Elisabeth M. Bennet

excerpt from an item in the Manchester High School Class of 1955 web site
excerpted by Jim Hall

Elisabeth Bennet was born in Danbury on January 22, 1881. She attended Vassar College and was graduated from the Danbury Normal School in 1909. She earned a bachelor of science degree at New Britain Teacher's College in 1937 and a master's degree at Massachusetts State Teacher's College, Hyannis, in 1940. She began her long career in Manchester as supervisor and principal of the Ninth District School where she remained from 1909 to 1917. She became principal of Barnard School in 1917 and added to her principal's duties the supervision of Nathan Hale, Barnard, Highland Park and South Schools in 1945.

In 1909 Miss Bennet came to Manchester as a teacher to train other teachers, but it was her devoted work with school children which also endeared her to thousands of Manchester residents who were her pupils. She was credited with many "firsts" in the Manchester public school system. She was the first to establish a school library, the first to promote a manual training program and she was credited with promoting the first recreational center. She was the first to use visual aids by means of movie projectors, now in common use in schools, and she stimulated interest in art and pottery.

Miss Bennet was also credited for saving a number of students in the 1913 fire which destroyed the Ninth District School, during which rescue she was also injured.

In 1927, Miss Bennet organized the first school library, in the basement of the Barnard School through her own effort by soliciting volumes from her friends, by donations from her own library, and through the generous donation of her summer vacation time to the cataloguing of the new project. This library was refurbished and named The Elisabeth M. Bennet Library in 1952. Newspaper articles appearing in the Herald on June 20, 1951 speak of plans to dedicate this library to Miss Bennet. The year 1951 was also the year the Miss Bennet retired after completing 50 years of service to the Manchester school system.

Miss Elisabeth Bennet passed away on September 1, 1959, at the age of 78, eight years after retiring. Mr. Arthur Illing issued the following tribute:

"Miss Bennet's association with the schools of Manchester was long and outstanding. The breadth of her vision, her personal interest in pupils and teachers and her tireless devotion to their welfare have established her place in the records of Manchester schools as a principal of unsurpassed excellence. Those of us who worked with Miss Bennet shall always value our association with her as colleagues and friends. We are deeply saddened by her passing."

The board of education members voted unanimously on the evening of December 13, 1961 to rename Barnard Junior High School the Elisabeth M. Bennet Middle School. A plaque was hung in the school to commemorate the renaming.

To view an expanded version of this article on Miss Bennet, please click Elisabeth Bennet - Education Pioneer.
For information on the Ninth District School fire in that same article, please click Ninth District School Fire.