Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The education of women in the South has suffered from the same cause which has kept back the education of women all over the world. Woman was looked upon as merely an adjunct to the real human being, man, and it was not considered desirable to give her any other education than what sufficed to make her a good housewife and an agreeable, but not too critical, companion for her husband. When Dr. Pierce traveled through Georgia, in 1836–37, to collect funds for establishing the Georgia Female College, he was met by such blunt refusals as these, from gentlemen of large means and liberal views as to the education of their sons : “No, I will not give you a dollar ; all that a woman needs to know is how to read the New Testament, and to spin and weave clothing for her family ”; “I would not have one of your graduates for a wife, and I will not give you a cent for any such object.” In an address delivered before the graduating class of the Greenboro Female College of North Carolina in 1856, the speaker said : “I would have you shun the one [too little learning] as the plague, and the other [too much] as the leprosy ; I would have you intelligent, useful women .... yet never evincing a consciousness of superiority, never playing Sir Oracle, never showing that you supposed yourself born for any other destiny than to be a “ helpmeet for man.'”. An intelligent lady who was educated in the best schools in Richmond, just before the war, writes me: “If the principal of the school to which I went had any high views, or any views at all, about the education of women, I never heard her express them ; and I fancy that, consciously or unconsciously, her object was to make the girls under her care charming women as far as possible, sufficiently well read to be responsive and appreciative companions to men.” And this view of the matter has not yet entirely disappeared, for, in the catalogue for 1889 of the Norfolk College for Young Ladies, the aims of the school are said to be molded in accordance with the principle that “ a woman's province in life is to throw herself heartily into the pursuits of others rather than to have pursuits of her own." It is plain that so long as this view of the function of women prevails they will have little incentive and little opportunity for undertaking the severe labors which are the necessary condition of a solid education. The lighter graces which are supposed to result from a little training in French and music and from some study of English literature, have for a long time been accessible to Southern girls, both in schools of their own and in the numerous private and fashionable schools of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. When a girl was a member of a thoroughly cultivated family, she naturally became a cultivated woman ; there was usually a tutor for her brothers, whose instruction she was allowed to share (the mother of Chancellor Wythe of Virginia taught her son Greek); and there was usually, either in her own house or in the parsonage, a large and carefully selected library of English books. If by the right kind of family influence a girl has been thoroughly penetrated with a love of books, something has been done for her which, of course, the regular means of education often fail to produce. The women of New Orleans, and Charleston, and Richmond were often cultivated women in the best sense of the word, but of the higher education, as the modern woman understands it, very little has hitherto existed in the Southern States.

In a long and exhaustive paper on “ Colonial Education in South Carolina,"* by Edward McCrady, Jr., absolutely the only mention made of women is in the following sentences : “An education they prized beyond all price in their leaders and teachers, and craved its possession for their husbands and brothers and sons,” and, “ These mothers gloried in the knowledge. .... of their husbands and children, and would forego comforts and endure toil that their sons might be well instructed, enterprising men.”+ But in this respect South

* Read before the Historical Society of South Carolina, August 6, 1883, and reprinted by the Bureau of Education, Circular of Information No. 3, 1888.

+ Mention is made of a charitable school for girls, which they were not allowed to attend after the age of twelve, and of a school, apparently for boys, kept open by Mrs. Gaston, the wife of Justice John Gaston, at Fishing Creek.

Carolina was not behind Massachusetts. The public schools of Boston, established in 1642, were not open to girls until 1789, and then only to teach them spelling, reading, and composition for one half the year. The Boston High School for girls was only opened in 1852.*

The beginnings of the secondary education for girls throughout so large a territory as the entire South we have not room tó trace here, and we shall confine ourselves chiefly to a description of the existing condition of things. But it may be mentioned that Mrs. Lincoln-Phelps (born Almira Hart), the sister of the Mrs. Emma Willard who revolutionized the education of girls in the North, was one of the first to introduce a better state of things in the South. In 1841 she took charge of the Patapsco Institute, near Baltimore, and she transformed it at once into a school of the same grade as the Troy Female Seminary, where she had been for eight years teacher and viceprincipal. She writes : “ The course of instruction, besides the preparatory studies, embraced three years : the class of rhetoric, the class of philosophy, and the class of mathematics and natural sciences; and distributed through each, with studies appropriate to the advancement of the members, were the ancient and modern languages. .... Besides the twelve resident teachers, there were special teachers who came from Baltimore, in the Italian, Spanish, German and French languages and in elocution and general literature. To the regular classes should be added the class of normal pupils, varying from twelve to twenty, which contributed many accomplished governesses and teachers to the families and schools of the South.” The natural sciences she taught herself, using her own well-known text books in botany, geology, chemistry, and natural philosophy. “It was not easy at first to render mathematics popular among girls, who were disposed to consider accomplishments as the great requisite in education ; but by establishing a regular course of studies and by awarding diplomas to those only who had honorably completed this course, ambition was awakened which led to efforts that often surprised the pupils themselves no less than their friends. Thus the study of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, as well as mental and moral philosophy, up

* See chapter “Education in the East.”—ED. See chapter“ Education in the East.”—ED.

