Expansion of Higher Education
Catherine was born in East Hampton, New York in 1800 to a large family thirteen and was the oldest of the children. Soon after her mother died when she was sixteen, she assumed the position of matriarch of the household and grew very close to her father, Dr. Lyman Beecher, a Presbyterian minister. She grew up in Litchfield, Connecticut where she studied at Litchfield Female Academy which was founded by Sarah Pierce in 1792 when she saw the need for the expansion of women's education after the American Revolution. After absorbing these ideas in education from Pierce and expanding her knowledge, she started to write in the literary publication, the Christian Spectator, Where Professor Alexander Fisher of Yale University took notice. They engaged soon after introductions. Just months before their wedding, he died at sea returning from Europe. During this mourning period for Beecher, she spent a lot of time with his family, and learned basic mathematics from Fisher's brother, in order to take her mind off of her late husband. Catherine founded the Hartford Female Seminary with her sister Mary in the attempt to train women to become mothers and teachers. However, the school became very popular and she had difficulty accommodating the number of students and teaching all of these subjects even she hadn't had formal training in. In light of this, she hired eight other teachers with specialized training in specific subjects in order to provide the best education possible. Beecher also wrote textbooks used in the Hartford Female Seminary and is considered the pioneer for physical education for females. After eight years of working at her founding school, she moved west when her father got a job in Cincinnati, where her attempts to establish a formal school failed and she went bankrupt. She moved back east in the later years of her life and ended up living with her brother in Elmira, New York and lectured at Elmira College. She died at the age of 77 of a stroke and is buried in Elmira.
Mary Lyon was born in Buckland, Massachusetts in 1787 and was the youngest of seven children fathered by a farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, who died when Mary was only five years old. She was educated up to the age of thirteen when her mother remarried and Lyon and her siblings were left behind to take care of their 100 acre farm. After a few years, she accepted a job offer to teach in an adjacent town, but soon realized that before she was going to teach others she had to learn more herself. Lyon enrolled in the Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, Massachusetts where she developed a true passion for learning a variety of subjects. After she left the school, Lyon travelled from school to school teaching and managing them before gathering enough funds to establish her own. In 1836, Lyon established the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, when in 1837, brought in its first class of 80 students. The curriculum was one of the most difficult amongst women's colleges at the time, requiring all students to take math and science courses in addition to performing chores around the grounds in order to keep the tuition costs low. Lyon also taught chemistry at the school in addition to performing all of the administrative duties. By keeping the tuition low for all students, all the women had to perform chores in order to keep the school affordable for all who wanted to learn. The graduates of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary went on to become teachers themselves, religious missionaries, and to establish female colleges like Wellesley College and Smith College. In 1895, her school officially became Mount Holyoke College and has graduated many decorated alumnus including writer Emily Dickinson. Lyon died in 1849 in South Hadley, Massachusetts and is remembered for providing the best education for women of the time.
Emma Willard was born in 1787 in Berlin, Connecticut to a farmer who encouraged her to teach herself to read and write, and eventually, in 1802, attended a local school for two years before she began to teach. In 1807, she moved to Middlebury, Vermont where she headed a female school there before opening the Middlebury Female Seminary in 1814 in order to provide an education to those women denied by colleges. Later, in 1821, Willard moved to Troy, New York where she founded the Troy Female Seminary (which later would be renamed to the Emma Willard School in 1895) which became known as the most rigorous female school of the day, even though most graduates became homemakers and not professionals. The school actually made a profit while she was the head, and she even made money by writing textbooks for the school. She remained the head of the seminary until 1838, when her son and daughter- in- law took over its administration. She died in 1844 in Troy after returning from a campaign to further women's education
Goals, Tactics, and Major Achievements
Before 1800, women in the United States were denied a formal education after the secondary level, which usually ended at about the age of thirteen. This opened the door for many women to explore further opportunities to educate themselves and establish institutions for the education of other women in the United States. At this time, there were many opportunities for higher education for men in society at the time including prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Yale. However, women were excluded from this process and were forced to step up and offer themselves the formal education that they deserved. Their goals were to further the education of women and educate professionals that could prove that they were as intellectually capable as their male counterparts. Many of these graduates from women's schools went on to become teachers and establish other institutions with the mindset of the furtherance of women. Many prestigious liberal arts colleges such as Wellesley and Smith Colleges, which are still in operation in the modern era. Most of the major achievements are discussed within the leaders listed above, however, the Female Seminary Movement of 1815 expanded the opportunities that women had to further themselves as professionals in a mainly patriarchal society. This movement provided women with a clear path for jobs like teachers and missionaries so that they could spread information and expand other educational opportunities in the future.