Shortly after college opened in the fall of '96, Dickinson women began to consider how they might obtain the training, which is best furnished by active work in a Literary Society.Â After consulting with the President, they met October 21, to formally consider the question, with sixteen present.Â After effecting a temporary organization, a committee on constitution was appointed.Â It was then suggested that the society be named in honor of Dr. Harman.Â On November 18, 1896, the constitution, together with the name was formally adopted.
On October 3, 1919 The Dickinsonian published an article comparing the histories of Dickinson's three literary societies, one of them being the Harman Literary Society, which was created as an all female group in 1896. The organization was open to all interested women, and at the time, was highly praised by the Dean of Women, Mrs. Meredith.Â
In their 23rd Annual Inter-Society Debate, Belles Lettres and the Union Philosophical Society held a debate surrounding the question of women's suffrage. The debate prompt read, "Resolved, that the progress and prosperity of the United States of America would be increased if the elective franchise were not withheld from any one solely on account of sex." Because no women were allowed in either literary society, the question was debated and judged by male Dickinsonians.