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CHAPTER I.

EDUCATION FOR WOMAN IN THE UNITED STATES.

1636-1836.

   

MOUNT Holyoke Seminary was a pioneer in the higher education of woman. To understand the work of its founder, and to appreciate its own work, we must glance at the previous condition of education for woman in our country, and the influences which shaped the course of education in general.    

The early settlers of New England, having left the old world in search of religious freedom, made it one of their first cares to educate their children for the sake of the well-being of both church and state.    

How did they do this? At first, both in the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies instruction was given at home and by the parish ministers; but in 1635, within five years from the landing at the mouth of Charles River, provision had been made for the support of a teacher, a teacher selected, and a free school opened in Boston, then a small village of not more than twenty or thirty houses. Three years later, "dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our ministers shall lie in the dust," Harvard College was founded, with the motto, Christo et Ecstasiae. As Cotton Mather wrote years afterwards, "Our fathers saw that without a college to train an able and learned ministry, the church in New England must soon have come to nothing." Until Yale College was founded in 1700, Harvard furnished ministers and magistrates for all the New, England colonies. The century of the Revolution was one of toil and difficulty, yet it witnessed the establishment of six other colleges by New England, and the   

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rest of the Union was following her example. "Next to her political organization," says one writer," we find each state looking out for a college as if it was the light of her eyes, or the right arm of her strength." By the second year of the present century there were twenty-eight; so soon and so far had the stars in our literary firmament outnumbered those upon our national flag.  

"Lest there should be an illiterate ministry," colleges were founded. "Lest that old deluder, Satan, should keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures," all children must be taught to read. Accordingly, by a law of Massachusetts passed in 1642, selectmen were to look after the children of those parents and masters who neglected to train them up in " learning and labor," and it was declared a " barbarism " not to teach them reading and a knowledge of the laws. Twenty shillings was the penalty for failure.    
   
There were many schools in the colonies before the law requiring them in 1647. It was then ordered that every town with fifty families should provide a school where children should be taught to read and write; and that every town with one hundred families should provide a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct so far as to fit young men for college.    

Thus within thirty years from the landing at Plymouth, was laid the foundation of our entire educational system, with its three grades of schools, essentially as they now exist.    

Since the work of the grammar school was to prepare students for college, and the design of the college was to train men for the ministry, not many were found in either grade who had not that profession in view. Obviously colleges and grammar schools were not for girls. How was it with the primary grade? The law required the instruction of " all children," and the support of schools for "children." Girls were not mentioned. However it may have been at first, during most of the eighteenth century, town histories show that   

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they did not ordinarily attend the public schools. There seems to have been no controversy on the subject. Their attendance was not thought necessary. At home, or in private schools kept by dames, they were taught to read and sew. It was deemed as important for them to read the Bible as it was for boys. The reading-book, in school or out, was the New England Primer. It contained the Shorter Catechism, which all children were required to commit to memory from beginning to end. Further learning than this girls were not supposed to need. Some learned to write; but when post-offices were few - and in 1790 there were but seventy-five in the country - correspondence was limited, and women in common life had little use for the pen. While everything worn in the family must be produced by the family, the education required by most was not to be gained at school, and it may be that girls were as well fitted for the part they were expected to fill in life, as boys for theirs. Their equal familiarity with the Bible and catechism prepared women to receive with as much profit as men, the intellectual and moral training afforded by Sabbath discourses which taxed the reasoning powers of all who heard.    
   

The circumstances of the colonists gradually led to a general decline in education. For a generation or more before the revolutionary war, there is evidence that while all could read, there were people of respectability and influence throughout the country, who could not write. A large part of the wills left by men, some of whom had considerable property, and a larger part left by women, were signed with a cross. Early deeds in registrars' offices show that in many cases the wives of distinguished men were unable to write their own names.    

