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549 & 651 BROADWAY.

ENTESED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1ST3,

In Hie Office of tho Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


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CHAPTER I. The Youth of Emma Willard, and First Experience

as a Teacher, A. D. 1787-1808, ... 16
II. Marriage of Mrs. Willard, and Private Life at Mid-

dlebury, A. D. 1809-1814, .... 29

III. The School at Middlebury, A. D. 1814-1819, . 36

TV. Plan of Education, 61

V. The School in Waterford, A. D. 1819-1821, . . 85
VI. The Troy Seminary, to the Death of Dr. Willard,

A. D. 1821-1825, 95

VH. Troy Seminary from 1825 to 1830, . . . 103

Vin. Visit to Europe, 1830, 122

IX. Troy Seminary from 1830 to 1838, ... 135

X. Efforts in behalf of Greece, 160

XI. Marriage with Dr. Yates, 180

XII. Various Educational Labors from A. D. 1840 to

1854, 203

XIIL Second Visit to Europe, and Various Literary La-
bora, 1854 to 1860, 237

XIV. From 1860 to the Death of Mrs. Willard, 1870, . 252

XV. Writings of Mrs. Willard, 313


IN writing the life of a remarkable woman, I have
chiefly aimed to present the services by which she would
claim to be judged. Although these were various, it was
those she rendered to the great cause of female education
which made her life memorable. It was in the seminary
which she founded in Troy that her greatest labors were
performed, and most highly valued. It was thought that
her numerous pupils, as well as intimate friends, would
be interested in a more extended notice of her than has
hitherto appeared. The work is almost entirely based
on the letters she received and wrote, and about ten thou-
sand of these have been examined, and selections have
been made from such as bore directly on the leading
events of her life, as well as on her character. To all
who seek to be useful, her example is an encouragement
and a stimulus. I have sought to show how much good a


noble-minded, amiable, and energetic woman can accom-
plish, directly, for the elevation of her sex, and, indirectly,
for the benefit of her country and mankind ; and also what
moral beauty shines forth from a benevolent career.

J. L.

STAMFORD, CONN., October, 1872.




THE useful career of EMMA WILLAKD, as one of the most
successful teachers this country has known, requires, it is
thought, a more extended notice than has hitherto ap-
peared. She may be regarded as the pioneer of female
education in a land which has attached peculiar dignity to
the development of a woman's mind. She was one of the
first to grapple with the vast problem, which is yet un-
solved, How shall woman emerge from the drudgery or
frivolity of ordinary life, and assume the position which
her genius and character, by nature, claim ; and which is
not merely her privilege, but her right ? The gradual ele-
vation of the female sex, since the introduction of Christi-
anity, is the most marked feature of Christian civilization.
The contrast between a well-educated modern woman, and
the woman of pagan antiquity, is greater and more striking
than is presented by any features of ancient and modern life,
both in a moral and intellectual point of view. The dig-
nity of the female character was never understood by the


wisest of ancient sages, and was only imperfectly appre-
ciated until these modern times, even with all the light shed
by Christianity on the duties which men owe to women,
and the glorious consciousness which all elevated women
must have felt, in all ages, of their unrecognized equality
with man in those qualities of mind and heart which extort
respect and admiration.

We need not dwell on the insignificance and degrada-
tion of the female sex, even in Greece and Rome, to say noth-
ing of less-civilized states, and of all pagan countries from
the earliest times. The picture is sad and revolting. There
were, indeed, remarkable women, like Sappho, Volumnia,
Lucretia, and Cornelia, who created universal respect for
their virtues and talents; and others, like Thais, Najra,
Phryne, and Aspasia, who scandalized while they adorned
the wicked centres of ancient civilization. But the general
condition of the sex was melancholy. The marriage rela-
tion was neither tender nor endearing. There were few of
the peculiar sanctities of home. Women were given in
marriage without their consent ; they were valued only as
domestic servants, or as animals to prevent the extinction
of families ; so that they were timorous or frivolous, when
they were not vicious, and resorted to all sorts of arts
and blandishments to deceive their fathers and husbands.
Their amusements were trifling, and their aspirations were
scorned. They were miserably educated ; they were re-
duced to abject dependence ; and they were excluded from
intercourse with strangers, and rarely permitted to issue
from their seclusion except to be spectators of a festal pro-
cession, or guarded by female slaves. Their happiness was
in tawdry ornaments, or a retinue of servants, or demoraliz-
ing banquets. They lived amid incessant broils, and lost
all fascination when age had robbed them of their physical
beauty. Nothing can be more severe than Juvenal, and
other satirists, respecting the character and pursuits of


