Spirit - Sarah Porter Eastman

Sarah Porter Eastman


Sarah Porter Eastman (1839-1930)

Sarah Porter Eastman was born on 19 June 1839 in Mexico, New York to Prudence Dole (1812-1844) and Rev. John Eastman (1803-1880). Reverend John Eastman was a minister and held pastorates in Danville, VT, West Hawley, MA, Fulton, NY, and Mexico, NY.

Sarah had one sibling, Julia Arabella (1837-1911); they would spend their entire lives together.

Sarah was only four years old, and Julia 6, when their mother died on 17 July 1844, from a lung hemorrhage, a complication from tuberculosis. Their father remarried, five months later on 3 December 1844, to Prudence Hathaway.

Sarah attended Mount Holyoke College and graduated in 1861. Between the years of 1866-1869, she taught in Whately, MA and in St. Johnsbury, VT. She then became a teacher at Western Female Seminary, in Oxford, Ohio, from 1866-1869.

From 1871-1881, Sarah taught at Wellesley College where she met Henry Fowle Durant. Durant suggested that Sarah and her sister, Julia, co-found a school that would prepare woman academically, before they attended Wellesley College; in 1881, they co-founded Dana Hall. In a biography composed by the Dana Hall Archives, the sisters were described as having “impeccable gentility, high integrity, and strong religious convictions.”

Sarah and Julia remained as associate co-principals until their retirement in June of 1899. During their time as principals, the sisters created a school in which fun and education went hand in hand; a school where students were proud to attend. In the biography written online by the Dana Hall Archives, we are told that the teachers, “...enjoyed tobogganing with their students, taking part in skits, charades, and Halloween celebrations, and were always accessible for their students and the alumnae who returned for a visit.”

Sarah and Julia even incorporated their water spaniel, Shot, into daily Dana Hall school life. The book, Purpose and Personality. The Story of Dana Hall tells the story of Shot, the first of Dana Halls line of dogs:

Katharine Lee Bates described him at worship as "sitting on his haunches with his paw on Miss Sarah's lap", and a sanctimonious expression on his face. The minute the service ended, though, he would head for the door and then take off down Grove street at a brisk trot to keep his tryst with Mr. Shattuck's chickens. His successor, Don, was apparently less susceptible to the civilizing influence of corporate worship... and would finally bark out a silence-shattering amen when he figured it was high time to call a halt to the ceremonies.

Even in retirement, Sarah would remain active within the community. From 1892-1899, she was the Alumna Trustee at her alma mater Mount Holyoke College. She was a member of the International Girls’ Institute in Madrid and the Peabody Home for Crippled Children in Newton, MA.

In the 11 November 1914 edition of the Boston Evening Transcript, it was announced that the Wellesley College Alumnae conducted a luncheon to honour Sarah and Julia, as founders of the school. One of the speakers was long-time friend, Professor Katherine Lee Bates, who later described their influence:

All their convictions and aspirations, too, they unconsciously transferred into the very being of the school through the medium of their own spirits — how finely fashioned,…how daintily and richly fulfilled in woman’s graces was known to the multitude who loved them.

After Julia’s death on 1 January 1911, Sarah remained in their home, Orchard House, on 14 Denton Street until her death on 4 June 1930. Both Sarah and Julia are buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Winchester, MA, and share a headstone.

The UPEI Provenance collection contains the book Spirit by Ethel Phelps Stokes Hoyt and inside Sarah has signed her name alongside the date of September 1925.


1850 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Hawley, Franklin, Massachusetts; Roll: M432_317; Page: 262A; Image: 129.

1880 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Needham, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 548; Family History Film: 1254548; Page:75C; Enumeration District: 522; Image: 0734.

1930 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Wellesley, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 937; Page: 15A; Enumeration District:0131; Image: 965.0; FHL microfilm: 2340672.

“Julia Arabella (1837-1911) and Sarah Porter (1839-1930) Eastman.” Dana Hall School. Helen Temple Cooke Library. Accessed 21 July, 2016.

Eastman, Emily M. History and Genealogy of Deacon Joseph Eastman of Hadley, Mass. Westfield, Mass.: M. Emily Eastman, 1906.

“Honor Dana Hall’s Founder.” Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Mass), 11 November, 1914. Accessed 21 July, 2016.

Massachusetts Death Records. Year: 1844. Place: Charlemont, Massachusetts. 0959807 (004219397) > image 128 of 797; State Archives, Boston.

Massachusetts Death Records. Year: 1911. Place: Wellesley, Massachusetts. 2396172 (004283282) > image 1806 of 2113; State Archives, Boston.

Post, Winifred Lowry. Purpose and Personality.The Story of Dana Hall. Wellesley MA: Dana Hall School, 1978. Accessed 28 February 2017.

“Sarah Porter Eastman 1861.” Mount Holyoke College. Sarah Porter Eastman 1861. Accessed 21 July, 2016.


From the Dana Hall School, Helen Temple Cooke Library website. Accessed on 21 July 2016.

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