Religion in Schools

Women Missionaries

Education and Race

Catholic Education

Women's Education
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Religion in Schools

Non-Sectarian Academies
An Appeal to Parents for Female Education on Christian Principles: with a Prospectus of St. Mary's Hall
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Religion and education were closely intertwined in the nineteenth century. Evangelism was a significant cultural force during the first half of the nineteenth century and schools provided centers for revivals. Ministers preached and prayed over women students hoping the students would be converted; and some students came to school expecting and hoping for religious experiences.1

Because of the close association between seminaries and revivals, almost every denomination built their own seminaries and colleges where revivals were led by ministers from their own denomination. These schools were open to students from any religious persuasion, but attendance at weekly religious services and daily prayers were mandatory.2

There was no friction between evangelism and science in the early nineteenth century. Evangelicals were in awe of the then "new" scientific knowledge, and interpreted it as evidence of a divine order in the natural world. The evangelical reformers preferred science to the "pagan" classical languages that were taught at men's colleges. As a result of the wave of evangelism during the years women's education was expanding, much of the female curriculum emphasized science.3

Clermont Academy
Clermont Academy legal opinion on non-sectarianism
Wilson Family Papers

This complicated brew of revivalism, evangelical motives, school prayers and science formed the cradle in which American women's education evolved in the nineteenth century.

Selected Letters About Religion in Schools

Clermont Broadside, 1836
Clermont Academy Broadside, 1836
Wilson Family Papers>

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"Punctuality in Attendance at Church in this Village will be required"



"At the suggestion of. . .a member of the Methodist Church, I take the liberty to enquire of you Sir, whether she can be admitted as a pupil in your academy."
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Letter Wilber Fisk, June 16, 1829
Letter to Principal of Wilbraham Academy, June 16, 1829
Wilbur Fisk Papers
Letter to Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary Student
Letters to Sarah Talcott at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary, Nov. 26, 1852, page 1
Talcott Family Papers

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"[Mt. Holyoke's] religious privileges [are] far superior to any other Seminary in the country. Such are the influences there thrown around the pupil, that it does not seem possible that one can resist them. There are many who have learned 'the better way" within those hallowed walls, and have gone out from there, with hearts devoted to the service of Christ"

"When you visit Bethlehem please bring me some scarlet and black velvet for a neck ribbon. . .I must now conclude as it is time to prepare for Bible Instruction."
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Letter from Bethlehem Female Seminary, Sept 16, 1839
Letter from Bethlehem Female Seminary, Sept 16, 1839
Elizabeth Barras Papers
Letter from East Bloomfield School
Letters from East Bloomfield School, Mar. 2, 1849, pg. 2
Reed-Blackmer Family Papers

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"There has been many hopefully converted to God here, and there is great interest manifested among many others; most of the students have been [converted] and all of the young ladies in this hall, except two""

I have just come from church. They are holding revival meetings here now and I went out to church one Friday night and mamma, I am going to be a better girl. I am not converted yet, but hope to be a good christian girl before I go home."
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Letter from Ohio Wesleyan University, Jan 31, 1886, pg. 2
Letter from Ohio Wesleyan University, Jan. 31, 1886, pg. 2
Reed-Blackmer Family Papers
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Women Missionaries

Camp Journal, May. 27, 1820
Diary of Elizabeth Camp, May. 27, 1820
Elizabeth Camp Papers

Deeply religious students and teachers pondered their sense of vocation--some women asked themselves if they felt called to be missionaries to Native Americans. Others felt chosen to go West to teach the unschooled pioneer children. Evangelical fervor in these decades inspired many students to believe the United States was intended to be a Christian utopia.4

Women had a special role in evangelical missionary work since they could teach and pray with women where male ministers could not. Many women considered teaching to be missionary work, and they instilled Christian morals and values along with reading and writing. Selections from two missionaries, Elizabeth Camp and Sophia Sawyer show the mixture of religious aspirations, mutual affection, and cultural bias with which missionaries and their "hosts" continually wrestle.