Quoted in the Am. Jour. of Education, September, 1868, p. 622. $ Mrs. Phelps, Mrs. Willard, and Maria Mitchell were the first three women members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

to this time deemed by many repulsive, by degrees became not only tolerable, but in some cases fascinating.”

A year and a half before this, namely, in January, 1839, the Georgia Female College (now the Wesleyan Female College) was opened at Macon, Ga. It had from the beginning the power of conferring degrees, and eleven young women took the degree of A.B. in 1840. It is commonly said that this is the first college for women that ever existed. That it was called a college was doubtless merely owing to the politeness of the Georgia Legislature. I have not been able to find out what the course of study consisted in at that time, but at present Harkness' First Year in Latin is the only preparation in languages required for entering the freshman class, and plane geometry is studied during the sophomore year. It is not likely that the course was better than this in 1840, and hence it is plain that then as now it was a college only in name, * and not in any way superior to Mrs. Lincoln Phelps's more modest Patapsco Institute.

The years about 1840 seem to have been a period of general awakening in the South in regard to the importance of the education of women. The Judson Institute was founded by the Baptist State Convention of Alabama in 1839; the "first incorporated college for women in North Carolina,” the Greensborough Female College (Methodist), obtained its charter in 1838, but was not opened for the reception of students until 1846 ; in Maryland, the Frederick Female Seminary was incorporated in 1840 and opened in 1843. St. Mary's School, at Raleigh, N. C., was opened in 1842.

But it is the Moravians in the South, as well as in the North, who have been foremost among the religious denominations in the establishing of schools for girls of a thorough, if of an elementary, type. The devotion of Moravian parents to missionary enterprises made it necessary for them to have schools in which their children might find a substitute for family life, together with such teaching as they were thought to require. “Parental training, thorough instruction in useful knowledge, and scrupulous attention to religious culture were the characteristics of their early schools," and are the main features of the five institutions of higher learning which are still carried on by that Church. The Salem Female Academy, in the northwestern part of the State of North Carolina, among the

* The first college to grant real degrees to women was Oberlin. See chapter “ Education in the West."-ED.

foot-hills of the Blue Ridge, was opened in 1804. The curriculum consisted of reading, grammar, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, German, plain needlework, music, drawing, and ornamental needlework. Between six and seven thousand pupils have been educated in this school. The course is still very low; the requirements for admission into the junior class are arithmetic to the end of simple interest, geometry to quadrilaterals, and one book of Cæsar. But the instruction seems to be thorough, and the catalogue exhibits a freedom from pretense which is very refreshing. The author of the “ History of Education in North Carolina,'* says: “The influence of the Salem Academy has been widespread. For many years it was the only institution of repute in the South for female education. . . . . A great many of its alumnæ have become teachers and heads of seminaries and academies, carrying the thorough and painstaking methods of this school into their own institutions. It is probably owing to the influence of the Salem Academy that preparatory institutions for the education of girls are more numerous in the South and, as a rule, better equipped than are similar institutions for boys."

The war was the occasion of a serious break in the education of woman in the South and of a serious loss in the small amount of funds that had been accumulated for their schools. The Georgia Female College, however, went on with its work without interruption, with the exception of two or three weeks; the Confederate authorities were at one time on the point of seizing it for a hospital, but were restrained by an injunction from the civil courts, on the ground that the college was the residence of several private families, and that many of the boarding pupils were unable to return to their homes, or even to communicate with their parents, on account of the general disruption of the railroads.t The Salem Academy, also, was overcrowded with students during the war, sent as much for shelter and protection as for education. After the war, most of the existing schools for girls were reopened, and a large number of new ones have been established since that time.

COLLEGIATE EDUCATION OF WOMEN IN THE SOUTH. Most people would probably be ready to say that except for the newly founded Woman's College in Baltimore and Tulane University, the collegiate education of women does not exist

* Bureau of Education, 1888.
+ Historical Sketch in the catologue for 1888-9.

« AnteriorContinuar »