The period of the Revolution was not favorable to improvement in this respect; and at its close there are said to have been ladies of high standing in Boston who could not read. But a new era in the education of woman soon dawned. Previously public schools with    

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rare exceptions had been taught by "masters." In Northampton, before the war, farmers often taught English schools in the winter at from four to five dollars a month and boarded themselves at home.* After the war, young men found other occupations more lucrative, and women began to be employed in the summer schools. Girls began to attend. In many places it had been an unheard of thing for girls to be instructed by a master, and some towns were slow in allowing a change.    
   
Boston did not permit them to attend the public schools till 1790, and then only during the summer months, when there were not boys enough to fill them. This lasted till 1822, when Boston became a city.** An aged resident of Hatfield, Massachusetts, used to tell of going to the school-house when she was a girl, and sitting on the doorstep to hear the boys recite their lessons. No girl could cross the threshold as a scholar. The girls of Northampton, Massachusetts, were not admitted to the public schools till 1792. In the Centennial Hampshire Gazette it was stated: "In 1788 the question was before the town and it was voted 'not to be at any expense for schooling girls.' The advocates of the measure were persistent, however, and appealed to the courts; the town was indicted and fined for this neglect. In 1792 it was voted by a large majority to admit girls between the ages of eight and fifteen to the schools from May 1 to October 31." They sometimes went to other towns to obtain the advantages of public schooling.    
   

As late as 1828, a certain Otis Storrs was asked to take the town school in Bristol, Rhode Island, and allow girls to share his instructions. "Before this," the record adds, "girls did not go to the public schools."*** The newer towns were apt to be in advance    


* 11 History of Hadley," p. 426, note.   

** Quincy's Municipal History of Boston," p. 21.   

*** History of Public Education in Rhode island," Col. T. W. Higginson, p. 291.  


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of the older ones, and if unable to support additional schools for girls, often allowed them. to attend with boys.    

In 1789, Massachusetts passed a law indicating advance in several directions. Towns were authorized to establish school districts. Arithmetic, orthography, and the English language were to be taught in the common schools in addition to reading and writing. "Children in the most early stages of life" were to be admitted. One - public school in a, town, which was all that some towns had, would no longer suffice. In the need of more teachers, women were employed in schools where, besides morals, the requirements were only reading, "and writing if contracted for." Previously the law had recognized only masters as teachers. Hence only masters could collect wages. When women taught, their payment had been a voluntary matter. In the phrase " master or mistress," in the new law, is found the first legal recognition of woman as a teacher. It was not much money that she could collect. Twenty years later we read of teachers that received " one dollar a week and the privilege of working f or board and earning another dollar." In Buckland, Massachusetts, 1799, with the wages of twenty-four weeks at fifty cents a week, a teacher bought for her wedding dress six yards of silk at two dollars a yard. In 1814, Mary Lyon began her career with seventy-five cents per week and board, and "boarded round," - more briefly, " seventy-five cents a week and walked for board." This was twenty-five cents a week less than she had been receiving as her brother's housekeeper. In Connecticut this was a common price as late as 1830, according to the testimony of those who received it. It should be remembered, however, that in those summer schools only reading, writing, and morals were required to be taught. Much attention was given to 49 good manners." Many boys and all the girls brought work - straw-braiding, sewing, and knitting. Some had their "stints" for each half-day. Mothers and grand-  

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mothers are still living who show us samplers, laces, and other ornamental work done in school.    
   
For years the summer schools in some parts of Massachusetts were supported by tuition fees, and not by tax upon the district; the principle of free schools for all, boys and girls, rich and poor, in its full application was but slowly adopted.    

But the progress begun before the passage of the last named law, has never ceased. The number of studies was increased. At the opening of the present century we find geography introduced, and other reading-books taking the place of the New England Primer. In arithmetic each pupil took pride in ornamenting his manuscript book of rules and work with various styles of writing. Every one worked his own way and at his own rate, without recitation or examination. At first arithmetic and geography were taught only in the winter, for a knowledge of numbers, or ability to cast accounts, was deemed quite superfluous for girls. When Colburn's Mental Arithmetic was introduced, some of our mothers who desired to study it were told derisively, " If you expect to become widows and have to carry pork to market, it may be well enough to study mental arithmetic." But our mothers persevered and were not far behind their brothers in reaching the mathematical goal of the times-the Rule of Three. In spelling they were not at all behind; boys were quite as apt as girls to be " spelled down."    
   
