The Emma Willard School, originally called Troy Female Seminary and often referred to simply as Emma, is an independent university-preparatory day and boarding school for young women, located in Troy, New York,Coordinates: 42°42′43.85″N 73°39′49.49″W / 42.7121806°N 73.6637472°W / 42.7121806; -73.6637472 on Mount Ida, offering grades 9–12 and postgraduate coursework. The first women's higher education institution in the United States, it was founded by women's rights advocate Emma Willard in 1814 (as the Troy Female Seminary), and, as of 2015, had an endowment of $93 million.[3]


Emma Willard is an independent college-preparatory day and boarding school enrolling students in grades 9–12 and post-graduate studies. Class sizes are kept at a 16-student maximum; the typical student to teacher ratio is 6 to 1. Advanced Placement preparation is offered in all disciplines. Students also may enroll in courses at neighboring Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Most students take five courses each semester. Classes meet four or five times each week for fifty minutes, though lab sciences, seminars, and AP sections meet for varying lengths of time. An ESL program offers intermediate and advanced-level curriculum for international students. Core requirements for graduation include a minimum of four units of English; three units of history, foreign language, mathematics; two units of lab science (one each in biology and physics), two units in the arts, and one-fourth unit in health. All students must fulfill a community service requirement and take physical education or its equivalent each semester in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades. Seniors must take at least ten weeks.

Emma Willard offers inquiry-based classes across all disciplines. In the fall of 2005, Emma Willard began its Physics First program for all incoming ninth-grade students, which has students take a basic physics course in the ninth grade rather than the biology course that is standard in most public schools.

Educational philosophy

The guiding educational philosophy, known on campus as EMpowerment, teaches that every young woman who attends Emma Willard will be encouraged to develop fully in all areas of her life, as a strong intellectual in a variety of disciplines, as a practitioner of her chosen passions, as a social member of the community, and as a responsible global citizen in her future.

In keeping with that philosophy of personal development providing its own benchmarks, class rank is not provided. The grading system uses letter and number grades. It goes as follows: A, A−, B+, B, B−, C+, C, C−, etc., accompanied usually by a number indicating where on the spectrum the individual student falls. Emma Willard's independent-study program, Practicum, allows students to pursue coursework at area colleges, career internships, community service, and individualized athletic training and competition off campus for academic credit. Over one-third of the students participate in Practicum each year.

Emma Willard students worked to make Emma Willard School the first fair trade high school in the United States in 2010.


In 1821, Emma Hart Willard opened the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York, to provide young women with the same higher education as their male peers. Prior to the school's founding, young women had been unable to pursue the advanced curricular offerings in mathematics, classical languages and the sciences that were taught to their male counterparts.

Having taught for several years, Emma Willard perceived the egregious disparity in what girls learned compared to boys. In 1819, Willard promoted a comprehensive secondary and postsecondary female educational institution, which would require funding by the State of New York. Her address to the office of New York’s “innovative” governor DeWitt Clinton met with initial success. However, the New State legislature at Albany, on hearing her request, responded with mixed sentiment, and ultimately rejected her proposal. Many of the wives of prominent men steadfastly supported and promoted her educational agenda to their friends and associates. Thereafter, the City of Troy's Common Council eventually raised $4,000 that would facilitate Willard’s purchase of a suitable flagship building for her proposed seminary for young women.

She had already obtained inexpensive accommodation in a nearby historic (already for the 1800s) Waterford, New York landmark farm. There, she had come to rent two nondescript long and narrow stone structures, former pre-Colonial Dutch estate's outbuildings in a picturesque setting along the mighty Mohawk River. The property's border still abuts the Erie Canal’s first but long-defunct stone lock, near a major point of the Mohawk's primary arterial confluence into the Hudson River. However, in early 1821, a critical funds shortage from to a brief economic downturn that had impacted the region made her be compelled to close her Waterford Academy.

Toward the close of 1821, she secured $4,000 in funding and relocated to Troy, downstream from Watertown along the Hudson River. The Albany Academy for Boys had been established in March 1813, just downstream from Waterford and her temporary school; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) opened in 1824. She was able to formally found the Troy Female Seminary "for young ladies of means", becoming "the first school in the country to provide girls the same educational opportunities given to boys". From its establishment in 1821 until 1872, the seminary admitted 12,000 students.The Troy Female Seminary promoted the education of young girls as well as women teachers in training. The seminary provided tuition on credit for students who could not afford it, with the agreement that those students would be teaching assistants and eventually become teachers themselves.[4] That type of on-credit tuition led to the growing reputation of the Troy Female Seminary as the demand for female teachers increased during the nineteenth century. She advocated for publicly supported female seminaries by asserting the necessity of educating as many women as possible in the United States, a task, she pointed out, that was too large for private institutions alone to undertake. Willard also promoted educational reform by emphasizing that women were capable of intellectual evidence in any field and demanded for women to be trained for professions.[5] The school was immediately successful, and it graduated many great thinkers, including noted social reformer and suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She remained the head of the seminary until 1838, when she handed it over to her son.[6] In 1895, the school was renamed The Emma Willard School for Girls. In 1910, a new campus was built for the school on Mount Ida.

