the problem was the admission of Sarah Harris, daughter of a prosperous local African-American family. Several parents opposed Crandall's decision to admit a student of color and some of them withdrew their daughters from the school. Crandall, however, remained steadfast and went on to announce that her school was now going to be a teacher-training institute for African-American girls. This roused extreme opposition in the town. Some people refused to sell food to the school and Crandall was banned from the church.

In 1833, Connecticut passed the Black Law that prohibited any Connecticut school from admitting African American students from outside the state. Crandall paid no heed to the Black Law and was arrested in 1833. She was tried and convicted but in July 1834 the conviction was reversed. The continued attacks on the school forced Crandall to close it down in 1834. After closing the school, Crandall married the Rev. Calvin Philleo, a Baptist minister and a widower with three children. Crandall's marriage was an unhappy one and in 1842 she set out on her own to Troy Grove, Illinois. There she opened a school, the Philleo Academy. Her school soon gained local fame and Crandall continued to pursue her interests in temperance, women suffrage and spiritualism. In 1886, the Connecticut General Assembly voted to award her a small life pension to compensate for the cruel outrage inflicted on her. Crandall died of influenza in Elk Falls, Kansas in 1890.


.63 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) was an educator and activist who fought for women's suffrage and the rights of African-Americans. Her attempt to run an integrated school for girls in Canterbury, Connecticut resulted in protests, arrest, and two criminal trials. Although she was acquitted of all charges in 1834, she closed the school and left the state. In 1995 she was named Connecticut's official state heroine. This collection contains manuscripts and research materials gathered by Helen Earle Gilbert Sellers in preparation for a biography of Prudence Crandall.


This collection is arranged into four series: Series I. Prudence Crandall Letters and Poems; Series II.Calvin Philleo manuscripts, and Series III.Helen Sellers Notes and Correspondence; and Series IV.Prudence Crandall research materials.

Custodial History

The Crandall papers were given to Connecticut College by Helen Earle Sellers, also known as Helen Earle Gilbert, who was writing a biography of Crandall at the time of her death in 1951.

Related Materials

Prudence Crandall Museum, Canterbury CT The Museum includes a small in-house research library, which consists of publications on Prudence Crandall, black history, women's history and local Connecticut history. Highlights from the library's research materials include:

Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford CT The historical society library contains the following collections: Ms 70048 - Baldwin Collection includes correspondence including observations of the events in Canterbury during 1833; Hoadley Collection 1869 letter from PC Philleo to unnamed woman; Ms 70046 Petition to the General Assembly about Crandall's school and residents' comments trying to dissuade her from bringing in black students; Ms 73551- Letters from Crandall, Garrison, to Simeon Jocelyn; Ms 76853 Francis Gillette Papers of Abolitionist comments on the Canterbury Law, etc; Ms 80217 Edward Jenks account book, showing that Crandall was sold goods from his store while she was educating the African American students. This disproves the legend that no one in Canterbury would sell to her. Emma Philleo Goodwin Whipple correspondence. Emma Whipple was a step-daughter of Prudence Crandall's. Ms 74017 David O. White A Checklist of Correspondence relating to Prudence Crandall Philleo for 1841-1856. CHS general African American Resources collection includes materials relating to individuals involved in the event in Canterbury.i.e. Arnold Buffum, William Lloyd Garrison, etc.

Connecticut State Library, Hartford CT The State Library is a repository of many original documents that are relevant to the Crandall Academy, primarily legal documents relating to her trials.

Kent Memorial Library, Suffield CT Sheldon Collection includes correspondence and manuscripts relating to Calvin Philleo's (Prudence Crandall's husband) tenure as minister in the Suffield area.

University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI The library's Special Collections has a collection of Fayerweather Family Papers. The scope of materials spans 1836 to 1962, and includes account books, deeds, marriage and death certificates, address books, autograph books, mortgage notes, photographs and correspondence. Of interest are letters to Sarah from Prudence Crandall Philleo; and a letter to Sarah from Helen Benson Garrison, wife of William Lloyd Garrison.

Document Package for Connecticut's Prudence Crandall Affair, online The Gilder Lehrman Resource Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University has put together a collection of primary resources on Prudence Crandall and her school. It includes contemporary reporting as well as retrospective accounts and essays from the later 19th century and early 20th century.

Inventory of the Prudence Crandall collection
Finding aid by Ben Panciera. Migrated into ArchiveSpace in 2020 by Christian Salguero and Rose Oliveira.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives Repository

Connecticut College
270 Mohegan Ave
New London CT 06320 United States