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Education in the 19th Century

The Rise of Public Education

  • 1820’s – Movement for ‘common schools’ began
  • By midcentury more than half of white youth were enrolled in schools
    • 90% in primary (elementary) school
    •  Middle and high school will develop and expand later
  • By 1850 at least ½ of U.S. women were literate
    • Girls were allowed an elementary education (more accessible to certain groups of girls: race, class, region)
    • Some women could gain enough education for the teaching profession


Female Academies

  • By 1820 many female academies or “seminaries” were founded in New England
    • These offered white women a higher education
    • At the start they were not equivalent to men’s colleges
  • Between 1830 and 1860 they expanded to other regions
  • One goal was to prepare women to teach and prepare them for matrimony


Female Academies

  • Reflected rising income and ambition of the middle-class and white ideals
  • Focused on educating women to prepare them for matrimony
    • Education appropriate to women’s separate sphere
    • To improve women’s performance as mothers and housekeepers
    • Expand their moral influence in society
    • Increase their social usefulness by preparing them to teach


Catharine Beecher, 1800-1878

  • Advocated for women’s education
    • Pushed for women to become teachers
    • Thought women to be naturally made for the profession
  • Became a schoolteacher in 1821
  • Co-Founder of : The Hartford Female Seminary
  • Wrote: Treatise on Domestic Economy
    • A manual on how to be a proper woman
    • Work to standardize domestic life and work


Feminization of Teaching

  • Women were thought to be naturally made for the profession
    • more patience
    • kinder
  • Young unmarried women would travel to establish schools
  • Women teachers were paid much less than men



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History 111