Author Archives: alannahbrowne13

The First Female Headmistress of Suffield Academy, Miss Olive P. Rider.

Miss Olive P. Rider’s obituary
Hiram Rider, Olive P. Rider’s father’s obituary clipped from the Hartford Courant 1851
A document from the Suffield Academy archives stating the years the female teacher’s worked at Suffield Academy and their salaries. The first on the list is Miss Olive P. Rider.
Excerpt from Neil Johanson’s journal titled “Suffield Academy: 1833 to 1967” referencing the start of the women’s department as well as Olive P. Rider
Suffield Academy’s catalog from 1846 in the Suffield Academy’s Archives stating Miss Olive P. Rider as the Preceptress.

During the 1830’s in the United States, women began teaching in schools. Nevertheless, throughout the entire history of Suffield Academy there has never been a female headmaster according to our preliminary research. Suffield Academy opened its doors in 1833, and at the time was called the Connecticut Literary Institute. It was not until 1843 that the trustees voted “that the institution be opened for the receptions of females” (Suffield Academy Archives). In February of 1846 the female department opened just in time for the end of the academic year. The first headmistress of the department was Olive P. Rider. Miss Olive P. Rider was born on the third of October in 1816. The Rider family which consisted of her father, Hiram O. Rider, and her mother, Lucy Rider, lived in Willington, Tolland, Connecticut which is just east of Suffield, Connecticut. In December of 1846 Miss Olive developed a “distressing illness” (ancestors.com) which caused her death within the year. An entire career at just the young age of 30 was all taken from her because of a “distressing” sickness.

Since she is from Willington, Tolland, Connecticut, the next step to finding more information about her would be to reach out to the Tolland Historical Society and Willington Historical Society to see if they have any information pertaining to her life. Another resource worth looking into is the Hartford Female Seminary. Established by Catharine Beecher in 1823, the Hartford Female Seminary was one of the first major school for women in the United States. The school was open and fits in Miss Olive P. Rider’s timeline. In order for her to be a teacher and headmistress she would have had to have been educated. The only school for women near her during her time period was the Hartford Female Seminary. 

driving question: How has education evolved for women? How and where did women in Suffield become educated and how did they get involved in education as a profession?

skills required: Contact the Tolland Historical Society, Willington Historical Society, and the Hartford Female Seminary. Also research more teachers in Suffield and find out more about the history of education in Suffield.