The following information comes from the Catalog for the Connecticut Literary Institution at Suffield of 1846. Several teachers are listed as “Female teachers.” The list is all women but we don’t know if they taught the women or both women and men. It is interesting that they earned less than men and they didn’t work for many years. The least paid men earn about 400 dollars. The highest paid man earned 700 dollars. The average woman earned 500 dollars. In today’s dollars that would be 11,573 dollars. Teachers were not paid well at Connecticut Literary Institution. There are also assistant teachers. We don’t know what assistants did compared to full teachers. It doesn’t seem like many teachers compared to today.
After some crucial weeks of research and networking, twitter provided us with very important and necessary information on Jennie Gay, who we formerly thought was named Ginney. She was an African American cook in a hotel/tavern during the 1800s, which was very rare during that time period. I have been searching for information online and on twitter and finally received an informative response from the Springfield Museums twitter account. The Curator of Library and Archives discovered that Jennie Gay was born in 1777 and worked at the Parsons Tavern, beginning in the 1790s. Owned by Eleazer Williams, the tavern was a well-known establishment in Springfield, Massachusetts, which accommodated George Washington in 1789. It was very rare during this time period to have an African American woman employed as a chef in a tavern, which leads me to the question, who was Eleazer Williams? He had high profile clients staying at the tavern, such as James Monroe and George Washington, and he employed an African American woman to cook for them. Through the Springfield Museums twitter response, I learned that Williams was a very outgoing and energetic man, who was ahead of his time. Everyone who stayed in the tavern loved him because of his humor and kindness. This is most likely the reason why he did not mind hiring Jennie Gay, he was comfortable with his clients and felt that it was acceptable to hire an African American woman. I would, however, like to find out how he met Jennie and what made him choose her over the many other cooks available at the time. I will look deeper into this subject and I hope to receive a response at some point.
Many people have heard of the big international women’s groups like the National Organization for Women. I would like to investigate women’s organizations here in Connecticut. Through my preliminary research I have come upon local chapters of the big women’s organizations. I want to know who started them and if anyone of interest joined any of these organizations. The organizations I would like to look into are: Daughters of the American Revolution, The Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, Connecticut Branch of the Housewives League, and Connecticut Women Suffrage Association.
Newspaper article from the Hartford Courant talking about the different Woman’s Organizations meeting and the different women who head them up.
How much did women organizations do to improve the life and rights of women?
Connecticut Literature Institute used to be all school boys until the school opened in 1847. The students were then divided between the Classical or English department, ending with a total of 41 girls the first term. Out of the 41 girls who studied at Suffield Academy, only 8 were not from Suffield, but from other towns nearby the school. Throughout the year 1847, more girls decided to go to Suffield Academy, and at the end of the term, there were 68 girls. On February 29, 1872, the girls building burned down completely. After this event, Suffield Academy decided to return to school to all-boys school.
This was something really impressive to learn about, because nowadays, there is a much higher number of girls who are studying at Suffield Academy, and a great part of them come from many different parts of the world,
Driving question: After the burning of the building, why did the school decide to shut down the women’s program, and return to all-boys school?
Skills required: Contact Berksconference. Also research more about teachers or alumni that studied at Suffield Academy and might have knowledge of its women history.
Image from Connecticut Literary Institution, Suffield Academy Archives
Hezekiah Spencer Sheldon’s History of the Connecticut Literary Institution lists the female students at CLI, which is today’s Suffield Academy. The school year opened on February, 25th, 1846, and 41 females started the first term. Thirty three of the students were from Suffield. It is also interesting to look at their names. Many appear to be related; they may be sisters or cousins. These names also are from many famous families of Suffield Academy like: Bissell, Hathaway, Kent, King, and Loomis. Some of our buildings are named after these families.
In 1852, the first females were awarded diplomas. Five young women earned diplomas that year, including Lydia Fuller. I wonder if she was related to Fuller family who created Fuller Hall.
Driving Question: Is Lydia Fuller related to any of the Fullers in our community? What happened to her after graduation?
Skills Required: The next steps are to research these first female graduates and their families. I will use research skills and try to find out why they chose (CLI) Suffield Academy. I will also use Networking skills to find out why did their families choose to send their daughters to high school in that time period? Another step is to understand why 41 females started in 1846, but there are only five graduates in the first graduations class in 1852.