“By the Force of its Own Merits” is a one-day symposium that will round out a two-year celebration of the Litchfield Female Academy, a progressive educational institution that instructed over 3,000 young women between 1792 and 1833. A diverse slate of presenters will discuss the structure and curriculum of the Academy, illuminate its role in the development of educational and social opportunities for women, and speak to the school’s legacy and relevancy within current scholarship.
9:00 – Registration and Coffee
9:30 – Welcome Remarks
Sarah Pierce’s Female Academy
Catherine Fields, Executive Director, Litchfield Historical Society
The Litchfield Effect
C. C. Borzilleri, Program and Administrative Coordinator, Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation
Litchfield-educated women pursued lifetimes of service to their communities and important roles in the typically male-dominated public sphere. Using the tools and lessons they gathered from Miss Pierce, they made an impact across the country on industries as varied as education, publishing, and women’s health. This talk will explore some of the stories recently uncovered about a few of the LFA’s most prolific graduates.
The Litchfield Female Academy and the Future of American Education
Mark Boonshoft, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History at Norwich University
American education transformed during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Literacy, numeracy, and the tools of citizenship became more accessible to more people. The Litchfield Female Academy and its alumni helped make possible this profound change in American life.
12:00 – Lunch
1:00 – Concurrent Sessions
12:30 – Walking Tour
Educator-led tour of Litchfield’s town center focusing on the history of the Female Academy and the daily life of its students. Includes a visit to the Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School.
1:00 – Collections Focus
An in-depth look at important Female Academy materials from the archival and museum collections, facilitated by the Society’s Archivist and Curator. Includes a tour of the exhibition, By the Virtue of its Citizens.
The Book, the Needle, and the Pen… Connecticut Schoolgirls and Their Lessons
Susan P. Schoelwer, Ph.D., Executive Director, Historic Preservation and Collections and Robert H. Smith Senior Curator at George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Academy has long and deservedly attracted the attention of both historians of female education and collectors of needlework, distinguished by its longevity and geographic reach, the number of students, its advanced curriculum, accomplished embroideries, and the extensive archive of surviving records and objects, carefully stewarded by the Litchfield Historical Society and brilliantly brought to light by the late Lynne Brickley. Broader studies of Connecticut needlework demonstrate the existence of countless other schools, some short-lived but others of many years’ duration. Glimpses of student experiences across the state provide illuminating comparisons to the lessons of Litchfield.
An Examination of Lucy Sheldon’s Music Books
Jewel A. Smith, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
An examination of Lucy Sheldon’s music books offers a window into the music studied at the Litchfield Female Academy in the early nineteenth century, where young women were exposed to and participated in Litchfield’s upscale social culture. Sheldon’s books include diverse and up-to-date publications for the serious piano student, such as battle pieces, waltzes, sonatas, marches, sets of variations, and transcriptions, in addition to sacred and secular vocal music—all representative as part of the education that prepared the students to enter genteel society.
4:00 – Reception
This program is generously supported by a grant from