Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Emma Willard, 18 December 1819

To Emma Willard

Monticello Dec. 18. 19.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mrs Willard and his thanks for the copy of her book on female education which she has been so kind as to send him. the subject is of great importance and of lamentable deficiency in this country. it must be confessed to be also of great difficulty and he is happy to see it brought before the public so ably and eloquently by mrs Willard, to whom he tenders his respectful salutations, and best wishes for success in an undertaking of so much interest.

PoC (PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP); on verso of reused address cover of John Brown (1762–1826) to TJ, 8 Feb. 1819; dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ.

Emma Hart Willard (1787–1870), educator and author, was born in Berlin, Connecticut, in and near which she received her early education and began her teaching career. While working as principal of the female academy in Middlebury, Vermont, she met John Willard, a physician and Republican officeholder whom she married in 1809. After a five-year hiatus Willard resumed teaching when her husband experienced financial reverses. Beginning with a girls’ boarding school in their Middlebury home, Willard’s growing reputation led her to petition the New York State Legislature for financial aid in establishing a female school with an improved curriculum. The legislature awarded state lottery funds to her and chartered the Waterford Academy in 1819. A regular state appropriation was not forthcoming, however, and the city of Troy, New York, offered resources that induced her to move her school there in 1821. The Troy Female Seminary (later the Emma Willard School) prospered under her leadership. In addition to training teachers and pioneering new teaching methods, Willard contributed to and authored numerous textbooks and other publications on a wide variety of topics. Her efforts to reform common schools spread throughout the United States and even extended to her helping to found a teacher-training academy in Greece. Widowed in 1825, Willard remarried in 1838, but that union ended in 1843 when she successfully petitioned the Connecticut legislature for a divorce. Having already turned the management of the school over to her son and daughter-in-law, Willard returned permanently in 1844 to Troy, where she continued to write and acted as an advisor for the school (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Lucy Townsend and Barbara Wiley, eds., The Papers of Emma Hart Willard, 1787–1870 [microfilm ed., 2005]; Alma Lutz, Emma Willard, Daughter of Democracy [1929]; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 40:30–2; New York Herald, 18 Apr. 1870).

A missing letter from Willard to TJ of 28 Nov. 1819 (address cover only in DLC; with PoC of TJ to John Gorman, 8 Feb. 1822, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Late President of the U.S. Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked) is recorded in SJL as received 10 Dec. 1819 from Waterford, New York. It probably enclosed Willard, An Address to the Public; particularly to the members of the Legislature of New-York, proposing a Plan for improving Female Education (New York, 1819; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 6 [no. 233]), as did Willard’s letter of 28 Nov. 1819 to John Adams (MHi: Adams Papers).

Index Entries

  • An Address to the Public; particularly to the members of the Legislature of New-York, proposing a Plan for improving Female Education (E. H. Willard) search
  • education; female search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education of women search
  • Willard, Emma Hart; An Address to the Public; particularly to the members of the Legislature of New-York, proposing a Plan for improving Female Education search
  • Willard, Emma Hart; identified search
  • Willard, Emma Hart; letter from accounted for search
  • Willard, Emma Hart; letter to search
  • women; education of search
  • women; letters to; E. H. Willard search