By the early 20th century, as philanthropist and nurseryman William Smith was determining how to best transform his wealth into opportunity for others, he befriended a number of suffragettes and activists including Elizabeth Smith Miller and her daughter Anne Fitzhugh Miller.
The two had a deep impact on him, encouraging him to become a part of the women’s movement. It was through their involvement that Smith became committed to founding a nondenominational, liberal arts institution dedicated to educating women broadly, not just vocationally.
On December 13, 1906, Smith formalized his intentions, and two years later, William Smith School for Women enrolled its first class of 18 students, although there were 20 by the end of the year. The College was founded adjacent to Hobart and entered into a coordinate arrangement that is now unique among American colleges.