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Julia Bolton Autograph Book, 1850s

Julia Bolton Autograph Book Collection

This collection consists of an autograph book in which the student Julia Bolton copied her compositions. The book includes the essay "On Slavery". She also collected poems and autographs from her schoolmates at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia in 1852. The autographs in her book include the permanent addresses of the students who autographed the album.

LaGrange had three female seminaries. Each school had approximately one hundred students at various times. The county acquired a reputation for advanced education and many educators in the state and region taught in LaGrange. These schools and colleges not only educated the young people, they attracted new people to the area, boosted the local economies, and beautified their grounds and the neighborhoods around them.

LaGrange Female College was founded by Thomas Stanley, a Methodist minister, and his wife Ellen. Like many Methodists, they held the egalitarian principle that girls should be given the same educational advantages as their brothers. Chartered as an academy on December 26, 1831, it became a degree-granting institute for women in 1843. Its name was changed to LaGrange Female Institute in 1847, to LaGrange Female College in 1851, and to LaGrange College in 1934.

In 1837, Brownwood Institute, a second school for young ladies in La Grange, was founded by Dr. Robert C. Brown from England. Within a few years of opening the school, he built a new campus west of LaGrange, sparing no expense on its buildings and grounds. Like many such elegant schools, its construction costs could not be supported by tuitions and it failed and the property was sold and it became a men's college.

A third female school was opened in LaGrange in 1842 by the Rev. John R. Dawson. Chartered under the name of LaGrange Female Seminary, Rev. Dawson sold the school to Milton E. Bacon who converted it in 1849 to a college with authority to grant degrees. As such, it aspired to high intellectual standards. It was renamed Southern Female College in 1854. 1

Cover of Autograph Album of Julia Bolton

Autographbook Cover

Its current condition is worn, suggesting that it was used repeatedly and preserved for fond memories rather than its artifactual value.

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Julia Bolton, Essay "On Slavery"

Essay on Slavery

Slavery 6th

There is a difference between servitude and slavery for in the former case the servant makes a contract with his master which in the latter he is compelled to labor. Slavery may arise from three causes Crime, Captivity and debt. In the first case it ought to cease as soon as the crime is atoned for and in the seckond and third cases it ought to cease as soon as the demand of the injured nation and private debts is satisfied. We find no passage in the bible prohibiting slavery and we therefor conclude that under certain circumstances it is right.

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Autograph from Lizzie, of Harris County, Georgia

Autograph from Georgia Signed, Your friend Lizzie
Harris Cty Geo

La Grange College June 10th 1852

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Autograph from Mary F. of Chireno, Texas

Autograph from Texan schoolmate Signed, Your friend Mary T.,
Chireno Texas

La Grange College June 27th 1852

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Reading Between the Lines

How much can be guessed from the material properties of historical artifacts?
Would you consider the cover a piece of information?

We have few ideas about how slavery was explained to small children. The Methodist Church opposed slavery, but refused to admonish slaveholding members in the South. What questions about the teacher and the clientele of the school does this essay provoke?

Most of the addresses of students are from rural Georgia, several are from Alabama, and one is from Texas.
Why would students travel so far to attend schools?

Note it is called "LaGrange College" not "female seminary". Does the elevation of women's education elevate all women or only prosperous white women? What other kinds of evidence would give information about the class and race connotations of "female colleges"?

Three female seminaries in LaGrange became "colleges" within a few years of each other. Does this suggest that the rapid increase in the difficulty of the female curriculum might have been due in part to market competition?

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Sources Cited

Troup County, Georgia, Archives website

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