Shimer College Wiki
Winona Sawyer
Winona sawyer.jpg

Full name

Winona S. Branch Sawyer

Alternative names

Nona Branch, Mrs. A.J. Sawyer

Presence at Shimer


Presence on Earth



Seminary period alum, Seminary period faculty, Academy period trustee

Winona Branch Sawyer, née Winona S. Branch, was an 1871 graduate of the Mount Carroll Seminary.


Winona Sawyer at the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Birth: Williamsville, NY, 8/8/1847[1]
- Father was Baptist missionary who started churches across Mid-Atlantic & Midwest, including 19 in Illinois[1]
- c. 1850 (age 3), mother died[1]
- c. 1860 (age 13), began to "make my own way"[1]
- 186x, attended Mount Carroll Seminary on the Seminary's "Labor Department" program[1]
- 1869, founding editor of the Oread [2]
- 1871, graduated Mount Carroll Seminary[1]
- 1871-1875, taught at Mount Carroll Seminary[1]
- 6/1875, married attorney Andrew Jackson Sawyer of Mendota, IL[1]
- 1875, moved to Lincoln, NE[1]
1883, enrolled at University of Nebraska in Art History & Painting [3]
- 1887, with AJS, built large home in Lincoln at 17th & F[1]
- 11/23/1888, was admitted to the bar (2nd woman in Nebraska) [4]
- 188x, with AJS, adopted 2 brothers[1]
- Summer-fall 1895, hosted Frances Shimer as Shimer tried the Sulpho-Saline baths in Lincoln while corresponding with Drs. Harper & Goodspeed regarding the Seminary's fate [5]
- 1896, was a founding Trustee of the Frances Shimer Academy, one of five alumnae on the 15-person board [6]
- 1901, served as one of the three executors of Frances Shimer's estate [7]
- 1907, with AJS, built the Orlo Apartments the first apartment building in Lincoln[1]
- 1925, donated Sawyer House, the Shimer president's residence on Mt. Carroll campus[1]
- 10/6/1938, was interviewed by Cecile Larson for Federal Writers' Project[1]


Winona Sawyer at reunion in 1911.


  • in Cecile Larson's interview record:[1]
    Description of informant: Very intelligent, kind looking, white-haired, thin-little old lady who graciously gave an interview even in bed after the effects of a broken hip.
    Community and religious activities: Helped hundreds of young people gain an education.


Winona Sawyer in 1930.

While I was walking down the street in Springfield, Illinois an advertising circular with the picture of a large house blew in front of me but I paid no attention to it. As I continued down the street the same piece of paper blew in front of me and I paid no attention to it except to wonder if it was the same piece of paper but as I turned the corner I again saw it and this time I picked it up and found it was an advertisement of a school in Mount Carroll, Illinois which offered part or full time employment to girls who otherwise could not afford such an education. After repeated applications I gained entrance and attended until my graduation in 1871. The head of the seminary was Mrs. Franc[e]s Shimer, helped me and guided me and became a lifelong friend."[1]

This Seminary stands unrivaled in point of practical work. Its method of instruction requires not alone that its pupils be simply good, but good for something. They are not taught certain rules and formulae that under certain circumstances will produce certain results, but they are given those broad, fundamental principles of life which, under any circumstances, will grapple the materials at hand and transmute them at will into elements of success. There has been scarcely a day in the fourteen years since leaving the Seminary that I have not had new occasion to be grateful for the thorough discipline received during my course of study.[8]

Further inquiry[]

  • Sorosis Club archives at Nebraska State Historical Society
  • Moorhead (1983) cites Sawyer correspondence at RHC
  • Larson (1938): "At about this part of the interview she asked the nurse to get her some papers and when she brought them she handed them to me saying, 'I am not giving these to you in a spirit of [braggadocia?] but I think you can get more than I can tell you.' Seeing that she was tired, I left her and have attached the papers to this article." I checked with the Library of Congress, and they do not have the papers. However, according to the librarian I corresponded with, some manuscript materials from the Nebraska project are kept in Nebraska, so there may still be hope.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Cecile Larson. "Winona Sawyer". Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  2. Oread 1:1, Shimer College Collection, Regional History Center, Dekalb. (She also frequently appears as an alum contributor in later issues of the Oread.)
  4. Nebraska Bar Association bio, now offline, accessible through Wayback Machine at
  5. Shimer-Harper correspondence, Box 2 Folder 13 of Harper-Judson archive at Regenstein Library, University of Chicago
  6. Articles of incorporation for The Frances Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago, Box 2 Folder 13 of Harper-Judson archive
  7. Harper-McKee correspondence, Box 3 Folder 1 of Harper-Judson archive. The estate was ultimately probated in Lincoln, because Florida, Illinois and Iowa had all been ruled out for various reasons.
  8. August-July 1895 Oread, page 25.

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