HEBRON – Elizabeth Cole of New Gloucester presented a one-woman show, an intimate portrait of an 1887 Hebron Academy graduate, on May 20 as part of Arts Week at Hebron Academy.

Cole proposed a Senior Independent Study Project in English after hearing about a diary kept by Nellie Day. The diary describes Nellie’s activities and experiences during her senior year at Hebron Academy in the late 1880s.

Cole’s project included studying the diary and other items in the school’s archives and it coincided with the academy’s yearlong bicentennial celebration.

In the play, an elder Nellie engaged an unseen listener in conversation about her time at Hebron, about the choices she made and the life she led. Cole moved in time and space to recreate Nellie of Hebron.

Nellie fretted over her studies of Roman history, Latin and mathematics, but it is clear that she was consciously preparing for her future. Lighter moments occurred as the students gossiped after a weekend “sociable” or skirted discipline for bringing boys into the boarding house or playing cards.

Cole found that some portions of Nellie’s diary, such as the uncertainties of life beyond graduation, felt quite familiar. But, her research also revealed that the expectations of and opportunities for a young woman at Hebron in the 19th century were much different than today.

Fewer women prepared for college, and those who did were likely to study for teaching or nursing. Yet, Cole also found that Hebron was progressive for its time: it offered the same curriculum to boys and girls, classes were not separated by gender as at other schools, and a Hebron girl had access to traditional liberal arts courses.

Cole began attending Hebron Academy as a middle school student. She has acted in Hebron’s musical productions, including this year’s “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and has directed and starred in one-act plays and designed sets.

She participated in the school’s Residential Life Program as a student proctor. Earlier this year, she received a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Cole plans to enter Vassar College in the fall to study English and theater.

Hebron Academy, founded in 1804, is celebrating its bicentennial. For more information, visit www.hebronacademy.org or call 966-2100.

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