women victims, toys, or slaves of men ; revenging them-
selves on imperious and selfish lords by squandering their
wealth, stealing their secrets, betraying their interests, and
disgracing their homes.

It must be confessed that the condition of woman was
higher among the Jews. They were the only people of an-
tiquity that gave dignity to the sex. And yet, even among
them, woman was the coy maiden, or the vigilant house-
keeper, or the hospitable matron, or the ambitious mother,
or the politic wife, or the obedient daughter, or the patri-
otic prophetess, rather than the cultivated and attractive
woman of society. Though we admire the beautiful Ra-
chel, and the heroic Deborah, and the virtuous Abigail,
and the affectionate Ruth, and the fortunate Esther, and
the brave Judith, and the generous Shunamite, we do not
find the sympathetic friend, the Marys, the Marthas, and
the Phcebes, until Christianity had developed the virtues
of the heart, and kindled the loftier sentiments of the soul.

No great benefactor ever did so much for woman, in
ancient times, as Moses, whose comprehensive jurispru-
dence tended to elevate the sex. He was the first who en-
joined delicacy and kindness in the treatment of woman,
and enforced justice as the law of all social relations. In
the blessed harmonies of home, and in the awful sacredness
of the person, we see the permanence of his influence and
the benignity of his institutions.

Christianity did still more for woman. There are no
grander examples of magnanimity and moral heroism than
those presented in the annals of the early martyrs. There
were no such women in pagan Rome as those ladies who
were the friends of St. Jerome the Fabiolas, the Paulas,
the Blessillas, of the early Church ; no such women as Mo-
nica, or Nonna, or Helena, who superintended the instruction
of their immortal sons. The annals of the Church are full
of the virtues and piety of those women who converted


their barbaric husbands to the faith like Clotilda, and
Bertha, and Ethelburga, and Theodolinda. Among our
Gothic ancestors there was a peculiar veneration for wom-
en, produced by the simplicities of life and the absence of
degrading temptations. So that, in the middle ages, wom-
an appears in a more beautiful aspect than at any preced-
ing period of the world's history. She was radiant with
all the graces of chivalry, and exercised on man a com-
manding and purifying influence. She was ever the object
of respectful attention, and even of chivalric allegiance.
And she was worthy of the influence she exerted, since it
was ever directed in channels of beneficence and charity
and mercy. Is a town to be spared for a revolt, or a griev-
ous tax to be remitted, it is a Godiva who intercedes and
prevails. Is a despotic priest to be exposed, it is an Ethel-
giva who confronts a Dunstan. Are the lives of prisoners
to be spared, it is Philippa who controls an Edward. It is
Bertha, the slighted wife of Henry, who crosses with him
the Alps, in the dead of winter, to enable Kim to support
the anathemas of Hildebrand ; and it is, again, a Matilda
who pours all her treasures at the feet of the Holy Father.
Woman is brave, heroic, self-sustained. The Countess of
March defends Dunbar against Montague and an English
army. The Countess of Montfort shuts herself up in a for-
tress and defies the whole power of Charles of Blois. Jane
Hatchet repulses in person a large body of Burgundians ;
Bona Lombardi liberates her husband from captivity ; Joan
of Arc secures the throne of France to a dispirited king.
And these women of the middle ages are compassionate as
they are brave, as gentle as they are masculine. They are
loyal in all their relations, and they extort esteem by their
devotion to husbands and children ; and hence they were
made regents of kingdoms, and heirs of crowns, and joint-
managers of princely estates. Never was there an age
when woman was so virtuous. Even princes could seldom


