Emma Hart Willard Essay, Research Paper
It was once said by Thomas Wentworth Higginson that I, laid the foundation upon withevery women s college or coeducational college may be said to rest. I consider this to bea gross exaggeration. In this day and age, when equality of educational opportunity forwomen is a commonplace, no one can read of my passionate desire to secure justice formy sex in education, my wide visioned plan for the reconstruction of the pseudo-educationgiven to girls, my never swerving faith in the possibilities of women, and the unceasingefforts I put forward to realize my dreams. I have been asked to speak to all of you todayon just that and the course of my life. However, because of my old age, I am 217 yearsold, I often times have troubles remembering, so please do bare with me. My name is Emma Willard. I was born in the small village of Berlin, Connecticut,February 23, 1787. My father was Capt. Samuel Hart and my mother was Lydia HinsdaleHart. Within the large circle of my family, I was the 16th child of 17, I grew up attendingthe public school of the village. I loved school and was always eager and enthusiasticabout learning new things. When I turned 15 I enrolled in the town academy, where for 2years I studied udder the guidance of a Yale graduate and distinguished physician. My career began early compared to that of today. At the age of 17 I was appointed mistress of the district school of Kensington. It was there that I discovered my desireand love for teaching. In 1806 I was offered a position in the Academy of Berlin. Thenext year I received 3 offers to teach outside the state. I chose to go to Westfield, butwithin a few months Middlebury made a tempting offer to assume the management of the female academy. It was here that my association with the educated group oftownspeople led me to perceive that men did not take the education of girls seriously. Myassociation with these people led me to form some years later the resolution that was to bethe dominating purpose of my life–the determination to secure or someone theopportunities for learning as a human right and to extend these privileges as far as possibleto all women. Throughout my entire life I never swayed from this. In 1809, I married Dr. John Willard. 3 years after our marriage serious financial problemshit my husband which crippled his income, but I saw this as an opportunity to make myattempt to improve women s education. In 1814 with my husbands help I opened aboarding school for girls. When I began my boarding school in Middlebury my leadingmotive was to relieve my husband from financial difficulties. I had also the further motiveof keeping a better school than those about me; but it was not till a year or two after that Iformed the design of effecting an important change in education by the introduction of agrade of schools for women higher than any heretofore know. My neighborhood toMiddlebury College made me feel bitterly the disparity in educational facilities between thetwo sexes, and I hoped that if the matter was once set before the men as legislators, theywould be ready to correct the error. For several years while my school was still young I worked on my Plan for Improving
Female Education. I shaped and re-shaped my arguments making them persuasive andcogent. At the request of various members of legislature, I read a manuscript of my Planto them. Yet, in the end legislature did little to enable me to realize my dreams of a higherschool for girls adequately funded from public funds. Still, I remained determined toaccomplish my goal. I published my plan in a pamphlet form at my own expense. It waswidely read by both Americans and Europeans alike. President Monroe and ThomasJefferson all approved of it. And I even received a cordial letter from John Adams. Soon after this, an incredible disappointment struck my school. A bill granting $2,000 tothe school passed the senate, but was voted down by the assembly. The regents decided towithhold from the academy all assistance from the state fund. I was dismayed at the failedattempts of my plans. I felt the humiliating defeat of all my hopes almost to a frenzy andstill now years after my death I can t recall it without great agitation. Luckily someone was looking out for me. I was invited to move my school to the city ofTroy where they raised $4,000 to go towards my school. I was 34 years old when myschool in Troy opened. It was something that no woman before me had tried. Little bylittle I added courses in algebra, history, geography, and physics. No other girls seminaryin the country boasted these advanced courses. Believing that school life should approximate life in the community and prepare for it, Iordained a scheme of students self government and appointed girls as monitors. Thesemonitors made tours of inspection through the students rooms and regularly reportedcases of untidiness and infractions of disciple to the teacher who was officer of the week. The students were housed by twos in simple but comfortable rooms which they wereexpected to keep in perfect order. Each week one room-mate in turn had charge of theroom and was held responsible for its cleanliness and for the tidiness of dresser drawers,which were duly inspected. I only saught to convince the culprit of her mistakes, but toencourage her to improve her conduct by pointing out her good traits. In 1838, at the age of 51 I retired from active management of the school of Troy. I left itssupervision to my son, John, and his gifted wife. By 1850 my son and daughter had mademy school into one of the finest girls schools in the world. After my retirement fromTroy I went from school to school giving model lessons in reading, geography, and math. After 4 years of labor I returned to Troy and embarked in a strenuous campaign for theimprovement of schools in New York state As a result of this I was invited to tour severalcountries and address teaching institutions pointing out the way of educational reform. In1846 I decided to make a more adventurous journey by stagecoach through the states ofthe West and South, addressing groups of teachers and citizens interested in education. Near my later life I remained busy with congenial literary work. I lived quietly and happilynear my son, in close touch with the famous school which I founded. I died on April 15,1870 at the age of 83. Since my death, I guess you could say that my dream has finally come true. Women nowrecieve the educational opportunity equal to that of men.