Emma Willard: Inventing the Map, illustrated with care and charm
November 30, 2018 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Even without further context, we'd find Frances Henshaw's 1823 "Book of Penmanship Executed at the Middlebury Female Academy" imaginatively and artistically remarkable. But this 14-year-old girl's textually-derived maps and cartographically-arranged texts also provide some of our best direct evidence for the teaching practices of famed women's educational reformer Emma Willard. Willard founded Frances Henshaw's school at a time when geography was taught almost entirely through prose, and there she developed a new, visual and experimental pedagogy. This led her to assert her own impact on spatial and historical understanding in the early American republic unblushingly: "In history," wrote Emma Willard, "I have invented the map."

See also: In Its First Decades, The United States Nurtured Schoolgirl Mapmakers -- Education for women and emerging nationhood, illustrated with care and charm. (Sarah Laskow for Atlas Obscura)
The first “schoolgirl map” that caught historian Susan Schulten’s attention was made in 1823 by Frances Henshaw, a student at one of the best schools for girls in the young United States. The map came from Henshaw’s Book of Penmanship, which included details about geography and astronomy—comets, meridians, horizons, polar circles, and climate zones. The young woman’s drawing encompassed 19 states, copied from Carey’s American Pocket Atlas, from 1805, and Arrowsmith and Lewis’ Atlas, from 1812.
For further cartographic diversions, check out Professor Susan Schulten's website, A History of American in 100 Maps, and her blog post version of a lecture How Maps Reveal, and Conceal, History.
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw this post and I recognized a name I hadn't heard nor thought about in 30 years. I lived just up the street from the Emma Willard School when I went to RPI. I was vaguely aware that she was an activist, but knew little about her beyond that.
The school had sprawling grounds and ivy covered walls and it was scandalous for students to sneak into college parties.

Thanks for rounding out my knowledge of its founder.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this! Cartography and Middlebury wrapped up in one.

Emma Willard founded the school in her home in Middlebury VT (the house is now the admissions office for Middlebury College) when she was 27 (at which age I shall not divulge what my achievements were). She moved her school when the people of Troy offered her a building to use.
posted by skyscraper at 9:25 AM on November 30, 2018


I saw this post and I recognized a name I hadn't heard nor thought about in 30 years. I lived just up the street from the Emma Willard School when I went to RPI.

That's, the Emma Willard School, a private, all-girls' high-school in beautiful Troy, NY. Well, it has moments of beauty...
posted by mikelieman at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2018


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