Townsend to Littleton, Massachusetts: The Townsend Female Seminary, 1847. Wraps. This 14-page academic pamphlet measures approximately 4.5” x 7.5”. On the reverse it is addressed to Dr. E. [Edward] J. White of Littleton of Massachusetts, a physician according to the 1850 Census. It bears a circular Townsend postmark dated July 24 and two manuscript postal rate marks. It received a “3” cent marking by the Townsend postmaster (the cost to send a printed circular) but was rerated a “5” cents (the letter rate) upon arrival in Littleton, perhaps because the receiving postmaster noticed a short two-word pencil annotation below the final printed line on the last page. The catalog is in nice shape with some minor postal wear, light soiling, and faint vertical crease.
It identifies the school’s Board of Trustees, Examining Committee, Faculty, and its 66 students arranged by year of study.
There is also a list of former students who had formed the Literary and Education Society “to promote female education.”
Another section specifies the school’s Regulations, Terms, Examination, Tuition, and the cost of Board and Music lessons.
The catalog’s most interesting and enlightening pages identify the books used for instruction as well as the assigned courses and electives for each of the school’s five-year program of study: English (Grammar, Milton, Rhetoric, Poetry, Shakespeare), Languages (French Latin), Math (Algebra, Geometry), Philosophy (Intellectual Powers, Moral Science), Practical and Performing Arts (Drawing, Instrumental Music, Needlework, Painting), Science (Astronomy, Botany, Chemistry, Geography, Physiology), and Theology (Analogy of Religion, The Bible, Evidences of Christianity, Natural Theology).. Very good. Item #009696
These courses are of the same type and level of difficulty as those found in contemporary male academy or seminary and seem to refute the canard that schooling for young women was not as rigorous as that for young men.
While that may have been the case in the late 1700s and very early 1800s, by the 1850s advanced female education had achieved parity with advanced male education in terms of academic rigor, availability, access. Of the 6,000 academies and seminaries operating in the use circa 1850, half were for young women and half were for young men.
The big difference was in how that education was used; most male graduates became ministers while most female graduates became teachers or used what they had learned to in turn educate their children. (For more information about 19th century women’s education, see Sweet’s "The Female Seminary Movement and Woman's Mission in Antebellum America" in the March, 1985 issue of Church History, available through JSTOR and Horowitz’s Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s.)
Hannah P. Dodge, the Townsend Seminary’s principal was a distinguished 19th century educator. After completing her preparatory education, she enrolled at the academy (which had been founded in by Levi Warren in the 1830s) in 1844 and stayed on to serve as principal for the next seven years. She later led several other women’s schools and served as a faculty member at Kalamazoo College and the Colby Academy. She retired from education after a four-year term as the superintendent of schools in Littleton, Massachusetts. (For more information about Dodge, see Willard and Livermore’s A Woman of the Century. . .., Siebert’s “Women’s minds were not ‘strong enough’ for learning” in the Nashua Valley Voice, and Cloues’s A Teacher’s Message: a Memorial to Hanna Perkins Dodge, 1821-1896; all three available on line.