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Fredonia Academy, 1826-1867

The Fredonia Academy developed a Ladies Seminary in 1830, apparently assuming that women would not be able to excel in algebra, astronomy, botany, geology, and philosophy. The purpose of the Ladies Seminary, according to its catalog, was to give "instruction in all the useful and ornamental branches of female education." The Ladies Seminary curriculum centered on developing "well-rounded" women, evident in the courses of music, drawing, and painting. By the third year, the Ladies Seminary basic courses in arithmetic, grammar, and history were expanded to include philosophy, penmanship, bookkeeping, and rhetoric. As student researchers Erin Rozler and Lezlie Brown reported, "The women not only learned how to be 'successful homemakers' but were required to become worthy intellectual companions for their future husbands. They were given a broad overview of topics that prepared them for their roles as social entertainers and were taught the fine art of inspiring their husbands, as muses of wisdom and comfort. They were expected to shine in their husbands' social circles as educated, refined ladies."

Not all women at this time were simply waiting for a good marriage and a comfortable home. Although women were discouraged from assuming positions of direct power within the community, many were striving for an education that would allow them to break through the limits of traditional roles. For example, Fredonia Academy student Calista M. Steele was later principal of Black Rock School in Buffalo, New York for 10 years. Helen M. Palmer taught in the Dunkirk Public Schools and eventually became the first female assistant teacher outside of the Women's Department at the academy. Harriet McClure, who played the flute and piano, was a member of local orchestras and bands in Chautauqua County in addition to teaching music in the Dunkirk Public Schools. Finally, Sarah Jane Lippincott became the early-day columnist known as "Grace Greenwood," a special correspondent in Washington, D.C. and Europe for leading New York, Chicago, and California papers. After losing her job at Godey's Lady's Book in 1849 for writing an antislavery article, she began her "Washington Letters" which appeared for the next 50 years in The Times, The Washington Post, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was also a poet and author of children's books.

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