Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/429

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411
Education for Women

school system was not finally established in New York until 1867, in New Jersey until 1869; in actual practice it was not in operation in a number of the Middle Western states until after 1870, and in some of the Southern states a decade or so later.

As The Journal of Education said, during this period the problem of "female education" was "unspeakably important." In the successful agitation of that subject America made one of her great contributions to education. Undoubtedly the prevalent view was that "education renders females less contented with the lot assigned them by God and by the customs of society; that it tends to withdraw them from their appropriate domestic duties, and thus make them less happy and less useful." The first effective protest against this view was made by Mrs. Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870). After a teaching experience which began at the age of seventeen, she drew up in 1816 an Address to the Public, Particularly to the Legislature of New York, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education. At the urgent advice of Governor Clinton the legislature voted (1819) that the academy which Mrs. Willard had founded should be entitled to share in the state funds. Though these funds were probably never granted by the regents and consequently never became available, the institution has the credit of being the first institution, in America at least, for the higher education of women to which state aid was voted. Mrs. Willard wrote many textbooks and was credited by her generation with opening to women the "masculine subjects" of mathematics and the descriptive sciences.

The pioneer work of Mrs. Willard in founding the Troy Academy was followed by that of Mary Lyon in the founding of Mount Holyoke Seminary (1837). Miss Lyon's one contribution to literature, aside from the circular of the institution, was Female Education (1839), which was but an enlarged prospectus of the Seminary and a defence of the type of education then offered to girls. By a narrow margin the institution escaped being labelled "The Pangynaikean Seminary," and by a margin quite as narrow did the education offered vary from the traditional formal education of young men. The tendency to make women's newly won privilege a mere copy of the formal education offered to men is revealed in a yet more extreme form