The Putney School Campus circa 1935
Carmelita Hinton picking cherries
Harvest Festival activites on the East Lawn, circa 1930's
The evolution of boarding school life at Putney
Photos from the origins of our arts high school
Our Founding

The Putney School was founded in 1935 by Carmelita Hinton, a woman of boundless energy and high ideals. In her youth, she had been deeply influenced by her father, who believed that boys and girls should be brought up alike, and had great faith that his children could succeed in whatever it was they chose to do. 

When she was a teacher at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass., Mrs. Hinton—a widow by then—filled her large house with children who lived too far from school to commute. In the effervescent atmosphere created by this extended family was born the idea of combining home life with the running of a boarding school. 

In 1934, taking a dim view of the quality of the schools her own children were soon to enter, Mrs. Hinton decided to found one of her own. She bought Elm Lea Farm in Putney, Vermont and founded The Putney School there in 1935. She had a small nest egg and many admirers, some of whom were, fortunately, able to help her financially in her new venture.

Putney was to be co-educational, a radical idea for the time. Other founding principles of equal importance were that manual labor is valuable, adults and youth deserve equal respect, outdoors is the best place to be, competition can be suspect, and the world is our community. From these ideals arose summer trips abroad (now a regular part of the school year) the addressing of teachers by their first names, a love of camping and other vigorous outdoor activity, and sports as games not rivalry. A love of learning was the core of these principles, so marks were not given out.

The running of the school relied heavily on student labor. Early buildings were hammered together by students, all the housekeeping and much of the farm work was done by students, and much of the food was grown on the farm by the “summer labor camp,” an institution which grew parallel to the school for many years, eventually morphing into Summer Programs. It followed that the students developed a healthy regard for their own worth.

From the beginning, Putney has succeeded in attracting a large number of talented people. With recent additions of new dormitory, arts center, and athletic facility, the mission of The Putney School is better supported than ever, continuing to attract successful mid-career faculty and engaged, enthusiastic, and inspired students.

The Putney School | Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346-8675
802-387-5566 (main) | 802-387-6278 (fax) | |