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Emma Willard

Emma Willard

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Emma Hart Willard was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 women’s rights activist who dedicated her life to education. She worked in several schools and founded the first school for women’s higher education, the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York
Troy, New York
Troy is a city in the US State of New York and the seat of Rensselaer County. Troy is located on the western edge of Rensselaer County and on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy has close ties to the nearby cities of Albany and Schenectady, forming a region popularly called the Capital...

. With the success of her school, Willard was able to travel across the country and abroad, to promote education for women. The Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School
Emma Willard School
The Emma Willard School, originally called Troy Female Seminary and often referred to simply as "Emma," is an independent university-preparatory day and boarding school for young women, located in Troy, New York on Mount Ida, offering grades 9-12 and postgraduate coursework...

 in 1895 in her honor.

Early Life


Emma Hart was born on February 23, 1787, in Berlin, Connecticut
Berlin, Connecticut
Berlin is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 19,866 at the 2010 census. It was incorporated in 1785. The geographic center of Connecticut is located in the town. Berlin is residential and industrial, and served by the Amtrak station of the same name...

. She was the sixteenth of seventeen children from her father, Samuel Hart, and his second wife Lydia Hinsdale Hart. Her father was a farmer who encouraged his children to read and think for themselves. At a young age, Willard’s father recognized her passion for learning. At that time women were only provided basic education. However, Willard was included in family discussions such as politics, philosophy, world politics and mathematics that were primarily male subjects. At age 15, Willard was enrolled in her first school in 1802 in her hometown of Berlin. She progressed so quickly that just two years later she was teaching there at the age of 17. Willard eventually took charge of the academy for a term in 1806.

Career


In 1807, Willard left Berlin and briefly worked in Westfield, Massachusetts
Westfield, Massachusetts
Westfield is a city in Hampden County, in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 41,094 at the 2010 census. The ZIP Code is 01085 for homes and businesses, 01086 for Westfield State...

, before accepting a job offer at a female academy in Middlebury, Vermont. She held the position of principal at the Middlebury Female Seminary from 1807 to 1809. However, she was unimpressed by the material taught there and opened a boarding school for women in 1814 in her own home. She was inspired by the subjects her nephew, John Willard, was learning at Middlebury College
Middlebury College
Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college located in Middlebury, Vermont, USA. Founded in 1800, it is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States. Drawing 2,400 undergraduates from all 50 United States and over 70 countries, Middlebury offers 44 majors in the arts,...

 and strived to improve the curriculum that was taught at girls’ schools. Willard believed that women could master topics like mathematics and philosophy rather than just subjects taught at finishing schools. This passion for women’s education led her to fight for the first women’s school for higher education.

Her success inspired her to share her ideas on education and to write A Plan for Improving Female Education in 1819, a pamphlet that she presented to the members of the New York Legislature. Her plan included a proposal for a women’s seminary to be publicly funded just as men’s schools were. Willard did not receive a response from the legislators, who believed women’s education to be contrary to God’s will. Willard finally received support from New York Governor DeWitt Clinton
DeWitt Clinton
DeWitt Clinton was an early American politician and naturalist who served as United States Senator and the sixth Governor of New York. In this last capacity he was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal...

, who invited her to open a school there. Originally Willard opened an institution in Waterford, New York but she did not receive the promised financial support and therefore moved her school to Troy, New York
Troy, New York
Troy is a city in the US State of New York and the seat of Rensselaer County. Troy is located on the western edge of Rensselaer County and on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy has close ties to the nearby cities of Albany and Schenectady, forming a region popularly called the Capital...

 where she received more support and funding. The Troy Female Seminary opened in September of 1821, for boarding and day students. This was the first school in the United States to offer higher education for women. The curriculum consisted of the subjects she had longed to include in women’s education such as mathematics, philosophy, geography, history, and science. Willard led the school to success, and in 1831 the school had enrolled over 300 students. The school attracted students from wealthy families or families of high position. Although most of the students would still end up as housewives, Willard never hindered her students’ pursuit towards women’s education and continued to fight for their rights. Despite her reputation today in women’s history, Willard was not a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement during the mid-19th century. Willard believed that women’s education was a much more important matter.

