Michigan Female College

Michigan Female College Postcard
The School for the Blind Site was originally the Michigan Female College. The Michigan Female College dates to the early years of our state's development. It is associated with one of Michigan's most distinguished and admired women of the 19th century, Abigail Rogers, and nationally to the First Wave of the Women's Movement. Abigail Turner Dodge was named for Abigail Rogers. Both the College and the School for the Blind are associated with the history of the Turner family and the Turner-Dodge House as well as Lansing's Lower Town, now called Old Town.

Abigail C. Rogers (1818-1869)

"Her great work, the work on which she spent her whole life was the admission of women in to the University of Michigan and the Michigan Agricultural College on an equal basis with men. She did not live to see this for she died in 1869. All women who have been admitted to The University of Michigan and Michigan Agricultural College since her death must remember that Miss Rogers' life long efforts opened the doors of higher education to them." Frank M. Turner, M.D., Historic Michigan, Vol. III, An Account of Ingham County, 1924

Giving Women A Sense of Place: The Michigan Female College

During the years of its existence, the Michigan Female College was to Lansing a recognized social and educational power, whose far reaching influence it is not easy to estimate. According to the Lansing Republican, "Abigail Rogers was the acknowledged and leading champion of the higher education of women in Michigan." Mrs. Eliza C. Smith, Pioneer Society of Michigan, Vol. VI., 1884, pages 284-290.

Educated and experienced in the administration of college level education, Abigail and her sister Delia Rogers determined to open a school of the highest grade for young women in the State Capital "to keep before the public mind as constantly as they could, the duty of the State to provide for the education of its daughters as it had already provided for the education of its sons." Their goal was to achieve permanence by ultimate acceptance and adoption when the State should come to recognize and act upon its obligations to the neglected half of its children. By 1867 over 1000 students from Michigan and nine other states had attended the school. The course of study was both Classical and Scientific. Abigail Rogers, 31st Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1867.

"Your Committee cannot but admire, and warmly commend, the earnestness and devotion with which the estimable ladies at the head of the Institution have pursued their work. Through discouragements and difficulties that would have defeated anything but the most determined perseverance, they have labored, and the success and reputation which they have achieved have been most nobly and honorably won. In behalf of the Committee. C.C. McIntire" 31st Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1867.

The school opened in 1855, holding daily session in the State Capitol building for two years until a permanent building could be obtained. The property and a subscription of $20,000 (about $450,000 today) was secured through the efforts of James Turner, his brother-in-law, Daniel L. Case and his business associates, H. H. Smith and A.N. Hart. This enabled the building of the north wing under the supervision of Abigail Rogers who also obtained many in-kind contributions and services and additional contributions from the Detroit area so that the building was completed in 1858 Shortly after Abigail Roger's death in 1869, the Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) agreed to admit women, followed by The University of Michigan in 1870.

"The old Odd Fellows Institute, which was converted into the present School for the Blind, was one of the civic prides in the early days of the city. The description and account in the book of 1873 was as follows: "The citizens of Lansing donated 45 acres of land and the north end of the Misses Rogers' Female College to the Grand Lodge for the purposes of an Odd Fellows Institute. Miss Delia Rogers generously donated a large portion of the land purchased, a library of 1,500 volumes, and a fine philosophical apparatus. The land and buildings are located in the northwest portion of the city and valued at $70,000. The whole, when completed, will cost about $300,000. During the years of 1871-2 an addition of 57 feet square, constituting the main front, was put up at a cost of $30,000. The entire structure is to be completed as fast as the demands of the order may require."

Pioneer History of Ingham County, Chapter 9.

For More information

Photo and text of the historical marker located at the facility site:

Administration Building

In 1880 the Michigan School for the Blind moved from Flint to this site, the former home of the Michigan Female College and the Institute for Oddfellows. This structure, then called Old Main, has served as the focal point of the 40-acre campus of the Michigan School for the Blind. The monumental, three-story Neo-Classical Revival-style building was designed by Edwyn A. Bowd (1865-1940) of Lansing. It originally housed the entire student body and school offices. Enlarged and remodeled several times, the E-shaped brick and limestone structure retains its architectural beauty.
Historical Marker at Facility Site

Michigan School for the Blind

Michigan began educating the blind in 1859 at Flint's Michigan Asylum. In 1879 the legislature established the Michigan School for the Blind, which opened here on September 29, 1880, with 35 students. The next year, five students were its first graduates. At first students learned by lecture/demonstrations, but in 1884-85 the school introduced braille reading and writing. The first deaf/blind student was enrolled in 1887. By the 1950s the school boasted its largest enrollment, three hundred children in kindergarten through grade twelve. Student activities included music, drama and track. In 1960 and 1963 student wrestlers won class B state championships.