Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School for Girls

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Picture From Royal Roads University

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A Handbook Of Private Schools For American Boys And Girls An Annual Survey
by Porter Sargent, Publication date 1931

PIEDMONT, CALIF. Pop 4282 (1920) 9333 (1930).

Piedmont, on the hills facing the bay, houses the overflow of the University, San Francisco, and Oakland. At the end of a lane surrounded by playing field and tennis courts on the east, old redwood trees on the south, and the Piedmont park and canyon on the west is Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School MISS RANSOM AND MISS BRIDGES SCHOOL Girls Ages Bdg 12-18, Day 4-18 Est 1906.

Kathenne Towle, A.B., Calif Univ, Head; Elizabeth Blakey,

A.B., Calif Univ, Acad Head.

Enr: Bdg 30, Day 125. Fac: 25. Tui: Bdg $1600, Day $200-400. Courses 12-14 yrs: Bdg, Grades VH-Vni High Sch 1-4; Day, Pre-Sch 1-2 Grades I-VHI High Sch 1-4 Col Prep. Incor- porated. Undenominational. C E B Exams candidates '30, 16; '26-' 30, 147. Entering Col '30, 17; '26^30, 102. Alumnae 423. Accredited to Calif Univ, Stanford, Mills Col. Incorporated when new buildings were erected seven years after its establishment, this school has had marked success and maintains high scholastic and social standing Edith Bridges and Marion Ransom who started the school are now respectively president and treasurer Miss Towle, former assistant principal, was made head in 1930 on Miss Bridges' and Miss Ransom's retirement. 

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MISS RANSOM AND MISS BRIDGES' SCHOOL, The End of Hazel Lane, Piedmont, California. KATHERINE TOWLE, A B , Head of the School. ELIZABETH BLAKEY, A.B., Academic Head. This Resident and Day School, now in its twenty-fifth year, is beautifully situated in the hills of Piedmont overlooking San Francisco Bay. Equipped with an Outdoor Gymnasium, Tennis Courts, and an Athletic Field, stress is laid upon Outdoor Activity. The Course in the Upper School is both General and College Preparatory. In the Lower School instruction is offered in all the Grades from Kindergarten to High School.

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Julia Morgan, architect
by Boutelle, Sara Holmes, Publication date 1988:

Many of Morgan's school buildings, private and public, reflect Mediterranean antecedents. One of the earliest, built in 1908-16, was Ransom and Bridges, a private college-preparatory school for girls in Piedmont (a suburb in the hills east of Oakland). The design emphasized a courtyard formed from wings and a central section, with some additional buildings (notably an open-air gymnasium) at the sides. At the entrance bulky concrete columns supported a high arch, which was flanked by side openings the height of the capitals; oval de¬ signs decorated the space above the openings. Curving iron brackets held up a balcony in front of four tall windows or French doors, while third-floor gables featured broad windows. Having served Piedmont showplace for two generations, the school and campus were demolished after World War II.

Marion Ransom, head of the school, was not only an appreciative client of Morgan's but also an enthusiastic promoter, as witness a letter in the Mills College library (undated, presumably 1915) addressed to Aurelia Reinhardt, the president of the college. In the letter Ransom gives a list of reasons to choose Morgan as architect "for the memorial building" (which seems to be the proposed Ethel Moore Memorial Alumnae Building). Since the school prepared students for Mills and other colleges, Ransom's endorsement would have carried weight, but Morgan did not get the job.

The Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast

Publication date 1905

A preparatory school for girls. The main building provides accommodations for a number of boarding students as well as class rooms, teachers' rooms, and offices, library and common room. The open-air gymnasium built among the trees on the steep side of a canon is unique among buildings of its kind and in use has proven highly satisfactory.

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The Handbook of Private Schools - Volume 5, 1919:

Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges ' School for Girls, Hazel Lane, Piedmont, established in 1906, has attained so marked a success that with the assistance of friends and patrons it was incorporated in 1913 and new buildings erected . Miss Marion Ransom, Vassar and Radcliffe, and Miss Edith Bridges, Univ. of Cal, are assisted by a faculty of twenty, more than half who, are college graduates. The patronage is largely local and there are fifty resident students.

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From the Archives: Dola's School Days:

The April 15 letter, written to Mr. Dunsmuir, is a little more formal. Apparently, when Dola returned to the school after the Easter vacation, her priority was to buy herself a new suit and hat from the “superior” stores of San Francisco. The school had covered the cost of her excursion but asked Mr. Dunsmuir to kindly reimburse them and to supply Dola with enough cash for any future extravagances.

Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges’ School for girls existed from 1908 to 1932. Low enrollments during the Depression years forced the school to close. However, when Dola attended in 1920, the school was thriving. More than a finishing school for young ladies, the school offered a challenging curriculum for university preparation as well as a day school for younger girls. The school had accommodation for 50 girls and offered frequent outings to concerts and plays as well as riding and hiking clubs. Students also performed an annual Shakespeare play, which is referred to in one of the letters: “Dola in the tryouts for our annual Shakespeare play won the part of the Friar in “Much Ado about Nothing”… It is always considered an honor to have even a small part in this play and I think Dola is really pleased.”