A growing interest in schooling for girls was manifest in another connection. In the decline of education in the eighteenth century, the lack of teachers for the grammar schools, and the desire for a higher order of instruction than common schools afforded in places where grammar schools were not required by law, led to the establishment of academies. They were for the benefit of all, but were not dependent like the grammar and common school upon local support and patronage. The first one was founded at South Byfield, Massachusetts, by bequest of William Dummer, who died in 1761.    

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Leicester Academy was incorporated in 1784; the one at Westford in 1793. These and others founded late in the century admitted girls, and thus, in addition to the greater advantages directly afforded, contributed their influence toward opening wider to them the doors of the common schools. Bradford Academy, when opened, in 1803, received both sexes. A separate department for girls was established in 1828. Eight years later the boys' department was closed and girls only have attended since. The first academy for girls only in New England was the Adams Academy, Derry, New Hampshire, incorporated June, 1823; the first in Massachusetts was Ipswich Academy, incorporated February, 1828. Abbot Academy, in Andover, was chartered in 1829.    
   
Though these facts indicate the course of education in general, and the relative importance -or unimportance- attached to that of girls, there never was a time when the superior culture of the first colonists was not possessed by some of their descendants. Here and there were communities which constantly felt their, influence, and these communities increased in number with the revival of interest in general education. There was no period when women of education and culture were not found in homes of superior intelligence and refinement.    

The first school in New England, designed exclusively for the instruction of girls in branches not taught in the -common schools, is said to have been an evening school conducted by William Woodbridge, who was a graduate of Yale in 1780. His theme on graduation was " Improvement in Female Education." Reducing his theory to practice, in addition to his daily occupation, lie gave his evenings to the instruction of girls in Lowth's Grammar, Guthrie's Geography, and the art of composition. The popular sentiment deemed him visionary. Who, it was said, shall cook our food, or mend our clothes, if girls are to be taught philosophy and astronomy?    

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In Waterford, New York, in 1820, occurred the public examination of a young lady in geometry. It was the first instance of the kind in the state, and perhaps in the country, and called forth a storm of ridicule. Her teacher was Mrs. Emma Willard. Before her marriage in 1809, Mrs. Willard had been connected with a socalled female academy in Burlington Vermont, and afterward in the same place, with a girls' boarding school, in which the higher branches were taught. "A Plan for Improving Woman's Education," from her pen, met the eye of Governor Clinton of New York, who persuaded her to remove to that state, and secured the passage of "An act to incorporate the proposed Institute at Waterford," and another, "To give female academies a share of the literary fund." This is believed to be the first law passed by any legislature, expressly for improvement in the education of woman. Instead of an institute at Waterford, the seminary at Troy was opened, over which Mrs. Willard presided from 1821 to 1838.    
   
The year before Mrs. Willard left Troy, Miss Catharine Fiske, another worthy teacher, died in Keene, New Hampshire, where for twenty-three years young ladies from every state in the Union, more than twenty-five hundred in all, had received her instructions in Watts on the Mind, botany, chemistry, astronomy, and other studies.    
   
It is said that every state in the Union sent representatives also to Miss Catharine Beecher's seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. This began in the chamber of a store, in 1822, with seven girls, none under twelve years of age, but soon numbered from one hundred to one hundred and sixty, and continued for ten years. Other teachers aided her, allowing a part of her time to be given to the invention of a system of calisthenics, and to the preparation of text-books for her pupils in arithmetic, mental and moral philosophy, and theology. Among other branches taught were the art of composition, history, Latin, and something of the art of teaching.    