Elizabeth Camp wrote intensely personal journals, revealing her private religious feelings as she worked among the Stockbridge Indians in western New York. Stockbridge Indians had been Christians for many decades, but retained their own culture, language, and customs. Although the Stockbridge Indians had fought on the side of the Americans in the Revolutionary War, their land titles were not recognized after the war. Landless, the United States government moved the Stockbridge, first to western New York and then to Wisconsin. Camp taught among them in western New York. More biographical details can be found in the Clements Library Finding Aid for the Elizabeth Camp Papers

Letters from Sophia Sawyer while she taught among the Cherokee in Georgia from 1831 to 1833 offer rich accounts of her culture and religious intentions. Sawyer worked with the Cherokee during the most contentious period of Indian removal in United States history--the Trail of Tears. Yet she did not engage in the political protests as did other New Englanders like Catharine Beecher. More biographical details about Sawyer can be found in the Clements Library Finding Aid to the Sophia Sawyer Papers

Writings from Missionaries

Camp Journal, May 28, 1819
Camp Journal, May 28, 1820
Elizabeth Camp Papers

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"O, what have I to be proud of; nothing but sin & deformity. O, then may I sink into the dust, My proper place, infinitely low before God. "



"O that you might be one in Christ."
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Letter May 24, 1824
Letter to friend, May 24, 1824, pg. 1
Sophia Sawyer Papers
Camp Journal, May 31, 1820
Camp Journal, May 31, 1820
Elizabeth Camp Papers

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"my scholars begin to make improvement in reading, & spelling, & in their manners. "



"The studies pursued are Beading, Writing, History, Geography &c."
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Letter from Haweis, August 31, 1833
Letter from Haweis, August 31, 1833, pg. 1
Sophia Sawyer Papers
Sawyer Letter from New Echota, Aug. 22, 1832
Letter from New Echota, Aug. 22, 1832, pg. 1
Sophia Sawyer Papers

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"Georgia is "bone of our bone & flesh of our flesh" & while we oppose, decidedly oppose her oppressive measures, we should not forget her relation to us"



"Whether they remain here or remove is not the question for us to answer; but whether they shall become an enlightened & Christian nation through our instrumentality"
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Letter from Haweis, August 31, 1833
Letter from Haweis, August 31, 1833, pg. 1
Sophia Sawyer Papers
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Education of Free Blacks in Jamaica

Education and Race

Education and Slavery
Negro Education in Jamaica

William Latrobe,
Negro Education in Jamaica

Education was widely regarded as essential for a democratic society, yet it was systematically denied to African Americans on the basis of race. In the northern states, laws excluded free blacks from schools even though they were obliged to pay taxes to support them. In the South, laws punished anyone who taught African Americans to read. Education was one of the key tools of race oppression before the Civil War, and a key tool for their "elevation" after the War.5

Essay on Slavery

Schoolgirl Essay on Slavery
Julia Bolton Papers

With few African Americans able to write, it is understandable that there are few records written from an African American perspective. However, the history of "women's education" cannot be told without including the perspective of women who could not attend schools--women like Native Americans, immigrant servants, settlers, and slave women. Their experience deserves being told from their own perspective. Unfortunately, the paucity of written records means that most "history" is told through the lens of Christian missionaries. It requires meticulous awareness of one's own and the missionary's historical perspective to interpret these records.

Four Clements sources presented here offer the perspective of a white southern student, an abolitionist from New England, a colonization proponent, and an official report on the system of education for free blacks in the British colony of Jamaica.

Writings about Education and Race

Shippen-Eckert letter, Dec. 19, 1837
Letter from Pennsylvania, Dec. 19, 1837, pg. 2
Shippen-Eckert Family Papers

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"There are a great many abolitionists. . .I am rather halting between two opinions."



"We find no passage in the Bible prohibiting Slavery & we therefore conclude that under certain circumstances it is right."
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School essay on slavery
Essay on Slavery
Julia Bolton Papers
Robertson letter, July 31, 1851
Myrtilla Miner to Robertson Family, July 31, 1851, pg. 1
Plainfield N.J. Collection: Hubbard/Robertson Family Papers

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"I am really going to Washington -- & hope to secure a school of colored misses there. . .Our intention is to educate a class of teachers. . ."



Headings include locality, student attendance, gender of teacher, year opened, costs, denomination.
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Latrobe Report
C.J. LaTrobe,
Report on Negro Education in Jamaica, 1838
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Nativism

Catholic Education

Catholic Female Academies

A substantial number of Protestants in the 1830s and 1840s feared that the United States would be swarmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants and that when these immigrants voted, they would impose loyalty to the pope on Protestants. These fears reflected centuries of wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics, but they also point to the instability in a democracy with high rates of immigration. The anxiety of the American-born was seen in the wave of nativism in the 1830s, the high point of which was the burning of the Ursuline Convent in Boston on August 10, 1834. The thirteen men accused of arson were dealt with mildly, marking the acceptance of nativist sentiment.6 Anti-Catholic rhetoric was also inflammatory; this pamphlet focuses on women's education; do you think it uses young women as icons of American vulnerability?