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Women's voices in Hawaii - by Lebra, Joyce:

Then I went to a girls’ school in Piedmont, California — very strict, oh! Because some Honolulu friends of my mother recommended it. I was there two years, and it was very unhappy, and so different and so strict. I made one friend, who is still my best friend. ... I was terribly unhappy, but I didn’t tell my parents. I thought all boarding schools are like this and why make them worry. A lot of sad times because it was so strict. And they went on the principle you had to prove what you said, that all girls were bars, and you had to prove, and that was awful. And there were two women, Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges. Miss Ransom was the one that was terrible. Miss Bridges was very nice. She was scared of Miss Ransom. Miss Ransom was the most typical-looking — she was very homely. Pulled-back hair with a bun in the back. . . . Every night after dinner we had to count off, and she would say anything she wanted to the different girls. Just break them down. There were fifty boarders, and the rest were day pupils. At least thirty of that fifty cried themselves to sleep every night. It was a very unhappy time. And then finally, at the end of two years, I complained and they right off sent me to Dana Hall, also recommended by a Honolulu friend of my mother’s.

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Administration and leadership : oral history transcript / and related material, 1967-1970 by Towle, Katherine Amelia, 1898

Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School for Girls

Towle

Miss Bridges, as I recall (and here again I'm a little hazy, but I think I'm right), first approached me in 1926. She was interested in finding out whether I might be Interested later on, or at some time, in a position in the school. I told her, I remember, that I didn't think I was prepared at that moment to accept a position; I might be interested in it but I would have to think about it. She and Miss Ransom at that time were thinking specifically in terms of someone who was fairly young, as I was then, to be a resident dean, which meant of course living at the school twenty- four hours a day. I needed more time to think about it, and I was also on the verge of leaving the University, at least temporarily, to travel in Europe with some friends for a year, and I didn't want to tie myself up at that particular moment until I had made up my mind what I was going to do. It was finally agreed that when I returned from my trip, I would get in touch with Miss Bridges if I was still interested, and the projected position was still open.

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Towle

Resident dean, yes. This was in 1927. This must have been the late summer of 1927, before the school had actually opened, and it opened toward the end of September as I recall it. I went to the Ransom school as resident dean, and I held that position for two years. Then in 1929 (when the "crash" came), upon the retirement of Miss Bridges, the school's board of trustees asked me and Miss Elizabeth Blakey, who for many years had been the school's academic head, to be co-principals. She lives in Los Gatos, and did then. We are good friends. I see her occasionally.

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Towle

Yes. Well, anyway, out to Piedmont I went. My responsibilities were for the overall administration of the school. Miss Blakey, Elizabeth Blakey, continued as academic head. She was excellent at this, planning the courses, and overseeing the records, and that sort of thing. She and I took charge of the school in 1929 and we knew, because the trustees had told both of us exactly what the situation was, that the school was in serious financial difficulties.

Nathan

Was it a comparatively costly school?


Towle

Yes, it was. Any private school is expensive, really, and this one was no exception.


Nathan

Did most of the girls live in?


Towle

No, it had many day pupils, too. It was hoped that new blood would infuse new life into the school. Actually, for two good years it did, but by then the depression had hit everyone very hard--none more so than some of the most enthusiastic parents and supporters of the school. The school's chief difficulty was its lack of boarders at this time. The day school went along reasonably well, but everything about the school, the plant of the school, was geared to a full complement of boarding pupils.


Nathan

About how many?


Towle

I was trying to think. I think we could take somewhere up to thirty-five or forty, somewhere in there. That may be a little low. It was a beautiful plant. The residence for the girls was a lovely place. Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges both had excellent taste and it was reflected in the whole school.

Nathan

Was this for girls of high school age?


Towle

At that time there were eighth graders, a very few eighth graders and the rest were in high school. Occasionally a seventh grader was taken as a boarder, but no one below that. The day school ran all the way from the first grade through high school. Elizabeth Blakey and I instituted a preschool for the three years that we were the co-principals. It was very interesting and very successful.

The parents simply didn't have the money for an expensive school in those days, which all boarding schools were--all the private schools were having difficulties, and the Ransom School unfortunately was dependent entirely on its own revenue.


Nathan

It had no endowment?


Towle

No. There was absolutely no endowment to fall back on, which would have tided it over. Generous trustees and friends tried to keep it on its feet, but the odds were just too great. Mr. Wallace Alexander was one of the special angels of the school, the late Mr. Wallace Alexander. His daughter, Martha Alexander, now Mrs. Frank Gerbode, had been a pupil at the school. The Alexanders lived in Piedmont. Mr. Alexander had been very interested in the school, and Mrs. Alexander, too, and they had hoped very much to keep the school alive. He wasn't the only one on the board, but he was, I think, the chief angel of the school.