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While these educators were doing a work in their respective states, the germs of a more permanent work were forming in Massachusetts. From 1818 to 1824, Rev. Joseph Emerson had been molding the intellectual and moral character of young women in his seminary at Byfield and Saugus. He had in all about one thousand pupils, and among them were teachers from different parts of New England, for the Normal School at Lexington, Massachusetts, the first one established in the United States, was not opened till July, 1839. One of these teachers was Miss Grant, who became the principal of Adams Academy, Derry, New Hampshire, and afterward of the seminary in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The connection of Mary Lyon with Mr. Emerson and Miss Grant will bring the work of each into fuller notice hereafter.    
   
Many other young ladies' schools of reputation might be named, which flourished for a time but through lack of a financial basis inevitably declined on the death or departure of their founders. Without endowment their charges were necessarily high, and the expenses of girls at school were often double those of young men in college. According to Rev. Mark Hopkins, D. D., in an address in 1840, "in some cases the expense of sustaining a young lady in school for a year was more than double what was required to give a young man the advantages of a college course."    
   
A course specially designed for ladies was provided at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute at its beginning in December 1833. Mrs. Dascomb and Mrs. Henry Cowles, the first and second principals of that department, were pupils of Mr. Emerson and Miss Grant.    
   
From the first, the importance to our country of having a class of well educated men had been so clearly seen, that state munificence and private liberality promptly endowed colleges and seminaries, securing the two results, permanence to the institution and moderate expenses to the student. But it was not thought  

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important that there should be many well educated  women, and accordingly girls were neither furnished  by the state with facilities for separate study, nor even  thought of in connection with colleges. Indeed during  the first quarter of the present century, the common  elements of education were generally considered sufficient for young women. The first symptom of progress had not been encouraging. It was an exaggerated estimate of  the value of mere learning. Ornamental branches and so-called accomplishments " finished " the education of the comparatively few whose means allowed. " I spent a thousand dOllars," said a father, " to  educate my daughter. I would give another thousand to undo it all. She has been made vain, frivolous, and discontented with the plain, simple habits of home."  It is not strange the mistaken impression prevailed that  learning, instead of fitting young women for their  appropriate duties, had a tendency to make them less  domestic, less healthy, and less useful. But influences  were already at work to bring about a change. Girls  were as f reely and as well taught as boys in the common  schools, and in academies where they existed. Woman, legally recognized as teacher, had been constantly gaining in opportunity and ability. Of the teachers in the common schools of Massachusetts for 1837, the ratio of women to men was as five to three. The demand for schools and teachers was steadily increasing, not only  in New England but in western states. Every successful school added to the previous demand. There were a few in our rapidly growing country whose eyes were open to the need. They saw the hope of the nation in the training of the young, and this training passing more and more into the hands of woman. To the ever constant moral molding by the mother was being added the mental training by both mother and teacher. And the Pope of Rome was looking on, not idly; Europe was sending millions of money across the sea to support schools for girls who were Catholics, or to become Catholics. In the summer of 1836, New York City   

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received one hundred thousand dollars, for this object. There were then in the United States one hundred Catholic schools for girls. Rome knew that "the hand which rocks the cradle rules the world," and sought the control of that hand in America. A few Protestant observers, equally wise, sought to place that hand under the control of Christian intelligence. They desired permanent f acilities for the liberal education of young women to be trained "for Christ and the church," and for this they toiled and prayed.    
   
To realize the need was much. To supply that need was more. There was prejudice to be removed, indifference to be overcome, philanthropy to be roused, benevolence to be called into action. A leader was needed of a clear and well balanced mind, strong, inventive, earnest, and enthusiastic; of a spirit undaunted by oppositi on and prejudice, by obstacles known and unknown, by failures apparent or real; with a faith that could remove mountains of difficulty and trust in the dark; with a benevolent heart, moved by pure impulses, warm and large enough to make friends of opposers; and with a body equal to the demands of such a mind and heart.    
   
When the time had come for such a work, such a leader appeared and the difficult work began.    
   
In 1636, "The General Court of Massachusetts agreed to give one hundred pounds towards a college." Two hundred years passed, and there were in the United States one hundred and twenty colleges for young men, when in 1836, the legislature of Massachusetts granted a charter to Mount Holyoke Seminary, for young women. 

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