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About Emma Willard
Emma Willard (February 23, 1787 – April 15, 1870) was an American women's rights advocate and the pioneer who founded the first women's school of higher education.
Emma Willard was born in Berlin, Connecticut, the sixteenth of her father's seventeen children and the ninth of her mother's ten children, of Samuel Hart and his second wife, Lydia Hinsdale Hart.
She attended a district school at Worthington Point. Emma started teaching at the age of 17 and shortly after turning 20, received job offers from Westfield, Massachusetts, Middlebury, Vermont, and Hudson, New York. She accepted the offer from Vermont and moved there. In 1809 she married Dr. John Willard then age 50. Willard brought 4 children from earlier marriages to their marriage. Her husband's nephew, another John Willard, lived with them while attending nearby Middlebury College.
In 1814, she opened the Middlebury Female Seminary in her home. After moving to New York she opened the Waterford Academy in 1819 in Waterford, New York, but it was closed in 1821 due to a lack of continued funding by its citizens and administration.
When Emma Willard addressed the New York legislature in 1819 on the subject of education for women, she was contradicting the statement made just the year before by Thomas Jefferson (in a letter) in which he suggested women should not read novels "as a mass of trash" with few exceptions. "For like reason, too, much poetry should not be indulged." Emma Willard told the legislature that the education of women "has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty". The problem, she said, was that "the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has been made into a standard for the formation of the female character." Reason and religion teach us, she said, that "we too are primary existences...not the satelites of men."
In September 1821, Willard founded the Troy Female Seminary, the first recognized institution for the education of girls, in Troy, New York. Afterward, renamed the Emma Willard School, it was notably prosperous and successful.
Mrs. Willard's husband died in 1825, but she continued to manage the institution until 1838, when she placed it in the hands of her son and her daughter-in-law. In 1830, she made a tour of Europe, and three years later published; the proceeds from the sale of the book she gave to a school for women that she helped to found in Athens, Greece.
She married Dr. Christopher Yates in 1838 and moved with him to Boston. He gave up his career, and after nine months of marriage they separated and a Decree nisi was granted in 1843.
She was a free woman at the age of 60 years and continued her writing. On 15 April 1870 she died in Troy, New York and was interred at Oakwood Cemetery.
Her works include The Woodbridge and Willard Geographies and Atlases (1823), which she wrote with the American geographer William Channing Woodbridge; History of the United States (1828); Universal History in Perspective (1837); Treatise on the Circulation of the Blood (1846); and Last Leaves of American History (1849).
With Woodbridge she co-authored A System of Universal Geography on the Principles of Comparison and Classification. She has been the subject of several biographies. Her Geographies are discussed by Calhoun and her histories by Baym. A statue honoring her services to the cause of higher education was erected in Troy in 1895. An Emma Willard Memorial was erected in Middlebury, Vermont in 1941.
In 1905, Willard was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the Bronx, New York.