When Emma Willard addressed the New York State Legislature in 1819 on the subject of education for women, she was contradicting the statement made just the year before by Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 (in a letter) in which he suggested women should not read novels "as a mass of trash" with few exceptions. "For like reason, too, much poetry should not be indulged." Emma Willard told the legislature that the education of women "has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty". The problem, she said, was that "the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has been made into a standard for the formation of the female character." Reason and religion teach us, she said, that "we too are primary existences...not the satelites of men."

Marriage and Family


While working at the academy in Middlebury, Vermont, Willard met her future husband John Willard. He was a physician and 28 years her senior. John Willard brought four children to the marriage from his previous marriages. His nephew, also named John Willard, lived with them while attending Middlebury College which gave Emma Willard much inspiration in forming her educational views. The couple had one son together named, John Willard Hart.

Works


Along with the profits made from the Troy Female Seminary, Willard also made a living from her writing. She wrote several textbooks throughout her lifetime including books on history and geography. Some of her works include; The Woodbridge and Willard Geographies and Atlases (1823), which she wrote with the American geographer William Channing Woodbridge
William Channing Woodbridge
William Channing Woodbridge was an American geographer, educational reformer, and the author of many geography textbooks.-Early life and family:...

;,History of the United States, or Republic of America (1828), A System of Fulfillment of a Promise (1831), A Treatise on the Motive Powers which Produce the Circulation of the Blood (1846), Guide to the Temple of Time and Universal History for Schools (1849), Last Leaves of American History (1849), Astronography; or Astronomical Geography (1854), and Morals for the Young (1857). Willard also published a book of poetry, The Fulfilment of a Promise (1831) with her most popular poem entitled “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep,” which she reportedly wrote while on an ocean voyage in 1839. In 1830, she made a tour of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and three years later published; the proceeds from the sale of the book she gave to a school for women that she helped to found in Athens, Greece.

With Woodbridge she co-authored A System of Universal Geography on the Principles of Comparison and Classification. She has been the subject of several biographies. Her Geographies are discussed by Calhoun and her histories by Baym.

Later Life


John Willard, Emma’s husband, died in 1825. She headed the Troy Female Seminary until she remarried in 1838 and left the school in the hands of her son and daughter-in-law. She married Dr. Christopher Yates and moved to Boston with him. He gave up his career, and after nine months of marriage they separated and a Decree nisi
Decree nisi
A decree nisi is a court order that does not have any force until such time that a particular condition is met, such as a subsequent petition to the court or the passage of a specified period of time....

 was granted in 1843. She spent her later years traveling across America and throughout Europe to promote women’s education. In support of her efforts she published a number of articles and presented lectures across the country to promote the cause. Her efforts helped to establish a school for women in Athens, Greece. Emma Willard died on April 15th, 1870, in Troy, New York
Troy, New York
Troy is a city in the US State of New York and the seat of Rensselaer County. Troy is located on the western edge of Rensselaer County and on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy has close ties to the nearby cities of Albany and Schenectady, forming a region popularly called the Capital...

 and was interred at Oakwood Cemetery.

The Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School
Emma Willard School
The Emma Willard School, originally called Troy Female Seminary and often referred to simply as "Emma," is an independent university-preparatory day and boarding school for young women, located in Troy, New York on Mount Ida, offering grades 9-12 and postgraduate coursework...

 in 1895 in her honor and today is still promoting her strong belief in women’s education. A statue honoring her services to the cause of higher education was erected in Troy
Troy, New York
Troy is a city in the US State of New York and the seat of Rensselaer County. Troy is located on the western edge of Rensselaer County and on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Troy has close ties to the nearby cities of Albany and Schenectady, forming a region popularly called the Capital...

 in 1895. An Emma Willard Memorial
Emma Willard Memorial
The Emma Hart Willard Memorial, is a public artwork by designed by Pierre Zwick and sculpted by T.A. Campbell who worked for the Houlihan Shop in Rutland, Vermont...

 was erected in Middlebury, Vermont in 1941. In 1905, Willard was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is the original hall of fame in the United States. "Fame" here means "renown"...

 in the Bronx, New York.

External links



Zinn, Howard. A people's History of United States 1492–present. 2003 ed.