"A More Accurate and Extensive Education than is Customary": Educational Opportunities for Women in Early-Nineteenth-Century New Jersey


  • Lucia McMahon William Paterson University




This article examines the variety of educational opportunities available to New Jersey women in the first half of the nineteenth century. While largely ignored in the national historiography on women‟s education, numerous groundbreaking schools for women were established throughout New Jersey in the early nineteenth century. The Newark Academy offered instruction to women since the late eighteenth century; its successor, the Newark Institute for Young Ladies, referred to its curriculum as “collegiate” decades before women were admitted to colleges. In the 1830s, the Bloomfield Female Seminary maintained a reputation for scholarly excellence; throughout the 1840s, the Mount Holly Female Seminary offered a course of study for women seeking to become teachers. By the 1840s, schools could be found in various cities and towns, including Bloomfield, Bordentown, Burlington, Freehold, Lawrenceville, Newark, New Brunswick, Rahway, and Raritan. The New Jersey schools examined in this essay shed light on both local and national practices of women‟s education. As women‟s access to education expanded, so did debates about the appropriate uses of education. While many men supported women‟s education, women understood that they could be subject to criticism from those who feared the consequences of their intellectual pursuits. Analysis of the forms, purposes, and uses of women‟s education, as evident in these New Jersey case studies, illustrates both the opportunities and challenges that teachers, students, and supporters faced as they sought to expand women‟s institutional access to education