Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fayetteville Female Seminary

Fayetteville Female Seminary
Fayetteville Female Seminary

Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA

Opened: 1841

Closed: 1862

Though the Fayetteville Female Seminary may not have been progressive in every way, it appears that Miss Sophia Sawyer was very principled when it came to equal opportunity for her students.  From the Fayetteville, Arkansas site:

Sophia Sawyer (1792-1854)
It [the Fayetteville Female Seminary] was founded by Miss Sophia Sawyer, a missionary teacher who had worked with the Cherokees in Georgia and then in the Indian Territory that would one day become Oklahoma. A private tutor for the Ridge family, she first came with them to Missouri and the Indian Territory, and then after John Ridge was killed, she came here with John's widow, Sarah.

David and Jane Walker gave the land for Miss Sawyer to open her new school. Miss Sawyer was very religious and apparently quite the taskmaster, but she adamantly insisted on teaching young girls regardless if they were white or Cherokee and by 1854 there were 103 students.

She was once confronted by the Georgia militia for teaching African-American slave children of the Cherokees to read. She told them in no uncertain terms to go away, saying she was not subject to Georgia law since she was in Indian Territory and that the Cherokees were too civilized to have such a law.

The school catered to young ladies of distinguished families from all over the region, and offered classes in music, literature, French, and embroidery. The seminary was one of the most influential institutions in early Arkansas, and is often mentioned as one of the factors leading to the location of the state's land-grant university, the University of Arkansas. One of the music teachers was Ferdinand Zellner, a Prussian violinist with P.T. Barnum's nationwide tour of the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind. In 1856 he composed and published "The Fayetteville Polka", and later went on to conduct the San Francisco Symphony.

In spite of their best efforts to save them, the school buildings were also burned in the Civil War and the school never recovered.

See more about the life of Sophia Sawyer here.

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