Community in Emma Willard's educational thought, 1787--1870

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Joan N. Burstyn


nineteenth century, Emma Willard, Education history, Higher education, American history, Educational theory

Subject Categories

Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


The life and work of Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870), founder of the Troy Female Seminary, is the subject of this study focusing on issues of community building by educators in the early Republic. This dissertation was approached as a narrative history. Historical documents were analyzed in light of historical and sociological literature in order to reconstruct the life of a prominent nineteenth century educator. This study started from the premise that educational institutions are socially constructed environments.

In particular, this dissertation examined the historical antecedents of Willard's understanding of an educational community, considered specific issues regarding the relationship between the American public and their educational institutions, described Willard's belief in education as the catalyst for community building, and reviewed Willard's extensive work as a historian. The author further explored Willard's work as Connecticut's first female superintendent, the associations she developed to involve parents in educational institutions, the teacher training activities she was involved with, the professional writings she contributed to the fields of education, history, and science and finally, the significance of Willard's relationship with her sister, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps.

This dissertation offers a reexamination of Willard's work within the context of her entire life, rather than just the first forty years where others have concentrated their study. In conclusion, this dissertation asserts that Willard's ideas about community prominently guided her professional and personal decisions throughout her life. An important subtheme of this dissertation addresses the life of a public figure in the nineteenth century by showing Willard's negotiation of the politics of her time.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.