boast of successful gallantries. The rough warriors of
chivalric ages revered their wives, and daughters, and sis-
ters, and mothers, because their characters were unstained.
And, as for a religious life, the convents were full of wom-
en who extorted an admiration bordering on idolatry ; so
that the chivalrous veneration of the earth culminated in
the reverence which belongs to the Queen of Heaven ; and
hence woman, in chivalric ages, stands out as queen of a
tournament, mistress of a baronial hall, the wedded equal
of a feudal lord, the venerated abbess of a privileged con-
vent, cementing all the bonds of social and civilized life.
She assumed the importance among kings and barons
which she had acquired in the celestial hierarchy, and
by her good sense, amiability, and immaculate virtue,
immeasurably enlarged her sphere of usefulness and

While we glory in her elevation the reward of do-
mestic virtues we do not see any corresponding advance
in the cultivation of the mind. We read of learned and
accomplished women, like Heloise, but we do not see that
there was any general system of education such as marks
our modern times. It is probable that the convent afforded
a superficial acquaintance with the lives of the saints, and
the rudiments of knowledge ; but it is very improbable
that there was a systematic course of instruction such as
was given to young men in the universities. It was re-
served to our time to make experiments in female educa-
tion, and train women to an equality with men in all de-
partments of knowledge.

And yet, it is only about one hundred years ago that
women began to loom up as authors, and make a mark in
the literary world. There was now and then a prodigy
who wrote a play or a poem, but famous women of culture
were only known for their letters, for which they have
been distinguished from the time of Heloise. And France


furnished the greater number, of whom Madame de Sevigne"
was the most distinguished.

Our age has seen a great advance over the period of
Louis XIV. in the genius and power of women as authors.
Women have produced works of imagination and reason ;
they have delineated the manners and customs of nations ;
they have revealed the deeper sentiments and mysteries of
the soul ; they have treated difficult subjects of art, his-
tory, and science ; they have even grappled with the theo-
ries of astronomy and the problems of political economy ;
and, if they have been surpassed by some of the giants of
former ages, they have shown a capacity to cope with men
in any effort purely intellectual, which does not demand
superior physical power, and in departments which must
needs be professional, as society is constituted. Witness
the illustrious array of authors, from Madame de Stael to
Mrs. Lewes in Germany, in France, in England, and even
in America.

But it is not the wonderful stride which women have
made in the world of letters which is most impressive. It
is the general advance of the sex in ordinary education.
Women are now versed in all attractive accomplishments ;
they compose the most appreciating part of cultivated au-
diences ; they put to the blush their brothers and husbands
when they travel abroad ; and they are the best teachers
we find in the schools, for their own sex. So that woman
has become the queen of society, as well as the mistress of
her house and the educator of her children.

Now, the great ascent which woman has made of late
in the social scale so that few deny her intellectual equal-
ity with man, while all are stimulated by her superior cul-
tivation may be traced to the systems of education which
are justly the glory of this age. At last woman is edu-
cated as well as or better than her husband or her brother ;
and this is an immense stride in civilization. Those who


have contributed to this advance are benefactors of the

Of those benefactors, one of the most illustrious is the
woman whose career it is my object to describe ; and I
venture these general and introductory remarks in order
that her beneficent career may appear to the best advan-
tage. Female education, if it still be a problem, is yet one
of the grandest features of this age. Whoever has ren-
dered services in this department is immortal. I shall
show that no man and no woman in this department has
been more successful and more distinguished than Mrs.
Willard, and hence that she deserves the gratitude, not
merely of this country, but of mankind, for her educational
labors. It is for services in a great cause, and not for ge-
nius directed to objects outside her sphere, that she was



BIOGRAPHERS are expected to speak of the early days
of remarkable persons, since it has generally proved that
" the boy is father of the man." Most of those illustrious
characters who have adorned and instructed the world
were early distinguished. The subject of this sketch, at
an early age, had her attention called to that career which
has given her honor and fame.

