The Library of Congress > American Memory
banner image
return to home page table of contents about the guide abbreviations search banner image

Rare Book and Special Collections Division



The Domestic Sphere
Religion and Spirituality
Reform Efforts
Women's Rights Newpapers
Susan B. Anthony Collection
NAWSA Collection
arrow graphicWomen's Education
Pamphlet Collections
Printed Ephemera
Working Women
Women in Popular Culture
Collections Formed by Women
Literary Works



Women's Education
see caption below

Emma Willard, 1895. Chauncy M. Depew. Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 130, Folder 14. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

full item

Progress in the education of girls and women can be studied in a variety of the division's collections. Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was one of the most powerful and prolific early advocates of improved educational opportunities for females of all ages. In her first published essay, “Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms,” which appeared in the October 1784 issue of the Gentleman and Lady's Town and Country Magazine (Boston, 1784; AP2.A2 G3) , Murray, writing as “Constantia,” argues for better education for girls in order to encourage their achievement and self-respect. In addition to poetry, drama, and extensive correspondence, Murray wrote eloquent essays, as “Constantia” and “The Gleaner,” for the Massachusetts Magazine advocating women's equality at home and in employment and religious independence as manifest in Universalism.

On the threshold of a lifetime of self-education, Murray at sixteen had declared The Oeconomy of Human Life to be the best book ever written. Murray's interest in this popular work on conduct apparently was shared by First Lady Martha Washington, whose inscribed 1790 Philadelphia edition (BJ1561.D6 1790 Carson) was collected by Marian S. Carson along with two other earlier editions. Carson further showed her interests in women and education by acquiring several textbooks written for young ladies, reports of girls schools, and advice books and guides to conduct.

Of special note are Milcah Martha Moore's Miscellanies, Moral and Instructive (Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1793; PE1120.M55 1793 Carson) , which was reprinted at least fifteen times during the author's lifetime, and an extremely rare copy of a history of the first Philadelphia charter school for girls, The Rise and Progress of the Young Ladies' Academy of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Stewart & Cochran, 1794; LC1421.R57 1794 Carson) . This school history complements two related essays on education. In Thoughts on Education (Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1787; LB41 .S93 Franklin) , John Swanwick, a “Visitor” of the Academy, proposes that all useful and ornamental branches of knowledge, including languages, mathematics, science, and instrumental music, be included in the curriculum. James A. Neal's An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (Philadelphia: J. Johnson, 1795; LC1421 .N4 Am Imp) is published with an account of the 1794 commencement ceremonies of the academy. Other early works on the education of girls are classified in LC1421.

Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) proposed a plan for improving female education with state funding in An Address to the Public (Middlebury, Vt.: J. W. Copeland, 1819; LC1756.W6) . This address and other relevant lectures and proposals may be located under the subject heading “Women—Education,” as well as the older heading, “Education of women.” Willard was a leader in teacher education at her Troy, New York, school and in Europe. She also wrote textbooks on history and geography and scientific treatises on respiration.

Some understanding of the education of Native American women may be gleaned from reports of training at Eleazar Wheelock's Indian Charity School in Connecticut in A Continuation of the Narrative of the Indian Charity-School (London: J. and W. Oliver, 1769; E97.6.M569) . More than a century later, the mission work of various Catholic sisterhoods in schools, hospitals, and orphanages throughout the United States is described in Mission Work among the Negroes and the Indians (Baltimore: Foley Bros., 1893; E185 .A254 M:195 Afr Am Pam) [full item].

In a government report on education of Indians at Hampton Institute (Senate Ex. Doc. no. 31; E97.6.H3 L38 1892) , 205 girls and women are described and some are photographed doing various tasks or with their families. Then and Now at Hampton Institute, 1868-1902 (Hampton, Va: Hampton Institute Press, 1902; E449.D16 16: 11 Murray Pam) [full item] also includes photographs of female Indian students, as well as a listing of graduates and their careers.

see caption below

A cooking class in the Domestic Science Building, [ca. 1900]. From Then and Now at Hampton Institute. Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

full item

Contrasts in educational opportunities available to black girls are evident by sampling other titles in the Daniel Murray Pamphlet Collection. Catalogue of Pupils of Saint Frances' Academy for Colored Girls (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co., 1868; E449.D16 23: 21 Murray Pam) [full item] offers courses in French, embroidery in silk, tufted work, wax flower and fruit work, music, and painting, in addition to religious training, history, arithmetic, geography, and writing. More typical is the Annual Report of the Colored Industrial Training School (Spartanburg, S.C., 1892; E449.D16 18:7 Murray Pam) [full item], which lists ninety-eight girls receiving training in cooking, sewing, and general housekeeping. High praise for the success of nursing programs at Hampton and Spelman is offered by A Report Concerning the Colored Women of the South (Baltimore, 1896; E449.D16 22: 1 Murray Pam) [full item].

red line
Home Table of Contents About the Guide Abbreviations Search
The Library of Congress> > American Memory