Finally at the end of the school year in 1932, our last graduating class was 1932, the trustees agreed very regretfully and unhappily, but I think quite realistically, that the school would have to be closed.

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Nathan

That must have been a painful decision.


Towle

Yes, it was very painful. That ended that chapter of my own career, but I always will have very pleasant memories of the school and my association there and of the people with whom I came in touch and with whom I was associated. We had an excellent faculty.


Nathan

How large a faculty did you have?


Towle

I was trying to think. Some of them were not full-time, they came in for certain courses. In the secondary school part, we must have had a faculty of some ten teachers. In the lower school there were the lower school principal and, I would think we would have had easily that number if not more.


Nathan

Did you feel personally acquainted with all of the students?


Towle

Oh, yes. I knew all of the students. We had a convocation every morning. I had to lead that. We always had some sort of program in the morning. I got to know the students very well indeed, all of them, and I enjoyed them very much, all the way up from the little ones through the high school.


Nathan

Did you have any particular philosophy of running the school?


Towle

Well, I don't know whether it was a philosophy or not, but I realized some things. I think the students themselves appreciated having younger persons dealing with some of their problems. I'm sure that we were considered fairly liberal; we made changes in some of the rules and regulations about what they might and might not do. We were a little more liberal about their weekends, when they could see parents. Before, I think there were only a certain number of weekends a year when they could have anyone, including parents, come to the school. I don't think it was just due to Elizabeth Blakey and mebeing there, I think it was just a change in the times, too. Every once in a while I'll see students who went to the Ransom school, and they often mention the good grounding that they had for whatever they went on to do afterward. Many of them did go to college elsewhere and made great successes. It was an excellent school.

They were not only happy ones, those years, and useful, but in many ways very satisfactory as far as I was concerned because I did have an opportunity to try my hand at administration on a fairly high level. I was still, as you have said, fairly young. More importantly, they provided me with a chance to learn about students in their daily lives, things that they were interested in and their relationships with others. I really enjoyed them, and I think they did me. We had a very pleasant rapport. I, being youngish, was not their stereotype of a headmistress. As a matter of fact, I think we dropped the title headmistress finally, and called ourselves principals. I participated--I say "I" because I'm talking about myself, but Miss Blakey did too--in many of their activities with them, including for me horseback riding [laughter] at least once a week. We rode in the hills back of Piedmont. I was never much of an equestrienne, but believe me, I went the whole way with them. I cannot say that I've ever been awfully enthusiastic about horses, but I learned to ride an English saddle and I was right there with the rest of them.

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Finding a Vocation

Towle

I think it was then that I came to realize that working with young people, especially in--I think the pedagogical term is "a learning situation"-- could really offer lifelong and rewarding enrichment and experience. I was very glad to have had that opportunity, so I look back with very real appreciation on those five years at the Ransom School.


Nathan

You were really extraordinarily lucky in that you didn't have to go through all the education courses in order to do it.


Towle

If it hadn't been a private school, I would never have had this chance because, you know, in a public school you have to. I don't think I ever would have. Most of my work was administrative. I conducted the faculty meetings and all that, but Elizabeth Blakey was the one who had a great more dealings day by day with the teachers than I. This was a relatively small school--I don't suppose we had more than three hundred at any one time, counting our day pupils. That's small situation. You certainly know people very well if you see them five days a week and generally on the weekends, too.


Nathan

As a co-principal, then, did you live there?


Towle

Oh, yes, yes indeed. And we lived very pleasantly, I must say. Miss Blakey and I each had very nice quarters in the residence building. We took our meals, of course, with the boarders.

We always had quite lively Sunday suppers to which we often invited outside speakers. This was an interesting part of the school life. It was confining, yes, sometimes I found it confining because I wasn't able to do a lot of the things with my own friends on the outside. My time was pretty well taken up at the school, but I didn't mind too much. I had many friends there and I was interested in what we were doing.


Nathan

What ever became of the buildings?


Towle

The buildings finally were torn down.


Nathan

Where were they located?


Towle

They were at the end of Hazel Lane. We used to get letters addressed to us: our names, "Miss Ransom and Miss Bridges School, the end of Maiden Lane." [Laughter] This was a common occurrence. It was actually Hazel Lane. And Hazel Lane, of course, is still in Piedmont. There are some beautiful' homes on what used to be the school property, lovely homes. The school was off by itself. The grounds were adjacent to Piedmont Park, which at that time was quite beautiful. The school didn't have a tremendous amount of ground, but you had the feeling of its being very spacious. It's a very pretty part of Piedmont, still, not far from what was then the streetcar line on Highland Avenue, the main street. You got off there, then you would turn into Requa Road and then into Hazel Lane. Lovely trees; the garden was always kept so beautifully; lawns in front of the main building, and there was a great drive around like this [semi-circle], and you came in and went around that way. It was really a charming place. I liked it because it was beautiful; the place was nice to be in, too, as nice as the people.

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