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Delphian Society

The Delphian Society was a national organization that promoted the education of women in the United States. This organization was founded around 1910 in Chicago. The Delphian Society takes its name from the historical Oracle of Delphi of Phocis, Greece. "Here in remote times Apollo was believed to reveal his wishes to men through the medium of a priestess, speaking under the influence of vaporous breath which rose from a yawning fissure. Her utterances were not always coherent and were interpreted to those seeking guidance by Apollo's priests."

In 1913, the Delphian Society wrote, "We know full well today that no priestess upon a tripod can reveal to us the secrets of the future. A thorough understanding of the past must be the safest guide for coming years. No vapor can inspire sudden revelations--the result only of faithful effort and earnest thought. Yet the story of the ancient oracle charms us still and when a name was sought for a national organization, that had for its avowed purposed the promotion of educational interests in a continent, none was deemed more suitable than that which for so many years cast its gracious spell from one sea to another."

The Delphian Society was inspired by influential Harvard President, Charles William Eliot's belief that education serves the purpose of inspiring lifelong learning and those who do not receive it "seem to live in a mental vacuum." However, "Fifteen minutes a day of good reading would have given any one of this multitude a really human life." In response to his call for lifelong learning, the Delphian Society wrote, "To meet this condition, which prevails through the length and breadth of our land, to stimulate a deeper interest, quicken a latent appreciation and facilitate the use of brief periods of freedom for self-improvement, the Delphian Society was organized and the Delphian Course of Reading made possible."

In 1913, the Delphian Society published the Delphian Course of Reading: "A systematic plan of education, embracing the world's progress and development of the liberal arts." This ten volume course covers "history, literature, philosophy, poetry, fiction, drama, art, ethics, music," however, "Mathematics, being in its higher forms essential to few, has been omitted; languages, requiring the aid of a teacher, and such scenes as make laboratories necessary, are not included." In 1928, the Delphian Society published several volumes of books containing an outline of human knowledge for the use of conversation.


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