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Emma Willard - Educationalist: 1787 – 1870

Emma Willard was an American women's rights advocate and the pioneer who founded the first women's school of higher education. Her father had a liberal frame of mind and educated her as far as possible in the system of that day. When, at the age of 12, she began to teach herself geometry, a study of which the female brain was literally thought incapable, her father saw her through it and also engaged her in discussions of philosophy. Emma started teaching at the age of 17. She married in 1809.

In 1814, at the age of 25, she opened the Middlebury Female Seminary in her home. In 1819 the Willards moved to Waterford, New York, and she opened a school there. In 1821 she moved on to Troy, New York, where the town council had raised money to build a girls’ school. The Troy Female Seminary opened in September 1821 and began its long history as one of the most influential schools in the United States. It was a pioneer in the teaching of science, mathematics, and social studies to girls. 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. The Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School in 1895 and it is still flourishing today.

In 1830, Emma made a tour of Europe, and three years later published Journals and Letters from Great Britain; the proceeds from the sale of the book she gave to a school for women that she helped to found in Athens, Greece. Her later years were filled with traveling, lecturing, and writing. In 1854 she represented the United States at the World’s Educational Convention in London.

Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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