Mrs. Beulah Emmet,
Beulah Hepburn Emmet, 1890-1978, was the founder of and inspiration behind the High Mowing School. A long-time follower of the writings of Rudolf Steiner, she framed her commitment to Waldorf education in the following way: “Rudolf Steiner said that he was starting a form of education for modern youth. So our acceptance by the New Hampshire hill was not just a move… it was an effort to meet the deep needs, to answer the questions asked by and implicit in the young. High Mowing's purpose has grown clearer and clearer as the years roll by.”
In 1929, the Emmet family purchased the farm that later became our school. They called it a “high mowing” due to its elevation and surrounding farmlands. At first, the long line of soft-grey, weathered buildings — built in 1763 and enlarged by David Cram in 1838 — was their summer home.
In the spring of 1942 Mrs. Emmet decided to build a school here: “This was in April 1942 … and to make a farm into a school from May to October was the problem. Before starting any building operations I called the New Hampshire State Board of Education and over the telephone asked a New England voice for permission to start a school at my home in Wilton. I was told categorically that no woman could start a school in New Hampshire. I said, ‘I think that a bit arbitrary.’”
Clarity of vision and dogged determination became the hallmark of those early days, as Mrs. Emmet overcame obstacle after obstacle to open her school. These were the War years, and a moratorium on building, prohibiting the use of metal and wood, were among the challenges she faced. Mrs. Emmet chronicles her journey while founding High Mowing School in her book, From Farm to School.
When the school was complete, “We took the well stone that was under an elm in the high mowing and smoothed it. In the round hole in the center we put a copper box. In the box were a penny, a nickel and a quarter of the year 1942; a tassel of corn that grew ten feet high in the garden; and a paper on which was written:
We sink this granite stone in the earth before the doors of a new structure planned to house youth. May they find here health of the body trained to skills and techniques, wisdom of the heart open to the understanding of their fellow men, strength of mind, and freedom through richer opening vistas and high goals. To these things we who have built it, we who will teach in it, we who have come here to learn—dedicate this building.”
High Mowing opened its doors in September 1942. At the time, it was the only Waldorf high school in the U.S. It gained accreditation in1944. For many years, until 1957, the school remained the personal property of Mrs. Emmet. In 1957, at a faculty and trustee meeting, she handed over the buildings and the land to the school. In gracious gratitude, the faculty gave her the right to live on campus, in her house, as long as she wished.
“Little by little we realized that our task at High Mowing was to face and meet the needs of students, to awaken an interest in learning… so that they could stand on their own two feet and go forward into the world, directed and alive. High Mowing was a home before it was a school—and becoming a school it still stayed a home. It was a home for young people from any type of background, of any race.” We are grateful for Mrs. Emmet’s vision and determination, and for the gift of our school.