Emma Willard

“we too are primary existences … not the satellites of men.”

Emma Willard

Born - 1787 in Berlin, Connecticut

Died - 1870 in Troy, New York


Quote: “The taste of men … has been made into a standard for the formation of the female character.”


Improving Female Education

Emma Willard was an avid learner and advocate for female education. She spent her early years in a pubic school, and after the age of 18 studied at the Berlin Academy. Attending this academy sparked Willard's love of education and learning. In 1804 at the age of the 17 she began teaching at a local village school. WIllard published "Plan for Improving Female Education" in 1819. Willard presented her argument about a creating a better education plan for women to the New York legislature. She argued that the states should finance colleges for women the same way they did for men. Her proposal was unsuccessful, her views opposing those of Thomas Jefferson who believed women should only study the "amusements in life". Willard, however, told the legislation that she believed the education of women “has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty.”


The Troy Female Seminary

Willard understood the views on women and women's education would leave her unable to create a real women's college, so she created the female seminary. The use of this term gave off the impression that these seminary's were not on par with the male colleges. Willard, however, created this seminary with the intention of providing a level of education equal to those of it's male counterparts. After finally attaining the required finances she created the Troy Female Seminary in 1821. This was one of the first female seminary's created. The women attending this seminary learned about subjects that were before restricted to men. 90 women applied the first year it opened, and grew in numbers with each year. Willard herself worked at the school as both a administrator and a teacher. She wrote the textbooks and designed the curriculum changing and advancing it to be as difficult as any male college.