Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August 23rd, 2010

Emily Jessup

In Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, Ohio, you can find this monument to Professor Emily Jessup. The light is a little unusual in the photograph, so below I have typed for you the information on the tombstone:

Emily, daughter of William and Nancy O’Dell Jessup,
Born Wilton, Conn., Sept 3, 1824,
Died Oxford, Ohio, Sept 25, 1893.
Pupil, Teacher, Associate Principal, Mount Holyoke Seminary, 1843-1862
Teacher, Western Female Seminary, 1862-1893

Mount Holyoke Seminary, Jessup’s alma mater, exists today as the women’s institution Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke in 1837 to provide access to higher education for young women, against whom the doors of universities were generally closed. The seminary was the first college for women in the United States, and provided inspiration and practical guidance for other women’s colleges to follow. Mount Holyoke counts itself the first of the Seven Sisters: Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Radcliffe colleges; all institutions for the education of women.

According to Mount Holyoke’s records, Emily Jessup graduated with the class of 1847 and then taught at the institution for approximately fifteen more years. She, like many of her colleagues, then took that experience to Western Female Seminary, another women’s college.  Considering she graduated a year ahead of Helen Peabody (the first principal of Western Female Seminary) and then would have been her teaching colleague for about four years, it seems reasonable to assume that Peabody had a hand in convincing Jessup to move westward. We know what Professor Jessup looked like thanks to archival photographs on the web.  Despite health issues that necessitated the use of a wheelchair, Jessup instructed for 30 years at Western Female Seminary, until her death in 1893.

As we leave Emily Jessup today, I want you to look one more time at her tombstone, and reflect on the uniqueness and daring of her life.  In an era where women’s rights were severely circumscribed and American society prescribed a very rigid role for women of Jessup’s race and class, she defined herself by educational and professional accomplishments.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: