Educational Institutions in the North

Educational Institutions in the South

Coeducational Institutions

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Educational Institutions in the North

Monticello Female Seminary Flyer

Monticello Female Seminary Flyer
Norton Strange Townsend Papers

Letters in this collection illustrate the gradual transition from private education and boarding schools to female seminaries. By the mid-nineteenth century, female seminaries and academies were everywhere, replacing the homelike atmosphere of boarding schools with a more institutional setting. Large, classical edifices that housed dormitory rooms, chapels, dining halls, and classrooms with desks aligned in rows became standard. Schools standardized the curriculum and awarded diplomas and degrees. The nineteenth century was a period of transition characterized both by private teachers who opened schools in rented houses and hired other women to assist with the work of boarding and teaching, and by seasoned educators who found benefactors to build school buildings capable of holding one to two hundred students. According to a letter dated Troy, June 24, 1821, in the Cole Family Papers, Troy Female Seminary opened in two adjoining houses, but by 1850, Troy benefactors had built a large classical edifice. Diantha Gray Sackett taught what she called the Wadawannuck Female Seminary in a house in Stonington, Massachussetts. She moved in 1854 to LeRoy, New York, where she opened Ingham Collegiate Institute, and later had a role in founding Almira College.1

Teachers like Emma Willard and Catharine Beecher pleaded for endowed female seminaries, corresponding to men's colleges. In Willard's 1819 Plan for Female Education, she argued that female higher education was too dependent on the whims of fashion and student fancies. An endowment would provide a measure of intellectual independence to women's seminaries. This independence would allow for higher academic standards, encourage teachers to strive for excellence, and provide for institutional continuity. The New York legislature never endowed Willard's seminary, but she had framed the arguments that inspired ever larger female seminaries.2

Catharine Beecher presented her own arguments for women's higher education. Her arguments emphasized woman's unique duties and responsiblities--women's duties as mother, her special talents with the very young, women's moralizing influence on society, and women's role as missionaries to other women. She emphasized all these "special" female attributes as she argued for endowments for women's educational institutions.3

In the cultural environment of the day, these arguments were compelling. Benjamin Godfrey single-handedly endowed Monticello Seminary near St. Louis, in western Illinois. Godfrey was impressed with a mother's influence on a child's early development and he built a seminary to educate the daughters of farmers and shopkeepers. His intent was to provide an education for students who would otherwise have almost no opportunity for an education.4 In other cases, such as Putnam Female Seminary in Zanesville, Ohio, benefactors endowed what they intended as an institution of high quality. The grandmother of one of Catharine Beecher's students endowed Putnam to replicate Beecher's system of education in Ohio.5

Mary Lyon, on the other hand, envisioned an affordable female seminary that worked like a clock. Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary required every student to contribute to the labors of the kitchen, laundry, and housekeeping. (These tasks had otherwise fallen to servants or poor students who worked to pay for their board). Lyons tried to find wealthy philanthropists to fund her idea, but failing this, she raised the necessary funds from thousands of devout women in rural New England. These women believed in the value of labor, hard study and religious purpose. Lyon systematized female education at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary--bells rang to signal the change of classes, work hours, meals, study, and chapel. It's success won high praise for the Mt. Holyoke system and several "daughter" colleges were opened, mostly in Ohio.6

Selected Letters About Educational Institutions in the North

Letters from Troy Female Seminary
Letter from Troy Female Seminary, June 24, 1821
Cole Family Papers

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"Our number is 52 boarders. . .the school is so much crowded now it is rather unpleasant."


"The Sem has been very much improved. . .the building has been made higher and longer. . ."
>

Letters from Troy Female Seminary
Letter from Troy Female Seminary, Oct. 4, 1833
Cole Family Papers
Letters to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary student
Letter to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary student,
March 2, 1853, pg. 1
Talcott Family Papers

<
"other great educational enterprises have been. . .freighted with exclusively golden passengers. . .then floundered - swamped - and sunk to rise no more, - this independent, self-sustaining ship "Holyoke," has moved majestically and triumphantly onward"


"And you were not appalled by a practical introduction to the Domestic Department! That ungenteel, unmentionable place of servitude!"
>

Letters to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary student
Letter to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary student,
March 2, 1853, pg. 3
Talcott Family Papers
Letters from Wadawannuck Female Seminary, June 28, 1854
Letter from Wadawannuck Female Seminary, undated, pg. 1
Kendall-Brown Family Papers

<
"The drawing classes meet down in the basement. Mrs. Sackett stays and sits in No. 9 and the piano is moved in to her old sitting room."


"The chief building. . .consist of forty [student] rooms. . .school rooms. . .kitchen, dining room and chapel."
>

MOnticello Flyer, 1845
Monticello Female Seminary Flyer, 1845
Norton Strange Townsend Papers
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Educational Institutions in the South

Julia Bolton Autographbook

Julia Bolton Student Notebook, 1852-1855

Southern society included wealthy planters distributed widely across primarily rural landscapes. Female seminaries in the South educated these daughters. An education in a renowned and fashionable seminary conferred social capital as well as intellectual and artistic satisfaction. Southern female seminaries were among the most advanced in the country, offering four-year college-level curriculums before the Civil War. In part, this reflected the fact that planters could afford to send their daughters for a four-year degree and that slavery enabled mothers to do without their daughter's labor. Typically, students also incurred considerable expense in buying fashionable clothing and jewelry, and slaves sometimes accompanied them to the boarding school.

Teaching was not a popular profession for southern belles; as a result, there were more opportunities to teach in the South than teachers to fill them. Many northern teachers went South to find work, and Emma Willard sent many graduates South to teach.7



Selected Letters About Southern Educational Institutions

Julia Bolton, Autograph Book
Julia Bolton Student Notebook, 1852-1855

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"Your friend Mary F. Chirino, Texas"



"Your friend Lizzie, Harris Cty, Georgia"
>

Julia Bolton, Autograph Book
Julia Bolton Student Notebook, 1852-1855
Letter from Greensboro College
Letter to Betty Crowder, Sept. 23rd, pg. 2
American Education Collection,
Betty Crowder

<
"We are in such a huge building that the soles of my feet ache before I get half over it."


"An Address Delivered on the Second Anniversary of Van Doren's Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, in the City of Lexington, Kentucky, July, 1833, by Charles S. Morehead"
>

Essays for Van Doren's Collegiate Institute
Van Doren's Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, July 1833
Published pamphlet
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Coeducational Institutions

Clermont Broadside

Clermont Academy Broadside, 1836
Wilson Family Papers

Before the 1850s, coeducation was controversial in the North and never adopted in the South. Oberlin College was the first coeducational college in the United States, opening in 1833. Before becoming a college, Oberlin was a typical, coeducational seminary and like most rural academies admitted women to female departments within the academy. Oberlin made a radical step when it transformed itself into a college and its trustees voted to admit women to the college courses for college degrees. Oberlin trustees believed that education encouraged salvation and prepared a student to become a missionary or teacher. Since they believed this, Oberlin officials felt they could not deny women what amounted to a chance at eternal salvation. Oberlin women rose to the challenge, becoming devout and dedicated students, community members, and evangelicals.8

Oberlin's "experiment" shocked men's colleges, but set a pattern for other co-educational seminaries. Methodists and other minor denominations with strong roots in rural areas took an entirely different view of coeducation. First, rural academies across the North were traditionally coeducational. In addition, rural-based denominations had relatively few wealthy members, they had to raise funds to build colleges from among the farmers and shopkeepers who belonged to their churches. To appeal to these donors--most of whom did not aspire to be lawyers or ministers--they argued that their colleges would do more than train ministers or social elites.

These coeducational seminaries were to teach all students a practical education in sciences, writing, mathematics, and business. They also argued that they would offer women equal educational opportunities--preparing rural women to teach. Methodists and Baptists had opened a few men's colleges in the 1830s, but by the 1850s, Methodists in particular, had opened dozens of coeducational colleges; by the 1870s, they also opened their previously all-male colleges to women.9

Selected Letters About Coeducational Institutions

Clermont Broadside
Clermont Broadside
Wilson Family Papers

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"For the Female Department trustees have engaged Miss Mary Wackerhagen, as Preceptress. . .highly competent to teach in any of the ordinary branches of female education.


Ma wants to be with brother and I while we remain at School.
>

Letter from Genesee Seminary student
Letter from Genesee Seminary, dated Thurs. AM
Harriet J. Kendall Papers
Letter from Ohio Wesleyan
Letter from Ohio Wesleyan University, Nov. 8, 1885, pg. 4
Reed-Blackmer Family Papers

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"a lot of the fellows came up & horned us & pretty near scared the life out of some of us new girls. And lots of the fellows walked up to the sem with the girls & there was a regular picnic all around because all of the faculty were up to the chapel."


"We have to eat at tables with all the boys"
>

Letter from Canandaigua
Letter from Canandaigua Seminary, Nov. 21, 1852, pg. 3
Reed-Blackmer Family Papers
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Reading Between the Lines

Find evidence of students shaping institutions and institutions shaping students. Play devil's advocate and list reasons that one was more important than the other.

What role did all-female seminaries play in shaping/advancing women's higher education? What role did coeducational institutions play?

Is there any evidence in these letters that coeducational institutions had more difficulties managing students than female seminaries?