Educational philosophy and academics

Her educational philosophy for the Troy Female Seminary was to "educate the women for responsible motherhood and train some of them to be teachers," with a curriculum that was similar to the contemporary men’s colleges. The curriculum included courses in mathematics, science, modern languages, Latin, history, philosophy, geography, and literature. The Troy Female Seminary School also provided the services of Normal Schools by giving women the opportunity to become teacher’s assistants and spread women's education throughout the United States. The alumnae of the Troy School were unusual among contemporary women in their pursuit of work beyond the "private sphere" of the home. These alumnae went on to establish Normal Schools, institutions that promoted the study of arts and sciences, and expansion into other professions involving the sciences and law.[5]

Co-curricular pursuits

Co-curricular pursuits include sports, choir, orchestra, a cappella groups, the student newspaper, a literary arts magazine (Triangle), model UN, county-champion Mock Trial team, speech and debate, quiz team, various clubs, and the yearbook, among others.

As a fair trade school, students from EcoEmm Fair Trade Club study global social justice issues and help educate the community, as well as sell fair trade goods at the school. Students also sign petitions fighting human rights abuses worldwide. Each year, students and faculty take service trips to countries in the developing world so Emma's women can see the world and make the changes they discuss in their classrooms throughout the year. Emma Willard is also the first boarding school to become a member of the international Round-Square program. In 2009, students and faculty traveled to Africa and to Casa de los Angeles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to care for the children of poor working mothers.

Student demographics

Girls currently hail from 22 states, and over 34 foreign countries. The fall of 2010 saw enrollment increase by 3% to bring the whole student population to 319 (203 boarding, 116 day).

It has a diverse population: of the 339 students, 55 are students of color (according to guidelines established by the National Association of Independent Schools), 88 are international students, and 45 have an alumna or current sister relationship to the school.

It maintains 13 Davis Scholarships, and 10 Capital District Scholarships.

Of the 440 applicants for fall 2010, 149 (34%) were offered admission and 102 enrolled.

Notable alumnae


Emma Willard's 137 ac (55 kha) campus on Mount Ida, above the city of Troy, contains 30 buildings. The three oldest buildings, all of collegiate Gothic style, include a cathedral-like reading room, classrooms, offices, a main auditorium, a dance studio, a lab theater, three residence halls, dining facility, a student center, and a chapel.

A modern art, music, and library complex opened in 1967. The library holds more than 34,000 volumes and 77 print and online periodical subscriptions.

Athletic facilities include a gymnasium with two basketball/volleyball/ indoor tennis courts, full facilities for fitness training and aerobic dance, a weight room, an aquatics center housing a competition-size pool, three large playing fields, and an all-weather track.

The three-story Hunter Science Center houses laboratories and teaching facilities for chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics. Approximately 75 percent of the faculty reside on campus in houses and apartments.

The school was used as a filming location for the films The Emperor's Club (as St.Benedict's Academy) and Scent of a Woman (as Baird School), as well as episodes of Homeland on Showtime. In both films, the school is portrayed as an all-boys school, except that it has become co-ed in the later-years section of The Emperor's Club. Homeland uses the campus as C.I.A headquarters.


Emma Willard has twelve interscholastic sports teams: field hockey, soccer, volleyball, tennis, cross country, swimming, diving, basketball, lacrosse, softball, crew, and track (indoor and outdoor). In 2007 there were 29 athletic coaches and affiliated personnel at Emma Willard.

Facilities include aerobics studio, pool, weight room, two athletics fields, an all-weather track, eight tennis courts, and woodlands with paths for biking or running.


Emma Willard School is a member of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), the New York State Association of Independent Schools, and the National Association of Independent Schools.

Sexual abuse

In April 2017, Emma Willard released a comprehensive report on sexual misconduct by faculty members that spanned almost seven decades.[8] As a result, the school established the "Healthy Boundaries Initiatives" [9] to address the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct and abuse. Changes and revisions were made to policies, procedures, and programming and the school stated its commitment to safety on campus and within the community.[10][11][12]

See also


  1. ^ "Fast Facts - Emma Willard School". Emma Willard School. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  2. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ "Fast Facts - Emma Willard School". Emma Willard School. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  4. ^ Scott, Anne F. “What, Then, is the American: This New Woman?.” The Journal of American History 65 (1978): 679–703
  5. ^ a b Scott, Anne F. “The Ever Widening Circle: The Diffusion of Feminist Values from the Troy Female Seminary 1822–1872” History of Education Quarterly 19 (1979): 3–25
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Willard, Emma C.". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  7. ^ Hershey, David (1992). "Notable Women in the History of Horticulture". HortTechnology. 2 (2): 180–182. 
  8. ^ "Cozen O'Connor Report for Emma Willard School". ISSUU.com. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  9. ^ emmawillard.org/healthyboundaries
  10. ^ "Private New York school releases report into sexual abuse and exploitation by staffers - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. April 18, 2017. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Emma Willard report reveals history of sexual misconduct". TimesUnion.com. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  12. ^ Willard, Lucas. "Report Details History Of Sexual Misconduct At Emma Willard School". WAMC.org. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 


  • Scott, Anne Firor. "What, Then, is the American: This New Woman?" The Journal of American History 65 (1978): 679–703.
  • Scott, Anne Firor. "The Ever Widening Circle: The Diffusion of Feminist Values from the Troy Female Seminary, 1822–1872." History of Education Quarterly 19 (1979): 3–25.
  • Woody, Thomas. A History of Women's Education in the United States. New York: Octagon Books, 1929.

External links