education heading



New Schools for Women

As America grew in size it also grew in prosperity.  Wealthy families could soon afford to allow wives and daughters more free time, which they often filled with activities such as music, reading, and education.  In the late 1700’s and continuing into the 1800’s, the economy began to transition from hand crafted items produced by women working at home to the industrialized production of clothing and household goods.  Because of this change, middle class girls also began to have more free time that they could use for education. 

In the late 1700’s, “adventure” schools began to become popular for girls.  The term “adventure” makes the schools sound more like camp than any schools that exist today.  But for the girl’s attending these schools in the 1700’s achieving any sort of higher learning was an adventure.  These schools consisted of a single teacher who taught whatever subjects were popular at the time.  Subjects mostly included music, dancing, and crafts such as needlework instead of academics.  Girls would usually only attend for a few months and often the school would close after a short while because the teacher was not able to earn enough money.  Despite the lack of success achieved by adventure schools, they marked a steadily increasing interest in women’s education. 

Summer school was another popular trend at this time.  Many girls and young children of both sexes would attend school in the summer while the boys were working in the field.  Most of the girls work such as preserving food and spinning was done in the winter so they were not neglecting their work by attending summer classes.  Tuition was low because the women hired to teach the girls were paid less than male teachers and they did not need to pay for the school houses to be heated. 

One of the most pivotal events in the history of women’s education was the opening of The Young Ladies Academy.  The Young Ladies Academy opened in 1787 and was stated to be the first all female academy established in America.  Male teachers taught reading, spelling, writing, math and geography.  Less than a year after it opened the academy had enrolled almost one hundred girls.  The Young Ladies Academy set an example for the many academies and seminaries that began to be opened in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. 


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(c) Copyright National Women's History Museum, 2007


Hornbooks were used consistently in Europe and America beginning in the mid 1400's. A hornbook was a paddle, often made of wood, with lessons tacked to it and a transparent sheet made of sheep or oxen horn covering the lesson

Girl holding a Hornbook
Young girl holding a Hornbook