Willard, Emma, 1787-1870

Alternative names
Birth 1787-02-23
Death 1870-04-15

Biographical notes:

American educator.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Troy, to the Rev. John Pierpont, 1833 Apr. 21. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270588498

American educator; founder of the Emman Willard School for girls.

From the description of Letters of Emma Willard [manuscript], 1818-1861. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647996500

Note: The following chronology was prepared by Lucy Townsend and Barbara Wiley for The Papers of Emma Hart Willard, 1787-1870. Guide to the Microfilm Edition . It is based on Emma Willard's memoir addressed to Professor Coggswell (1842), as well as her correspondence, publications, and early biographies. Willard spelled her maiden name "Heart" and "Hart."

  • 1787 February 23: Emma Hart is born in Berlin, Connecticut.
  • 1792 - 1802? : Attends district school in Berlin.
  • 1802: Attends Berlin Academy. Shows great academic promise under Thomas Miner.
  • 1804 Summer: Teaches school for children in Berlin.
  • 1805 Winter: Attends Miss Pattons' school in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Summer: Teaches a select school for older children in her home in Berlin.
  • 1805 - 06 Winter : Heads Berlin Academy.
  • Spring, autumn: Attends the school of Mrs. Lydia Royce in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • 1807 Spring: Is teaching assistant at academy in Westfield, Massachusetts.
  • Summer: Is Preceptress (head) of a female school in Middlebury, Vermont.
  • 1809 August 10: Is married to Dr. John Willard, Marshall of the District of Vermont.
  • 1810 September 28: Gives birth to her only child, John H. Willard.
  • 1812: Vermont State Bank, where John Willard serves as director, is robbed.
  • 1813 August 21: Her father, Samuel Hart, dies.
  • 1814: Opens a boarding school for ladies in the Willard home in Middlebury, Vermont.
  • 1815: Begins experimenting with teaching methods in geography, Christian ethics (moral philosophy), rhetoric, history, grammar, composition, drawing, elocution, chirography, arithmetic, and psychology (mental philosophy). Initiates public examinations as an essential feature of a rigorous female curriculum. Begins writing Plan for Improving Female Education.
  • 1817: Asks Governor Van Ness of Vermont if she can present her Plan to the state legislature. Effort fails, including the plan to transform college buildings at Burlington, Vermont, into a female seminary.
  • 1818: Sends handwritten copy of Plan to Governor Clinton of New York.
  • 1818 - 19 : Lobbies for Plan in Albany with her husband. Publishes and distributes 1,000 copies of the Plan. Legislature approves appropriation of funds for women's academies and grants charter to Waterford Academy for Young Ladies, Waterford, New York.
  • 1819 June 2: Opens Waterford Academy. Introduces the study of geometry, followed by successful public examination in the subject.
  • 1820 - 21 : Public funding for Waterford Academy withheld by New York Legislative Committee.
  • 1821 May: Opens Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. Begins to publish geographies with William Woodbridge.
  • 1822: Introduces algebra, followed by successful public examination in the subject. Offers trigonometry and natural philosophy (science).
  • 1823: Another appeal for public funding from New York Legislature fails.
  • 1824: Almira Hart Lincoln (widowed) comes to assist at the seminary, becomes vice-principal, and improves methods and subject matter of science, particularly chemistry. Entertains Major General Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who is on an American tour, and begins a correspondence with him.
  • 1825 May 29: Dr. John Willard dies.
  • 1826: Publishes Geography for Beginners and Atlas to accompany it.
  • 1827: Publishes Ancient Atlas to accompany Woodbridge's Universal Geography.
  • 1828: Publishes her most popular, often revised and reprinted text, History of the United States, or Republic of America and the accompanying text, A Series of Maps.
  • 1830 October 1: Leaves Troy with her son, John, for a seven-month tour of France, Great Britain, and Scotland. Visits Lafayette, Louise Belloc, Adelaide Montgolfier, Maria Edgeworth, and various schools. Begins lifelong correspondence with French women.