Catholic Dangers
Samuel Miller,
Dangers of Education in Roman Catholic Seminaries

Catholic missionaries from France and Ireland came to the United States to provide religious instruction and education to the growing number of Catholics in the United States. These orders at first opened charity schools, but soon began financing the charity schools by charging high tuitions in elite boarding schools. The boarding schools taught advanced subjects, but were renowned for teaching European manners and exquisite art and musical skills. Protestant students were admitted, and were required to attend religious services, but need not pray during them. The schools advertised they would not proselytize or promote their religious beliefs. However the conversion of Protestant students, who subsequently took vows in a Catholic order, inflamed old animosities between Protestants and Catholics.

Protestant students frequently took classes in Protestant and Catholic schools, choosing the school based on its reputation in desired subjects. The histories of these dozens of Catholic Female Academies before the Civil War are well documented. Their records are held by the archives of the orders that operated the schools. Yet, Catholic education has not been well-integrated into the national narrative of secondary education.7

Selections from Dangers of Education in Roman Catholic Seminaries

Catholic Dangers, pg. 1
Samuel Miller,
Dangers of Education in Roman Catholic Seminaries, page 5

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"Seminaries under the direction of Papists [are] most numerous in the Southern and Western States in which the general means of education are most inadequate"



The Papal system. . .conductors manifest so much desire to take the lead in female education."
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Catholic Dangers, pg. 6
Samuel Miller,
Dangers of Education in Roman Catholic Seminaries, page 6
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Reading Between the Lines

What are your own beliefs about the role of religion in education? Place yourself on a continuum from someone who wants a totally secular education to someone who advocates complete integration of religious beliefs. Then try to place the authors of various letters and essays on the same continuum.

Religious education also reinforced the socialization of white women to their roles. Find examples

Suggest some ideas for why there were no efforts to use education and religion to socialize African Americans to slavery? What was different?

Why haven't Catholic sources been integrated into the historical narrative about the rise of education.

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Related Primary Source Materials at the Clements Library
Green, Ashbel Christian duty of christian women 1825
Jenkins, Daphne Smith Religious and political influence of educated and uneducated females 1849
Willard, Emma Advancement of female education 1833
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Secondary Sources for Student Life

1Cott, Nancy. Bonds of Womanhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977. The chapter on religion provides excellent background on education and revivals.
Brickley, Lynne Templeton. "Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy, 1792-1833." Ed.D. diss., Harvard University, 1985. This dissertation relies on primary sources regarding Rev. Lyman Beecher who conducted revivals at Sarah Pierce's Female Seminary at Litchfield, Connecticut. Students there described dramatic methods and protracted religious exercises during the revivals in the 1810s and 1820s.
Cross, Whitney R. Burned-over District. New York, Harper & Row, Harper Torchbook edition, 1950. Cross describes the revivals of the 1820s and 1830s in upstate New York that flamed into the Ohio Valley in the 1830s.

2Malkmus, "Capable Women and Refined Ladies," 144-156.

3Tolley, Kim. "Science for Ladies, Classics for Gentlemen: A Comparative Analysis of Scientific Subjects in the Curricula of Boys' and Girls' Secondary Schools in the United States, 1794-1850." History of Education Quarterly (1996): 129-153.
Warner, Deborah Jean. "Science Education for Women in Antebellum America." ISIS 69 (1978): 58-67.

4Fletcher, Robert S. A History of Oberlin College From Its Foundation Through the Civil War. 2 Vols. Oberlin, OH: Oberlin College, 1843. The chapters on perfectionistic religion describe utopianism and Christian perfectionism as they flowered at Oberlin College.

5McGinnis, Frederick A. Education of Negroes in Ohio. Blanchester, OH: Curliss Printing, 1962. For white teachers of black students, see Philip S. Foner and Josephine F. Pacheco. Three who dared : Prudence Crandall, Margaret Douglass, Myrtilla Miner : champions of antebellum Black education. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1984.

6Joseph G. Mannard. "American Anti-Catholicism and its Literature." Ex Libris Vol. 4, No. 1 (1981). pp. 1 [Exerpt online at Geocities, Inc. http://www.geocities.com/chiniquy/Literature.html] (Viewed July 25, 2005.)
The Catholic University of America houses the records of the Ursuline Convent that was burned. The finding aid can be read online at: http://libraries.cua.edu/achrcua/ursuline.html

7Primary sources for Catholic schools are often maintained by the religious houses. Scholars within the Catholic orders have used these sources for detailed histories. Catholic Almanac and Laities' Directory. Baltimore, MD: annual issues 1822 through 1855 are available through interlibrary loan.
Murphy, Mother M. Benedict. "Pioneer Roman Catholic Girls' Academies: Their Growth, Character, and Contribution to American Education, A Study of Roman Catholic Education for Girls from Colonial Times to the First Plenary Council of 1852." Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1958.
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