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Education] Willard, Emma.

Address to the Public, An; …Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education.


Blueprint For The First Girls' Academy In The U.S.
[Education]. Willard, Emma. An Address to the Public; Particularly to the Members of the Legislature of New York, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education. Middlebury [Vermont]: Printed by J.W. Copeland, 1819.
12mo.; light pencil notes on rear preliminaries; occasionally foxed; printed paper-covered boards; cover stamped "Mrs. Willard's Plan of Female Education"; rear cover prints a brief history of Willard's Female Academy, then located in Waterford, New York; spine reinforced with black cloth tape; hinges tender; covers water-stained, rubbed, tips bumped; heavily used but ultimately sound.
Title page stamped "Second Edition"; there is, however, no record of any previous edition; we would be willing to bet that this is the actual first edition, falsely identified (a common 19th-century publisher's marketing ploy). A rare tract, appealing for state aid for women's education.
The author of the appeal, Emma Hart Willard, was a pioneering figure in the history of women's higher education and the founder of the Troy Female Seminary, the first serious school for women to be established in the U.S.
Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) was raised in a large and literate family in which girls as well as boys were encouraged to develop intellectually. Willard became a schoolteacher-one of the few occupations open to women-when she was 20. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Middlebury, Vermont, where she met and married John Willard, a physician and politician. The young couple took in Dr. Willard's nephew, a student at Middlebury College; through him Emma "became familiar with the course of study at men's colleges and realized as never before the educational opportunities of which women were deprived" (DAB, p. 231). In 1814 Willard opened the Middlebury Female School, which she operated out of her home; "at this time there were no high schools for girls, and no college in the world admitted women" (ibid). Willard's contact with her female students convinced her that women could and should be taught "difficult" subjects such as math and science; she also became increasingly convinced of the necessity of educating women in more than just the homemaking arts.
In 1818 Willard became the first woman in the U.S. to approach public officials for support (financial as well as moral) for women's education when she addressed Governor DeWitt Clinton and members of the New York State legislature regarding her vision of state-funded equal education for women. This volume, published the following year, prints Willard's historic address to the legislature. Sadly, Willard's initial plea went unheeded. Although a few legislators were sympathetic, most were incredulous; they ridiculed Willard and refused to appropriate money for Willard's Female Academy.
Her campaign, although unsuccessful, produced a notable pamphlet that possessed all the best qualitites of a lawyer's brief. It was a model propaganda document, passionate but controlled, and it justified Emma Willard's own assessment of herself as "not a visionary enthusiast, who has speculated in solitude without practical knowledge of her subject." …[This address] received the warm approval of James Monroe, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, but it did not open the coffers of the state. It was, nevertheless, an important document of its time, comparable in the history of women's education to those characteristic papers of the period with which John Quincy Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Clay were defining other areas of American experience and aspiration. (NAM III, p. 612)
Willard opened the school in Waterford, New York in 1819. (An ad for the school, which closed that same year for lack of funds, appears on the rear cover of this volume.) Then, on March 26, 1821, the Common Council in neighboring Troy, New York voted to donate a building and funding for Willard's educational project. In September 1821 Willard opened the Troy Female Seminary, the first serious secondary school designed solely for women. Willard's school led the way for subsequent female academies and trained generations of women as professional educators and reformers; these women in turn went on to found other institutions of higher learning for women.
Women's education as we have come to know it would have been inconceivable had it not been for Willard's ground-breaking work: "[T]he movement of women into higher education in the latter 19th-century... would not have been possible without the earlier efforts of educators in female academies to prove that women were indeed capable of intellectual accomplishment" (HAWH, p. 202).
Willard devoted her entire life to the cause of equal education for women. After she retired from teaching she spent her time touring the country, training women teachers and speaking in support of gender-blind educational reform. In recognition of Willard's immeasurable contributions to American women's history, the National Park Service has preserved Willard's Troy, New York home as a national historic landmark.

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