Emma Hart Willard

Think about people in your family who have high school diplomas or college degrees. Do these people include men and women? In the past, that list would not have included females. There was a time in this nation where girls went to finishing schools if they attended any school at all. A finishing school taught them how to become good wives. That began to change after Emma Hart Willard came along.

Emma Hart Willard was born on February 23, 1787, in Berlin, Connecticut. Her parents were Samuel and Lydia Hart. There were seventeen children in her family. She was the second youngest in the group. Her mother was her father's second wife. When Emma was born, her family lived on a farm that was doing quite well.

Her father saw that Emma was curious and eager to learn. He urged her to learn as much as she could. With her father's support, she enrolled in the Berlin Academy in 1802.

At the age of seventeen, Emma began to teach. She set up a school in her father's house. Both boys and girls could come to her school. In 1806, she took over the Berlin Academy for a term. She kept taking classes herself. In 1807, Emma became the principal of a women's school in Middlebury, Vermont. The school was called Middlebury Female Seminary. She was quite good at her job there, but she felt that women could learn more than what was being taught. She also met her husband while she was there.

In 1809, Emma married Dr. John Willard. He was twenty-eight years older than she was. Willard had been married before. He had four children. Emma and Willard had their own son, John, in 1810. Sometimes when her husband's nephew came to visit from college, she remembered what she was missing at school. She borrowed her nephew's books to teach herself about subjects women didn't usually learn.

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