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Emma Hart Willard Family Papers

Identifier: MA.00140

Scope and Contents

Emma Hart Willard was a pioneering advocate of educational equality for women. In 1821, she founded the first U. S. collegiate-level institution for women, the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York (now the Emma Willard School). Emma Hart Willard wrote geography and history textbooks that were widely used in schools at the time. She trained and influenced hundreds of teachers who spread her ideas nationwide. According to Emma Hart Willard's great-great-grandson, Amherst geology professor Edward S. Belt, "Emma Willard's perspective was rooted in patriotism and duty to country."

The Emma Hart Willard Papers document the professional activities and personal life of Emma Hart Willard, her son John Hart Willard, and the Willard, Scudder and Keyes families, spanning more than a hundred years, from 1801 to 1988. The bulk of the material falls into the period from 1820 to 1920. The Papers occupy approximately 8.5 linear feet of shelf space.

The breadth of Emma Hart Willard's career, professional activities and family life are represented in the Papers and reflect her multiple roles and interests as an educator in the field of women's education, a teacher, principal, writer, and mother and friend. Because of Emma Willard's overlapping professional and personal commitments, a researcher should check all series in the Papers for relevant material. These papers include professional and personal correspondence; published and unpublished works by Emma Willard; a collection of personal diaries kept during her lifetime; and letters to and from her family.

The Papers include material relating to Emma Hart Willard's son John Hart Willard, who succeeded her as principal of Troy Female Seminary, her grandchildren and other family members. Much of this material is personal correspondences, correspondence among family members, genealogical material, and information relating both to the schooling and professional lives of various members of the Willard, Scudder or Keyes families.

The Papers also include material on the Troy Female Seminary (and the Emma Willard School) when it was founded and run by Emma Hart Willard. This was the first U.S. college-level institution for women. Much of this material includes anniversary ribbons or programs, academic catalogues and bulletins, financial documents including leases, indentures, bills and invoices that pertain to the Troy Female Seminary.


  • Creation: 1819-1961
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1820-1880


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Willard Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.


8.5 Linear feet (12 archives boxes, 6 half archives boxes, 1 map case drawer)

Language of Materials



Correspondence and papers documenting the personal life and career of Emma Hart Willard, a pioneering advocate of educational equality for women, including material on the Troy Female Seminary (later the Emma Willard School) when it was founded and administered by Emma Hart Willard. In addition, papers of her son John Hart Willard, his wife Sarah L. Willard and his daughter Emma Willard Scudder. Also included are papers and correspondence related to Willard Scudder, Henry Joel Scudder and Hewlett Scudder and the Willard, Scudder and Keyes families. There is correspondence from Timothy Dwight, Henry Barnard, A. S. Barnes, Almira Phelps (Mrs. Lincoln Phelps) and L. H. Sigourney.


This collection is organized into twelve series:

  1. Series 1: Emma Hart Willard: Biographical and Personal Materials [1819-1870]
  2. Series 2: Emma Hart Willard: Correspondence [1802-1869]
  3. Series 3: Emma Hart Willard: Diaries [1823-1869]
  4. Series 4: John Hart Willard: Biographical and Personal Materials [1801-1896]
  5. Series 5: John Hart Willard: Correspondence [1822-1906]
  6. Series 6: Willard Scudder: Biographical and Personal Materials [1756-1889]
  7. Series 7: Willard Scudder: Correspondence [1862-1909]
  8. Series 8: Henry Joel Scudder [1829-1888]
  9. Series 9: Hewlett Scudder [1902-1917]
  10. Series 10: Scudder Family [1887-1923]
  11. Series 11: Keyes Family [1896-1988]
  12. Series 12: Emma Willard School [1826-1939]

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Emma Hart Willard Family Papers were given to Amherst in 1990-91 by the educator's two great-great-granddaughters Elizabeth Keyes Cook and Emma Willard Keyes Belt, through the good offices of Mrs. Belt's son Edward Belt, Professor of Geology at the College. The gift of the papers was celebrated with a day-long symposium on March 27, 1993, "Emma Willard and the Changing Tradition of Women's Education."


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."

Emma Hart Willard Chronology

1787 February 23
Emma Hart is born in Berlin, Connecticut.
Attends district school in Berlin.
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.
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.
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.
Vermont State Bank, where John Willard serves as director, is robbed.
1813 August 21
Her father, Samuel Hart, dies.
Opens a boarding school for ladies in the Willard home in Middlebury, Vermont.
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.
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.
Sends handwritten copy of Plan to Governor Clinton of New York.
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.
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.
Introduces algebra, followed by successful public examination in the subject. Offers trigonometry and natural philosophy (science).
Another appeal for public funding from New York Legislature fails.
Entertains Major General Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who is on an American tour, and begins a correspondence with him.
Almira Hart Lincoln (widowed) comes to assist at the seminary, becomes vice-principal, and improves methods and subject matter of science, particularly chemistry.
1825 May 29
Dr. John Willard dies.
Publishes Geography for Beginners and Atlas to accompany it.
Publishes Ancient Atlas to accompany Woodbridge's Universal Geography.
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.
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.
Publishes Journal and Letters from France and Great Britain. Donates proceeds to an Episcopal women's school in Athens, Greece.
Publishes A System of Universal History. With Almira Lincoln Phelps, translates and publishes Progressive Education, by Necker de Saussure.
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.
Troy Female Seminary is accepted by the New York Regents and receives its first state funding.
September 17: Marries Dr. Christopher C. Yates, a physician of Albany. Honeymoons in the Great Lakes region.
Turns over the seminary to Sarah and John Willard.
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.
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.
Receives a divorce from the Connecticut Legislature and the right to use the Willard name.
Travels often, but finally, in summer, settles at Troy Female Seminary.
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.
Tours southern and midwestern states. Publishes physiological theory, A Treatise on the Motive Powers Which Produce the Circulation of the Blood.
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.
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.
Publishes Late American History to update Republic of America.
Publishes Morals for the Young, or Good Principles for Instilling Wisdom.
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.
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.
Publishes God Save America and Universal Peace.
Elected honorary member, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
1870 April 15
Dies at Troy, New York.
Daria D'Arienzo
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299