The school’s Latin motto translates as: “She who has earned the rose may bear it.”
The college is on 3,250 acres (13,152,283 m2) donated by the founding family of Indiana Fletcher Williams. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The school is named after the former Sweet Briar plantation, the former plantation of Elijah Fletcher and his family. Fletcher was a 19th-century teacher, businessman, and mayor of Lynchburg. His wife, Maria Crawford, is credited with naming the land Sweet Briar. By the mid-19th century, Fletcher had between 80 and 100 slaves at the plantation. After their emancipation in 1865, several continued to work for pay and live at Sweet Briar. On Elijah Fletcher’s death, his daughter, Indiana, inherited the plantation.
When she passed in 1900, she willed the land and much of her assets to starting a college for women, as her daughter Daisy had passed at 16 and, therefore, never had a chance to attend college.