The heroine of Melissa's novella intends to go to an all girls college in the late 1850s, which then begs the question: Why did all girls schools exist? Weren't young women expected to get married and manage a household regardless of their education?
So Melissa is stopping by to answer that question. Here's what she has to say:
The heroine in Love by the Letter, likes to do Algebra for fun. What about you? Was I the only secretary on break who wrote out algebraic equations to solve for fun?
Um, so nobody but me huh?
Well, whereas I could pretty easily get a math degree and put it to good use today, my heroine had very few choices in 1858. But, finishing schools weren’t the only places to go at that time, there were these new-fangled four year female colleges that awarded women degrees equivalent to men.
Wanting to make sure I had the attitudes of the time right for my novella, I searched out some contemporary editorials on why women were encouraged to get these degrees.
It’s because …..they wanted women to get married. So how was that new?
Yes, even with a four year degree, the object for women was matrimony. But now, women had the opportunity not to marry just for “establishment, an occupation, or mere support,” but because “true freedom and equality are the essential requisites of genuine affection.”
Because there were more colleges available to men and therefore more “general intelligence,” the female colleges were there to help women become more educated so that marriage to these educated men could be on a more equal footing, and so they didn’t have to marry someone they didn’t care for out of desperation. Hopefully they could support themselves in a decent vocation if necessary, allowing them to wait until a man offering them genuine affection proposed.
Mary Sharp’s College and Elmira Female College are the schools my heroine debates over attending. But as Elmira’s literature of the time said, they didn’t want to “make or encourage radical changes in the social position or employments of women.”
How would you have fared in my heroines’ Protomathian year of an all-girl college? (“Elmira [Female] College, had to figure out what to call the first year students, i.e. freshmen. For its first ten years, Elmira referred to this class as the protomathians, before deciding to return to the established usage.”) Here’s her probable schedule if she’d chosen to attend Elmira Female College:
*Cicero’s Orations lectures
*Physical Geography “with frequent lectures”
*Sallust with the Germania and Agricola Tacitus Lectures (This is history, by the way, not mumbo-jumbo. I had to look it up!)
*Botany with Excursions
*Philosophy of History lectures
*Bible Lessons on the Sabbath
*Original English essays required every two weeks
*Rhetoric and Elocution
**Theory and Practice of Music and Oil Painting classes are extra!
The True Remedy for Wrongs of Woman with a History of an Enterprise Having that for its Object by Catharine E. Beecher in 1851
Now here's a little glimpse at Love by the Letter:
Rachel Oliver has lingered in town for three years secretly mooning over Dex Stanton, but now she's done. If the fool wants to write to a mail-order bride company, so be it. Once she begins giving Dex lessons, however, Rachel realizes she may not be prepared to give up just yet.
As their time together runs short, can two of the most stubborn people in town set aside their pride long enough to find love?