  • 1831 January 18: Her mother, Lydia Hinsdale Hart, dies. August, departs from Europe. On return voyage, writes her popular hymn, Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep. Almira Hart Lincoln marries Hon. John Phelps.
  • 1832: Organizes Troy Society for the Advancement of Female Education in Greece to foster women's education in the newly liberated nation. Publishes several essays in support of this effort.
  • 1833: Publishes Journal and Letters from France and Great Britain. Donates proceeds to an Episcopal women's school in Athens, Greece.
  • 1835: Publishes A System of Universal History. With Almira Lincoln Phelps, translates and publishes Progressive Education, by Necker de Saussure.
  • 1837: Organizes Willard Association for the Mutual Improvement of Female Teachers. Publishes letter to Simón Bolívar, urging him to open a female school in the newly liberated Republic of Colombia, South America. Troy Female Seminary is incorporated.
  • 1838: Turns over the seminary to Sarah and John Willard. September 17: Marries Dr. Christopher C. Yates, a physician of Albany. Honeymoons in the Great Lakes region. Troy Female Seminary is accepted by the New York Regents and receives its first state funding.
  • 1839: Moves with Dr. Yates to Boston.
  • 1840 June: Leaves Dr. Yates after nine months. Lives in Berlin with her sister, and in Hartford, Connecticut with friends. Publishes Willard's Historic Guide; Guide to the Temple of Time. Moves to Berlin, Connecticut, after she is elected superintendent of Kensington common schools.
  • 1841: Henry Barnard, among others, suggests that she head a normal school in Hartford, where teacher institutes can be held. Plan fails. Publishes essays in Connecticut Common School Journal, and, with Henry Barnard, takes leadership in teacher institutes.
  • 1843: Receives a divorce from the Connecticut Legislature and the right to use the Willard name.
  • 1844: Travels often, but finally, in summer, settles at Troy Female Seminary.
  • 1845: Joins board of managers, Troy Swiss Mission Society, to raise funds for a Swiss mission in Canada. Attends convention of County Superintendents, Syracuse, New York. Joins others in conducting teachers' institutes in New York and Pennsylvania.
  • 1846: Tours southern and midwestern states. Publishes physiological theory, A Treatise on the Motive Powers Which Produce the Circulation of the Blood.
  • 1847: Publishes her most daring appeal for women addressed to the newly established French government, A Letter to Dupont de l'Eure on the Political Position of Women.
  • 1849: Publishes Last Leaves of American History and another medical treatise, Respiration and Its Effects, Particularly as Respects Asiatic Cholera.
  • 1854 June 24: Travels to London to attend World's Educational Convention. With family, tours France, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Germany, and Belgium. Visits Louise Belloc and Adelaide Montogolfier in Paris. Appointed to represent women on the editorial board of the New York Teacher.
  • 1856: Publishes Late American History to update Republic of America.
  • 1857: Publishes Morals for the Young, or Good Principles for Instilling Wisdom.
  • 1861: Strives to end the Civil War by presenting memorial to Congress, in a 36-foot roll signed by thousands of American women. Joins with Troy women to form the Children's Home Society, incorporated by act of the New York legislature.
  • 1862: Publishes Via Media, an appeal to end the Civil War.
  • 1863 July 11: Train on which she travels is captured by Confederate soldiers. Forced to walk to a river where she resumes her trip.
  • 1864: Publishes God Save America and Universal Peace.
  • 1866: Elected honorary member, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • 1870 April 15: Dies at Troy, New York.

From the guide to the Emma Hart Willard Family Papers, 1819-1961, 1820-1880, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)


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  • Love poetry
  • Narrative poetry
  • Women--Education--United States--History--Sources
  • American poetry--1801-1850
  • Educators--United States--Biography--Sources
  • Poets, American
  • English poetry--19th century
  • Elegiac poetry


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