August 20, 1897: Trinity Officially Founded!

August 20, 1897: Trinity Officially Founded!

125 Years of Education for Justice! 125 Years at 125 Michigan Avenue!

Trinity College – now Trinity Washington University – was founded on August 20, 1897! This year, 2022, Trinity is celebrating its 125th Anniversary! View the exciting events planned for the October celebration! As first-year students move in to the residence halls on Saturday, August 20, 2022, take a step back in history, 125 years ago, to learn more about the remarkable history of Trinity!

Read President McGuire’s blog: Imagine Our Founders. And read the Countdown to History, Part 1 and Part 2, chronicling the events that were a prelude to the founding of Trinity.

Chartered by an Act of Congress: August 20, 1897.

Trinity was Chartered by an Act of Congress by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, on August 20, 1897. Why did it take an Act of Congress? Because in 1897, and for more than 80 more years, Washington, D.C., was run by Congress. D.C. did not have its own government; it di not have its own agencies and services. To establish a new organization, required an Act of Congress!

Here is an excerpt from the Certificate of Incorporation and Charter of Trinity College:

“Know All Men By These Presents, That we, the undersigned, members of the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, citizens of the United States, to wit:

Main Hall in 1901 before the construction of the front entrance and Red Roof. This is where the very first students lived on campus and took their classes.

Ella Taylor, Margaret Callahan, Mary O’Shea, Margaret Dempsey, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, and Mary McHugh, known in the above-named Religious Order under and by the names, respectively, of Sister Euphrasia, Sister Teresa of the Sacred Heart, Sister Saint Agnes, Sister Gertrude of the Blessed Sacrament, Sister Cornelia and Sister Ignatius Marie, have associated, and do hereby associate ourselves together the purpose of establishing an institution of learning in the District of Columbia for the higher education of young women; and in order to become a body corporate under the General Incorporation Act of Congress enacted for said District of Columbia we execute these presents, and we do hereby certify as follows: The name by which the said institution of learning or body corporate shall be known in law is Trinity College.”

And so it began! So much work had been undertaken by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to get to this momentous day! And so much more work was ahead of them! There was opposition to the establishment of a college for women, and especially so close to the all-male Catholic University, that they had to overcome. The Sisters were also focused on developing the curriculum; working with the architect to design and build the first building – Main Hall, which is still the heart of campus today; raising money to fund the construction; and the recruitment of students from all across the country. 125 years later, in 2022, Trinity faculty and staff are focused on those very same goals!

The very first students began their studies at Trinity in November 1900, entering the side door of an unfinished Main Hall, on a cold and rainy day and navigating around the construction workers. The class that entered was the Red Class of 1904 – the first class to graduate from Trinity and the first class to establish the tradition of class colors – a tradition that Trinity students continue today.

Stay tuned for more exciting history about the founding of Trinity. Until then – celebrate Trinity’s history and enjoy the day!

The first class to graduate from Trinity: The Red Class of 1904!


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