What resources were required to establish a school versus an incorporated seminary? List those resources that were available to white women, cash-poor women, African-American women, etc.? Imagine the horizon of possibilities for various groups of women.

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Related Primary Source Materials at the Clements Library
Dana, Daniel Hints on reading. . .Ipswich female seminary 1834
Emerson, Joseph Female education. . .Saugus seminary hall 1822
Sage, Mrs. Russell Emma Willard and her pupils 1898
Garnett, James Mercer Lectures on female education. . .Mrs. Garnett's [Virginia] 1825
Garnett, James Mercer Lectures on various topicks. . .Mrs. Garnett's [Virginia] 1827
Garnett, James Mercer Seven lectures on female education. . .Mrs. Garnett's [Virginia] 1824
[Harris] Harris' Pittsburgh business directory 1837
Newark [N.J.] Academy Young ladies' department 1814
Rankin, Edward Design of woman's education. . .Raymond Institute [Carmel, N.Y.] 1859
-------- Record of the first reunion of the graduates of St. Mary's Hall 1875
Russell, William Education of females. . .Abbot female academy, Andover, Mass. 1843
Bradford Academy Semi-centennial catalogue of the officers and students of Bradford Academy, [Cambridge, Mass.] 1853
Stanton, Robert Livingston Female heroism . . .Oxford female college [Ohio] 1857
Van Rensselaer, Cortlant Female education. . .Blairsville female seminary [Penn.] 1841
Willard, Emma Address to the public, particularly to the members of the Legislature of New-York, proposing a plan for improving female education 1819
Alabama Female Institute Catalogue of the Alabama Female Institute [Tuscaloosa] 1836 & 1837
Chandler, Daniel Address on female education. . .University of Georgia 1835
Oakland Female Institute Circular and catalogue of the Oakland Female Institute, [Norristown, Penn.] 1849
Emerson, Joseph Prospectus of the female seminary at Wethersfield, Ct. 1826
Fory, M.R. Address. . .Mrs. DuPre's Female Seminary [Charleston, S.C.] 1847
Harris, Samuel Complete academic education of females. . . Young Ladies' Institute, [Pittsfield, Mass.] 1853
Hawes, Joel Looking glass for ladies. . .Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary [Hadley, Mass.] 1845
Irving, John Treat Address. . .New-York high-school for females 1826
LeConte. Address. . .Laurensville Female College [Laurensville, S.C.] 1860
Ludlow, John Address. . .Female Academy in Albany 1834
McCabe, John Collins Address. . .Hampton Academy [Richmond, Virg.] 1853
Magill, Edward Hicks Address upon the co-education of the sexes 1873
Pierce, Henry Miller Address. . .Rutgers Female College [N.Y.C.] 1868
Patapsco Female Institute Seventeenth annual report of the Patapsco Female Institute [Ellicott City, Md.] 1858
Tefft, Benjamin Franklin Inaugural address. . .Genesee College [Lima, N.Y.] 1851
-------- Select day and boarding school for young ladies [Baltimore, Maryland] 1840
Rutgers Female Institute Rutgers Female Institute [N.Y.C.] Annual circular
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Secondary Sources for Student Life

1Kerns, Kathryn. "Antebellum Higher Education for Women in Western New York State." Ph.D. diss., University Pennsylvannia, 1993. Kerns describes Ingham Collegiate Institute.

2Emma Willard, An address to the public; particularly to the members of the Legislature of New-York, proposing a plan for improving female education. Middlebury [Vt.] J.W. Copeland. 1819.

3Catharine Beecher. An Essay on the Education of Female Teachers: written at the request of the American Lyceum and communicated at their annual meeting, New York, May 8th, 1835. New York: Van Nostrand and Dwight, 1835.

4Young, Homer Floyd. "Origin and Early History of Monticello Female Seminary, 1834-1865." Ph.D. diss., Washington University, 1951.

5"School Diary." Putnam Female Seminary. McIntire Library, Zanesville, Ohio.

6Sklar, Kathryn Kish. "The Founding of Mount Holyoke College," in Women of America: A History, ed. Carol Ruth Berkin and Mary Beth Norton. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979.

7For excellent background on Southern education, see Christine Farnham. The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South. New York: New York University Press, 1994.
Scott, Anne Firor. "The Ever Widening Circle: The Diffusion of Feminist Values from the Troy Female Seminary, 1822-1872." History of Education Quarterly 19 (1979): 3-25.

8Fletcher, Robert S. A History of Oberlin College From Its Foundation Through the Civil War. 2 Vols. Oberlin, OH: Oberlin College, 1843.

9Malkmus, "Capable Women and Refined Ladies: Two Visions of American Women's Higher Education, 1790-1861." Ph.D. Diss., University of Iowa, 2001, 144-156.
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