Woman of the Century/Sarah F. Cowles Little
LITTLE, Mrs. Sarah F. Cowles, educator, born in Oberlin, Ohio. 6th March, 1838. Her father was Rev. Henry Cowles. D.D., a professor in Oberlin Theological Seminary, and an eminent scholar, author and divine. He was born in Litchfield county, Connecticut, and was descended from an old New England family of English origin. Her mother, Alice Welch, was a woman of superior attainments and character, and for several years the principal of the ladies' department of Oberlin College. She was the daughter of Dr. Benjamin Welch, of Norfolk, Conn. Her five brothers were phvsicians and have made the name of " Dr. Welch" widely known throughout western New SARAH F. COWLES LITTLE. England. Sarah F. was the second daughter and fourth child of those parents. As her home was under the very shadow of the college in Oberlin, her opportunities for education were excellent. She was graduated in the classical course in 1859, with the degree of B. A., followed by that of M.A. within a few years. Miss Cowles commenced teaching at the age of fifteen years, in a district school near her home. She taught during several college vacations, and was also employed as a teacher in the preparatory department of the college during the later years of her course. After graduation she taught with success for two years in the public schools of Columbus, Ohio, and in the fall of 1861 went to Janesville, Wis , to serve as principal teacher in the Wisconsin School for the Blind, of which Thomas H. Little was the superintendent. Mr. Little was a graduate of Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Me., and had been a teacher in the institutions for the blind in Ohio and Louisiana. He had made a special study of that branch of education and was admirably fitted for his post of responsibility by natural endowments, by training and by experience. On 14th July, 1862, Miss Cowles became the wife of Mr. Little, and thenceforth actively participated in all his labors for the blind with hearty sympathy and earnest helpfulness. She continued to teach regularly for a time after her marriage, and at intervals thereafter, being always ready to supplement any lack in any department of the school In Mr. Little's absence or illness he was in the habit of delegating his duties to his wife. When Mr. Little's death occurred, 4th February, 1875, after a week's illness, Mrs. Little was at once chosen by the board of trustees as his successor. There was no woman in the United States in charge of so important a public institution as the Wisconsin School for the Blind, but Mrs. Little's experience and her executive tact fully justified such an innovation. She was thoroughly identified with the work and had proved herself competent for leadership in iL The main building of the institution had been destroyed by fire in 1874. and to the difficulty of carrying on the school work in small and inconvenient quarters was added the supervision of the erection of the enlarged new building. The work was done upon plans made under Mr. Little's direction, with which Mrs. Little was already familiar, and no detail escaped her watchful eye. During the time of her superintendency, the Wisconsin School for the Blind was one of the best managed institutions of the kind in the country, ami Mrs. Little was everywhere recognized as a leader in educational circles She continued at the head of the school until August, 1891, leaving it at the close of thirty years of active service, more than sixteen of them as superintendent. The school had grown from an enrollment of thirty to one of ninety pupils. All the buildings were left in good condition and had been improved and enlarged until little remained to be desired for convenience or durability. Mrs. Little brought to her work strength of mind such as few possess, coupled with rare executive ability and a gentle, womanly sympathy. To those qualities and to her absolute fidelity and practical wisdom in managing every department of the complex work entrusted to her is due the fact that no breath of scandal ever came near the institution, and no difficulties ever arose requiring the intervention of the advisory board, a thing which could not be said of any other institution in Wisconsin, or perhaps in the country. Her care of the blind pupils had in it a large element of maternal tenderness, and the school was really a large family, at once a place of careful instruction and thorough discipline, and yet a real home. Besides her interest in educational lines, she has always taken an active part in Christian work of all kinds. Wherever she is, her influence is felt for good. In the church her loyalty and zeal and her thorough consecration are a constant inspiration. She is a thorough Bible student, and has for years been a successful teacher of a large Bible class for adults, bringing to that work not only a scholarly mind and a quick insight into spiritual things, but a warm heart stored with the riches of years of experience. On leaving the school it was natural that she should turn to some form of Christian work, and that her mother-heart should seek again the care of children who must be separated from home and parents. One of her own four daughters was doing missionary work in a distant land, and thus the way was prepared for her to have a natural and deep interest in the Oberlin Home for Missionary Children, from the very beginning of the plans for its establishment, and at the opening, in 1892, she was ready to take a place at its head. There are gathered children from distant mission fields, sent by their parents, that in the home-land they may receive an education removed from the influences of heathen surroundings.