She was born in a New-England town, which was not
as dull one hundred years ago as it is now, where agricul-
ture was the chief occupation of the people, and where
they lived and died among their early friends. Berlin,
near Hartford and Middletown, Connecticut, was then a
prosperous farming community, where there were few dis-
tinctions of rank, before wealth was the recognized claim
to American aristocracy, and before manufacturers arose to
the dignity of the patrons of civilization.

The father of Mrs. Willard was one of the stanch men
of the day, an influential farmer, who represented the town
in the General Court, honest, hospitable, kind-hearted, with
strong desires for intellectual culture, inquiring, and very
liberal perhaps too liberal for his interests. In these times
he would probably belong to " the more advanced " school
of thinkers, especially those who have a fondness for scien-


tific investigation. Samuel Hart, or Captain Hart for
everybody had a title among our Puritan ancestors was
designed for a liberal profession, and was partially fitted
for college when his father died. He was a descendant of
Thomas Hooker, one of the founders of Connecticut, who
was a cousin of the more celebrated Richard Hooker, author
of " Ecclesiastical Polity." He was a brave and enterpris-
ing young man, and assumed the burden of supporting his
mother and sisters. Though engrossed with business, he
found time to read Locke, Berkeley, and Milton, in those
consecrated evenings which were the most beautiful feature
of old New-England life. Our grandfathers and grand-
mothers always had time and inclination for solid reading.
Familiar with principles, they had deep convictions. In
those days the subjects of discussion and interest were poli-
tics, theology, and the great characters of history. Meta-
physical divinity, however, was the favorite solace of think-
ing and religious people. They discussed " free-will, pre-
destination, and foreknowledge absolute," even as the cour-
tiers of Louis XIV. discoursed on the doctrines of "probabil-
ity," and all those casuistries by which the Jesuits under-
mined morality. The amazing stimulus which the Reforma-
tion gave to metaphysical and theological inquiries had not
died out three generations ago, even in the farm-houses and
churches of New England. Captain Hart belonged to the
liberal party, in opposition to the " Standing Order," and
did not believe in persecution for opinions which can never
be more than speculations. Nor was his liberality much
admired. It cut him off from the sympathies of a majority
of the parish, and interfered with his worldly success. But
he maintained his independence, and secured respect, if not

Very few of this generation realize what a dreadful
thing it was for a man to be liberal in his views among the
farmers of New England one hundred years ago. The ex-


communications of the middle ages were scarcely harder to
be borne than the anathemas of the Puritan churches. A
liberal thinker was generally regarded as an infidel. To
have doubts about eternal punishment reduced a man to
nearly as sad a condition, in the estimation of his neigh-
bors, as if he questioned the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.
And that good old woman represented a large class when
she said, " Take away my belief in total depravity, and I
should have no religion left." Captain Hart was not merely
a liberal thinker on the metaphysical question which theol-
ogy raised, but he was very tolerant in practical life. He
was the church treasurer, and paid the taxes himself of two
men who had been imprisoned for refusal to support the
minister, according to the old New-England laws ; which
generosity was so far from being appreciated, that he with-
drew entirely from the church, of which he is said to have
been " a pillar," so far as a man may be said to be the sup-
port of dogmas with which he did not sympathize. If I
am correct in my impressions of what his daughter told
me, I doubt if he was a pillar of orthodoxy, as then under-
stood in Connecticut. But he was a straightforward, con-
scientious, free-spoken, bold, and true man, with great re-
spect for Christian institutions.

