Emma Hart WillardEmma Hart Willard
Leader in the American Movement for the Higher Education of Women
1787 – 1870 A.D.

Emma Hart Willard, a leader in the American moement for the higher education of women, founder of the Troy Female Seminary, and active in the great national revival of common schools in the United States.

She was born at Berlin, Conn., and was the sixteenth of a family of seventeen children. She began her career as a teacher in 1803, and in 1809 was married to Dr. John Willard. In 1814, at her home in Middlebury, Vt., she opened a boarding-school for girls in which she introduced various improvements in methods of instruction and also taught subjects hitherto not included in the curriculum of girls’ schools.

Desiring a broader field for the development of her ideas of eduction, she addressed to the New York Legislature in 1819 a treatise entitled A Plan for Improving Female Education.” It was an able exposition of excellent ideas and found favor with Governor John Clinton, resulting in the establishment in that year of a seminary for girls at Waterford, New York, which was incorporated and was partially supported by the State. Mrs. Willard removed to Troy, New York, in 1821 where she was presented by the city with a suitable building, henceforth known as the Troy Female Seminary, which served as the Vassar College of New York State a half century before the establishment of the institution at Poughkeeppsie. The seminary not only gave women collegiate education, but it trained a large number of women teachers.

Troy Female Seminary

                                          Troy Female Seminary

After conducting this school for seventeen years, Mrs. Willard resigned her duties into the hands of her son, and gave herself to educational missionary work. During the years 1845 – 1847 she traveled 8,000 miles by packet boat, stage coach, and private carriage through the States of the South and West, agitating and counseling in the matter of public education.

Her European influence extended to the founding of a school for girls in Athens, Greece, and in 1854 she was present at the World’s Educational Convention in London.

Emma Willard is one of the most prominent figures in the history of higher education for women in the United States. She was not only an advocate of advancement but a practical worker for it, and brought to her task great earnestness of purpose, coupled with high abilities and executive capacity. Her school books were widely used and were translated into European and Asiatic languages. Sjhe also wrote some excellent verse, which includes the famous Rocked in the Cradle Deep.

A statue was unveiled to her memory at Troy in 1905.


Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

Quote by Emma Hart Willard