Women’s History Month: Seraph Warren Holmes

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we celebrate a woman who had a large impact on the early Warrenville community and the education of children, Seraph Warren Holmes.

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When private academies were flourishing before Illinois mandated compulsory education, the Warrenville Seminary, with Seraph Warren Holmes as its administrator, stood for education at its finest.

From its opening on September 14, 1851, Mrs. Holmes was the attraction that drew the bulk of its student enrollment (100 to 200) from Chicago and from the west as far as Rockford.  Among the seminary’s alumni were General Frederick Starring and Dr. John Maynard Woodworth of Chicago, the first surgeon general of the United States – a testament to Seraph as an educator.

Her teaching methods for her scholars were, in her own words, “…aimed to develop thought-power, to quicken mental activity, to rouse latent energy, and give the self-reliance necessary for the cumulative responsibilities that lay before them.”

Seraph Warren received her training back in her home state of New York.  After Julius Warren’s boarding house for lodgers was erected in 1835, he arranged for his 23-year-old cousin to take charge of the upstairs schoolroom.

For the next several years, she could be found teaching in Warrenville, either at one of the two academies in operation in the 1840s or in her parents’ home.  She also taught for a period in Chicago; one position was at Clybournville on the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Her marriage to Albert Holmes in January 1849 was supposed to close out her professional career, but widowhood brought her back to Warrenville in only five months.

After the seminary closed following the Civil War, Seraph and her mother moved to Rockford. There she opened “Mrs. Holmes School for Young Ladies,” but she made frequent trips back to Warrenville throughout her lifetime.

Biographical sketch taken from Leone Schmidt’s “Memorable Warrenville Women.”

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