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Elizabeth J. Somers papers and memorabilia

Identifier: MVC0007-MS

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence, photographs (some reproductions), negatives, photocopies, notes, financial records, commencement attire, silverware, and a dress worn by Elizabeth Somers. The collection contains material from the years 1862 to 1998 and the bulk of the collection pertains to the years 1881 to 1895. The first two locations of Mount Vernon Seminary, 204 F Street, NW and 1100 M Street, NW are represented in this collection. Several images, invitations, and letters regarding Mount Vernon Seminary faculty, students, events, and early locations are present. Of particular interest to researchers are original letters from Elizabeth, negatives of Elizabeth Somers, a dress worn by Somers as seen in an Irving Wiles portrait, and letters from past graduates about Mrs. Somers.


  • 1862-1998
  • Majority of material found within 1880 - 1895

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth J. Somers (1837-1924) founded the Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C. in 1875. Elizabeth Somers was born Elizabeth Jane (“Jennie”) Eddy on November 5th, 1837 in Rush County, Indiana. Elizabeth attended Ohio Wesleyan Female College and graduated in 1855 with the degree of Mistress of English Literature. After graduating, Elizabeth accepted a position at Northwestern Female College in Evanston, Illinois and left in 1859 for a position at Pittsburgh Female Seminary where she worked for two years. She then worked at Centerville, Indiana from 1862 to 1863.

Elizabeth married James W. Somers, a lawyer, in early 1863 and left a teaching position in Centerville, Indiana to move to Washington, D.C. Somers continued her career teaching mathematics at a day school and bible classes at the Metropolitan Methodist Church. In 1868, Somers’ accepted Judge Dennis Nelson Cooley’s three young daughters as her first students in her home on 204 F. Street, NW in Washington, D.C. She began teaching boys and girls but by 1870, Somers only offered instruction to young women.

In 1875, Somers opened the Mount Vernon Seminary with a rigorous curriculum for girls as well as young women preparing for college. At the time, Elizabeth Somers offered the only higher education institution for women in Washington, D.C. Mount Vernon Seminary quickly earned an esteemed reputation for the refined academic and social education of young women in Washington, D.C. that first attracted prominent Washington officials’ daughters but soon also many young women from around the world.

Elizabeth Somers’ school was named Mount Vernon Seminary in honor of her late brother, Dr. Thomas Eddy, a respected Methodist minister, who helped build the Mount Vernon Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1880, Somers moved the school from 201 F Street, NW to 1100 M Street, NW to meet the demands of increasing enrollment. The school remained at 1100 M Street until 1917 and underwent numerous physical expansions as it accepted more students. Mrs. Somers would later move the school again to Nebraska Avenue in 1917. In 1927, Mount Vernon Seminary included a Junior College and by 1969 was known as Mount Vernon Junior College. The school became an accredited four-year college in 1976. Mount Vernon College relocated a couple of times more until it merged with The George Washington University in 1999 and is now known as the Mount Vernon Campus.

Elizabeth J. Somers died on June 8th, 1924 and was buried in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 1945, Somers Hall was built on Mount Vernon Campus and now houses the women of the selective Elizabeth Somers Women’s Leadership Program. The Elizabeth Somers Women’s Leadership Program was established for freshman undergraduate women of The George Washington University to continue Somers’ vision of excellence and leadership of women.


5.75 Linear Feet (1 slim document box, 2 document boxes, 2 oversized flat boxes, 2 small flat boxes)

Language of Materials



Elizabeth J. Somers (1837-1924) founded the Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C. in 1875. Mount Vernon Seminary and College merged with The George Washington University in 1999. This collection contains correspondence, photographs (some reproductions), negatives, photocopies, financial records, and textiles related to Elizabeth J. Somers from the years 1862 to 1998. The bulk of the material is from 1881 to 1895, particularly on the first two locations of Mount Vernon Seminary at 204 F Street, NW and 1100 M Street, NW. Also present are images and biographical information on Somers, and historical information on Mount Vernon Seminary.


This collection is organized into six series: Biographical Information, Mount Vernon Seminary Historical Information, Images, Textiles, Flatware, and Artifacts.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection acquired by GWU upon merger with Mount Vernon College. Collection transferred to Foggy Bottom campus in 2009.

Related Materials note

The following contain additional information on Elizabeth J. Somers and Mount Vernon Seminary and College: "Dear Daughters: A History of Mount Vernon Sminary and College" by Nina Mikhalevsky (Mount Vernon Seminary and College Alumnae Association, 2001) and "Elizabeth J. Somers: A Memoir" by Faith Bradford (The Plimpton Press, 1937).

Separated Materials

Elizabeth J. Somers' personal copy of a volume titled "Defenders of Democracy: Contributions from represeentative men and women of letters and other arts from our allies and our own country" as Editted by The Gift Book Committee of the Militia of Mercy (John Lane Company, 1918) was transferred from this collection to be cataloged and integrated into the Special Collections Research Center's book collection.



Guide to the Elizabeth J. Somers papers and memorabilia, 1862-1998
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America