Emma Willard, the founder of the Troy Female Seminary, was a pioneer in women's education. The school was later named the Emma Willard School in her honor.
Genuine learning has ever been said to give polish to man; why then should it not bestow added charm on women?
We too are primary existences… not the satellites of men.
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?
If, then, women were properly fitted by instruction, they would be likely to teach children better than the other sex; they could afford to do it cheaper; and those men who would otherwise be engaged in this employment might be at liberty to add to the wealth of the nation, by any of those thousand occupations from which women are necessarily debarred.
That nature designed for our sex the care of children, she has made manifest by mental as well as physical indications. She has given us, in a greater degree than men, the gentle arts of insinuation to soften their minds and fit them to receive impressions; a greater quickness of invention to vary modes of teaching to different dispositions; and more patience to make repeated efforts.
There are many females of ability to whom the business of instructing children is highly acceptable; and who would devote all their faculties to their occupation. For they would have no higher pecuniary object to engage their attention; and their reputation as instructors they would consider as important.
By being enlightened in moral philosophy and in that which teaches the operations of the mind, females would be enabled to perceive the nature and extent of that influence which they possess over their children, and the obligation which this lays them under, to watch the formation of their characters with unceasing vigilance, to become their instructors, to devise plans for their improvement, to weed out the vices from their minds, and to implant and foster the virtues.
The education of females has been exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty… though well to decorate the blossom, it is far better to prepare for the harvest.
If housewifery could be raised to a regular art, and taught upon philosophical principles, it would become a higher and more interesting occupation…
Females have been exposed to the contagion of wealth without the preservative of a good education; and they constitute that part of the body politic least endowed by nature to resist, most to communicate it. Nay, not merely have they been left without the defense of a good education, but their corruption has been accelerated by a bad one.
Shall he provide them male instructors? Then the graces of their persons and manners, and whatever forms the distinguishing charm of the feminine character, they cannot be expected to acquire. Shall he give them a private tutoress? She will have been educated at the boarding school, and his daughters will have the faults of its instruction second-handed.
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.
If one seminary should be well organized, its advantages would be found so great that others would soon be instituted; and that sufficient patronage can be found to put one in operation may be presumed from its reasonableness and from the public opinion with regard to the present mode of female education.