The mother of Mrs. Willard who belonged to the
Hinsdale family a second wife, and ten years younger
than her husband, was practical, economical, industrious,
sagacious, charitable, an admirable manager, a helpmeet
a type of those old-fashioned New-England wives who be-
lieve in duties rather than rights, and who kept alive the
fire of her domestic hearth by her loyalty and love. Amid
her other labors, like the heroines of Homer, she sorted and
carded wool, and the distaff was one source of family pros-
perity. She was the mother of ten children, and the step-
mother of seven, all of whom lived together in harmony
and comfort, dispensing a simple hospitality, and shedding


the radiance of contentment and joy upon the whole neigh-
borhood a neighborhood where all equally worked, and
prayed, and read, and sung their songs of praise ; where
none were poor or rich, and yet all were comfortable, and
happy, and enlightened. In far-distant generations this
period of New-England history may be called the golden
age. What country ever saw such colonists as Puritans ?
Their sterile lands then gave support to a hardy agricul-
tural population. In the summer they toiled like bees ; in
the winter they meditated like sages. They were lofty, for
they believed in the God of Abraham, and Moses, and
David, and Paul.

Such were the parents of Emma Willard, and such was
the community in which they dwelt. Nor did she ever lose
the impressions which these united made upon her mind.

EMMA HART was born February 23, 1787, and was the
sixteenth child the youngest but one, Mrs. Almira Lincoln
Phelps being the younger sister. In childhood she was sent
to the district school, and her father supplemented the in-
struction of the day by his teachings in the evening. Before
she was fifteen, she had acquired all the knowledge taught
in the public school, and had read Plutarch's Lives, Rollin's
Ancient History, and Gibbon's Rome, and the most famous
of the British essayists. Such was the intellectual food
with which our grandmothers and mothers were fed, and not
the frothy and pointless, or immoral and sensational novels,
which the daughters of our New-England farmers now
read as a preparation for the discipline of life. Contrast
the healthy, hearty, frank, joyous country-girls of that age,
with the languid, sentimental, idle, ignorant, unpractical
girls of this " more advanced period," reclining on a sofa,
while their mothers are doing the needful work of the
family. Has modern education reached, in its results, no
greater height ? I verily believe that our ancestors, with
all their hard labors, read more useful and instructive


books, one hundred years ago, than are read in this age.
True, it is an age of reading as well of popular education.
But what books are read? What are the subjects dis-
cussed? What is the effranchisement which is sought?
What are the virtues developed ? In the pursuit of fancied
rights, we forget the real and eternal duties.

After gaining all the knowledge the district school
could give, Emma Hart, an enthusiastic girl, attended an
academy, or high-school, at greater distance from her home,
kept by a Dr. Miner, a graduate of Yale, who afterward
became distinguished as a physician. For two years, by
this truly scholarly man, she was stimulated to make all the
attainments possible at the time, especially in the art of
composition, for which she had a natural aptness. These
studies were probably in advance of those made by girls of
her rank and means, whose sphere was that of domestic
duties. But she had longings for a different sphere.

And this was presented in the spring of 1804, when she
was seventeen years of age. Through the encouragement
of an influential lady of forty, between whom and herself
were strong ties of friendship, she opened a school herself
for village children ; and her great career as a teacher be-
gan, to be pursued, with only slight interruption, for forty

She began her life-labors by arranging into classes the
children intrusted to her care, in order to discover their va-
rious capacities. Among her first pupils was her sister Al-
mira, six and a half years younger, the present Mrs. Phelps.
Her first trial was a case of discipline. Neither talking
nor reasoning was of avail on the rude and ignorant boys,
who rushed to windows and doors to watch the passing
vehicles, or retreated altogether for sports in the mulberry-
grove near by. Her final argument was a bundle of rods,
and one poor fellow received a sort of vicarious chastise-
ment for the whole, which speedily reduced them all to dis-


cipline and obedience. And such was the unsparing sever-
ity of the rod, that corporeal punishment was never after-
ward inflicted.

The school became the admiration of the neighborhood
for discipline and for progress in studies. But this school

Online LibraryJohn LordThe life of Emma Willard → online text (page 1 of 27)