Category Archives: Moravians

Revolution, Marketing, & the Legacy of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies

I’ve been working on a project examining poetry at the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies since the fall of 2014. Of course, when I began this exploration I had many questions. I had the big research questions.

And I also had logistical questions: Was there an archival record? Where was this archival record?

Looking for an archival record of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies naturally led me to the potential of exploring materials related to Moravian College. Was there a connection? Did they have materials? Information on the webpages for the library and the school archives seemed to indicate an avenue of pursuit, but it wasn’t screaming “hey, look here! Hey, start here!” Additionally, there was the issue of access. Library websites made it clear that there was not a full-time archivist available.

Eventually, I sorted out my archive questions out and have since spent a lot of time at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem.

The connection between the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies and Moravian College wasn’t exactly clear when I began exploring this project in the fall of 2014. On the surface, however, that connection seems to be clearer today. Sort of. Or, at least, the connection Moravian College wants to make to the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies and a revolutionary past has become clearer.

Moravian College’s embracing of its historic past is interesting to me as someone involved in higher education. My composition classes in the spring of 2015 and the fall of 2015 addressed on higher education. In class we frequently explored the marketing of colleges. Together we took a critical eye to the marketing rhetoric of colleges and universities. One of my classes in the spring of 2015 was a dual enrollment class. We often focused on Lehigh Valley colleges and universities since many of the students were going to schools in the area. A local focus also made sense since we could frequently use local media coverage of area schools as a jumping off point for discussion. The online presence of Moravian College was something we explored often.

The above paragraph is an attempt to build my ethos. I remember what the website for Moravian College looked like a year or so ago. It certainly doesn’t look like it does at this moment. Just trust me: it was a rather typical website of a small liberal arts college in a nice community. When I began initially exploring the website of Moravian College in the fall of 2014, there wasn’t anything distinctive about it. It was what one expected from the website of a small liberal arts college in a bucolic setting.

Last fall, I found myself again visiting the webpage of Moravian College. Things had changed.

Navigating to Moravian College’s website forces the viewer to confront immediately a revolutionary past. It isn’t subtle.

Moravian Splash Page

When a viewer of the website scrolls down, the call to “Be a Little Revolutionary” recedes and they’re confronted with a very short history of the origins of Moravian College.

Scroll Down Moravian Website

The “16-year-old girl” mentioned in the short history blurb is Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf, daughter of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

Moravian Revolutionary in Your Blood

Taking ownership of that “revolutionary” claim.

When I visited the Moravian Archives in the fall of 2015, I noticed that the streetlights surrounding the campus of Moravian College featured flags proclaiming their motto for all to see. “Be a Little Revolutionary” is a marketing campaign that seems to be everywhere. Again, these streetlight flags were not something that I saw present in the summer of 2015 when I first visited the Moravian Archives.

a lot of revolution now and then

wow much revolution such colonial past wow

The new list of best places to work in the Lehigh Valley came out recently and there was a profile of the award winners in the local newspaper. Each workplace profiled is listed with a little bit of information, including the founding date. The local paper, The Morning Call, lists the founding of Moravian College as 1742 and in another article, featuring factoids, lists the claim of “the sixth oldest college in America and the first school to educate women.”

best place to work

Competition for students is difficult. I understand the drive of colleges and universities to undertake attention-grabbing ad campaigns and to develop buzz phrases for marketing purposes. I do know that the history of education in American, especially women’s education, is complicated. It is far too nuanced for sloganeering. I’ve not delved too far beyond the #18C in tracing the connection between the schools. It is certainly much more complicated than what a marketing campaign tries to make it. This use of the idea of revolution, The Revolution, and a historical past is driven by marketing. It is a clever and organized campaign.



This isn’t an all-inclusive post about the history of the Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies and it isn’t a post about the history of Moravian College. It is a post drawing attention to branding and marketing of higher education today. I think this post is a starting point for highlighting the collapsing and simplification of a rather complex historical past, not just of the boarding school and Moravian College, but also American history and the history of women’s education in the United States.


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Filed under academia, higher edcuation, history, Moravians

Archives Update

I wanted to write a post reflecting on my recent visit to the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem. However, I was unsure what exactly to write about in such a post. One part of me wanted to write an excited and rambling post about all of the cool things that I had a chance to look at during my visit. Another part of me wanted to write about some of the answers that I found since writing my original post on the plaque on Bethlehem’s Old Chapel. However, part of me didn’t want to write anything, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I’d like to eventually publish a piece about the Old Chapel’s plaque and the girls’ boarding school in Bethlehem.

Of course, that need to publish is important, especially for an early career scholar like me. However, I’m unsure about how to balance that publication need with writing about my research in progress in a personal blog. I think sharing one’s work is very important for many reasons. First, it gives a public face to the work that we do. Second, writing in a blog provides an opportunity to write publicly and safely experiment with form and voice. Third, and more personally, I do my best thinking when I can think over a topic by writing. I have to think long and hard about my ideas, and I obtain the best results by writing about them and then thinking about them some more.

All that being said, my plan is to formally write up the results of my work. I do have a venue in mind, one that is online, open-access, and also peer-reviewed. My current project would fit well with that venue, I think, and, it also provides a public face to scholarship in an innovative forum, which I believe is not only valuable, but important, too.

Note: I did write a substantially longer post about what I found in the archives. In light of the above issues, I’ll provide the tl;dr version.

1. Tom McCullough, the assistant archivist at the Moravian Archives was beyond helpful. He took the time to translate an important passage for me. He didn’t have to do that. You can read a profile of him here.
2. Yes, I saw awesome stuff.
3. Yes, there is an archival record of the event at the Old Chapel.
4. Yes, there is a world of poetry beyond the event at the Old Chapel worth exploring in relation to the Female Seminary.
5. Yes, there is a world of poetry worth exploring beyond the Seminary and it includes the boys’ school in Nazareth (with their several boxes of poetry) and in the larger community in Moravian Bethlehem (with their several boxes of poetry).
6. German

7. German Script
8. I need to get better at #6 and learn to read #7
9. I have thoughts on my relationship to the digital humanities
10. I’d rather devote my time to #8 and not the digital humanities*
*Sort of. I’ll write more in a follow up post.

I might get into some more specifics of my visit to the archives, but for now I’m going to hold back and see where my research takes me.

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