By Kristy McCaffrey
|Emma Hart Willard|
Born in 1787, Emma Hart Willard was encouraged by her farmer-father to read and think for herself. Emma was often included in family discussions of politics, philosophy and mathematics. At the age of 15, she enrolled in her first school in Berlin, Connecticut and progressed so quickly that two years later she was teaching at the institution.
In 1807, Emma left Berlin and worked as a principal at the Middlebury Female Seminary for two years. She was unimpressed, however, by the material taught, so in 1814 she opened a boarding school for women in her own home. She strove to improve the curriculum for girls, believing that women could master topics such as mathematics and philosophy. This passion for women’s education led her to fight for the first women’s school for higher education. In 1819, her success inspired her to write A Plan for Improving Female Education, a pamphlet that she presented to the New York Legislature. Her plan included a proposal for a women’s seminary to be publicly funded just as men’s schools were. Emma didn’t receive a response from the legislators, who believed women’s education to be contrary to God’s will.
Willard finally received support from New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, who invited her to open a school in his state. The Troy Female Seminary opened in September 1821 for boarding and day students in Troy, New York. It was the first school in the United States to offer higher education for women. By 1831, the school had over 300 students enrolled.
The Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School in 1895 and today still promotes her strong belief in women’s education.
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Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenaged children happen to be in residence.