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born 1787

Emma Willard grew up in an era when the primary aim of women's education was to "decorate the blossom." And, to do so according to the tastes of men. An ace student who became a teacher at age 17, Emma quickly became dissatisfied with overseeing coursework mainly designed to make ladies attractive to suitors. 

In 1814, she founded her own boarding school to offer women a well-rounded education in the sciences + humanities. By 1821, she had secured enough support + investment to open her own campus ~ the Troy Female Seminary. A decade later, it had 300 students and was turning a profit. The success of her school made Emma an education celebrity who published top textbooks and lectured widely in the US + Europe. Her Troy campus is still at the forefront of innovative teaching today. Among its "Emma girls" ~ women's rights champions like suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton + actor Jane Fonda!

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Emma Willard (10)

"Who knows how great and good a race of men may yet arise from the forming hands of mothers, enlightened by the bounty of their beloved country?"

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"Would we rear the human plant to its perfection, we must fertilize the soil which produces it."

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"Any women has a right to open a school in any place; and no one, either from law or custom, can prevent her."

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"Though well to decorate the blossom, it is far better to prepare for the harvest."

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"The taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has been made a standard for the formation of the female character."

Mrs. Willard's Plan of Female Education | 1819

"It is obvious, that theory alone, can never make a good artist; and it is equally obvious, that practice unaided by theory, can never correct errors, but must establish them."

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"We too are primary existences . . . the companions, not the satellites of men."

Mrs. Willard's Plan of Female Education | 1819

"Without alteration there can be no improvement."

A Plan for Improving Female Education | 1819

"He is not necessarily the best teacher who performs the most labour; makes his pupils work the hardest, and bustle the most. A hundred cents of copper, though they make more clatter and fill more space, have only a tenth of the value of one gold eagle."

How to Teach | published 1851

"Take care of health; for without it existence is, for every purpose of enjoyment, worse than a blank."

Care of Health | published 1851
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curated with care by Alicia Williamson {august 2015}