Catharine Fiske Mural

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General Information

Miss Catharine Fiske was born on July 30, 1784 in Worcester MA. According to one of her contemporaries, she was different from other children—remarkably uniform in feelings and mild tempered, and she loved books, and she was exceedingly kin in her feelings toward the poor & distressed”.  Throughout her life she was of delicate health and suffered from chronic pain. 

She began her career as a teacher when she was 15 years old in Dover, Vermont, and moved to Keene in 1811 when she was 27 to teach.  Three years later (1814) she co-founded the Seminary for Young Ladies.  In 1824 Miss Fiske bought the house and Farm on Main St (now the Keene State College’s President’s House).  

Miss Fiske’s School was both a boarding school and day school for girls was the first of its kind in New Hampshire (and second in the Country) and it quickly earned a national reputation for its excellence.  The school enrolled up to 100 girls at a time from some of Keene’s leading families and from nearly every state in the Union.  The school also had boys as day students (several of them later became doctors). In its 31 years of existence, the school served 2,500 students.

The students were taught French, Italian, Latin, and English, as well as music, drawing, painting, botany, arithmetic, history, geography (with use of maps and globes) and needlework.  Some special classes were also taught for boys. Miss Fiske also promised their parents the school would “pay all possible attention to the improvement of the manners, morals, and minds” of her students.  In 1837, the cost for the Winter Term was $50.00 for 20 weeks, including board, lights, fuel & tuition for English Studies. Add-ons included Language ($6.00/quarter), Music ($10.00/quarter) and Drawing & Painting ($3/quarter).  The first pianos brought to Keene were placed at Miss Fiske’s school.

In Our Collections

Call 603.352.1895 to make an appointment

Miss Fiske’s original piano forte

Catharine Fiske papers. MG24. The collection is divided into 2 series. Series I contains materials related directly to Catherine Fiske. This includes, correspondence, her will, her obituary, a Bible and a book on morals and manners. Series II contains information on the school itself.

  • 251 Main Street- Keene State College President’s house and former Miss Fisk’s Ladies Seminary

Related Links

TV segment, Friz Weatherbee- “Miss Catharine Fiske’s Female Seminary“.  WMUR.  Feb. 20, 2018.

Application, National Register of Historic Places– for 251 Main Street

E-Book, Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Education, and Public Life in America’s Republic by Mary Kelly.