Women in Education


by Melissa Calhoun, Infobahn Outfitters, Inc.Provisions for education were part of Illinois government from statehood. The Federal Land Grant of 1818 had provisions for elementary and secondary schools: “section no. 16 of every township… shall be granted to the State, for the … use of schools” and “thirty-six sections … shall be reserved for the use of a seminary of learning… and vested in the legislature of the State…”. In 1825, the State Legislature passed an act providing for establishment of free schools, as well as the levying of taxes to provide funds for the schools.


Female seminaries provided curriculums of serious study and were the first colleges for Illinois women. Jacksonville Female Academy, established by Frances Ellis, opened in 1830. Monticello Female Seminary was chartered in Alton in 1835. The founder Benjamin Godfrey, claimed that educating a man educated an individual, while educating a woman educated an entire family. By 1860, more than 20 female seminaries existed in Illinois. Many have been incorporated into today’s colleges and universities. Women gained more opportunities in higher education as all-male institutions began to admit female students. Illinois Wesleyan University admitted the first women students in its class of 1870.

Concern for education in the state grew between 1840 and 1860. In 1845, the Secretary of State was designated State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The first meetings of the Illinois Education Society were held in 1846. In 1857, the State Board of Education was formed. 3,000 schoolhouses were built between 1857 and 1858. Most of these were one room schools holding classes 7 months of the year.

Illinois State Normal School (now Illinois State University) was established in 1857 to train teachers, but was unable to meet the demand. Teachers were primarily men paid a relatively low wage and the state had a shortage of them.

The solution came primarily from the National Educational Society in the form of teachers from outside the state. Resistance came because they were young women. The Democrats objected to them for political reasons because the girls came from the Northeast. Stephen Douglas claimed that the teachers were abolitionists and would convert the children into “canting, freedom shrieking New England demagogues”. Economics and demand silenced much of the opposition. The women often accepted half the pay required to employ a man. As a result the teaching profession at the primary level moved from male-dominated to female-dominated.

By the late 19th century, many young women spent a year or two teaching school between their own schooling and their marriage. Many taught male pupils who were older than themselves. Women also began to have influence in the decision making process of education. Sarah Raymond was superintendent of District 87 in Bloomington by 1874. Georgina Trotter became the first member of the Bloomington Board of Education in 1875. Caroline Grote also spent her career in public education and became Dean of Women of the Western Normal School in 1908.


  1. Bogart, Ernest L. and John M. Mathews. (1920) Centennial History of Illinois: The Modern Commonwealth, 1893-1918 (vol. V). Illinois Centennial Commission., Springfield, IL.
  2. Bogart, Ernest L. and Charles M. Thompson. (1920) Centennial History of Illinois: The Industrial State, 1870-1893 (vol. IV). Illinois Centennial Commission., Springfield, IL.
  3. Carpenter, Charles S., editor (1953-1954) Education in Illinois in Illinois Blue Book, 1953-1954. State of Illinois, Springfield, IL.
  4. Cole, Arthur C. (1919) Centennial History of Illinois: The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870 (vol. III). Illinois Centennial Commission., Springfield, IL.
  5. Pease, Theodore C. (1918) Centennial History of Illinois: The Frontier State, 1818-1848 (vol. II). Illinois Centennial Commission., Springfield, IL.

Literary Societies at Monmouth College

text by Neil Dahlstrom, in collaboration with Dr. Stacy Cordery

Literary societies served an important function in the early educational and social existence of Monmouth College. The two male societies, the Philadelphian and the Eccritean, founded in 1856 and 1857, were soon rivaled by two female literary societies. The first, the Amateur des Belles Lettres (originally called the Philomatheon Society), was founded in October 1857. Its motto was “Droit et Avant”, translated as “Right and Onward.” The second, the Aletheorian, was founded in September 1862, with the motto “Aude Sapere”, or “Dare to be Wise.” These literary societies served to promote debate and public speaking at Monmouth College. In 1867, the Amateur des Belles Lettres (ABL) and the Aletheorian joined forces with the two male societies to sponsor a lecture course which ran until 1878. In 1869 they once again worked together to finance and produce a monthly newspaper, the Courier. Since Monmouth College lacked a library on campus until 1902, these organizations created their own. The books, donated by society members, were used for background research of debate topics. The library also contained copies of those books required for class use. Shakespeare, Milton, Gibbon and theological authors figured prominently.

Meetings usually followed the same procedure every week: Call to order, devotional service, literary exercises, criticism, miscellaneous business, initiation of new members, adjournment. The centerpiece of every meeting was the literary exercises and debates, which often focused on important events of the day such as the desirability of universal compulsory education, or giving women the right to vote.

On a lighter note, both female societies held an annual “spread,” of which the Monmouth College Ravelings from 1900 reported as:

an event to which every girl looks with real, genuine pleasure. A mystery, indeed, at which the boys can only guess, and wish for one evening, at least, that they were girls. …Formerly this feast was enjoyed by both societies, on the same evening, but this year the Aletheorians grew impatient and gave their spread on November 18. The program was good, and immediately after they adjourned to enjoy a royal good time. After the spread, the girls paid the yearly call to the boy’s societies.

The A.B.L. girls always have waited until the spring term, this year selecting February 3. All dates were canceled, all excuses withheld. The program was quickly passed over, then the chairs were moved back and fun? well, if noise and laughter are signs, fun was there. About 6 o’clock the music and singing cease, and anyone eavesdropping might have guessed that the spread was in progress. Before leaving, the girls visited the boys’ societies and interrupted their programs one more night. Every girl is willing to admit that the very best thing in the whole society is the “spread.”

As the above illustrates, another important aspect of these early literary societies was their function as a social outlet. They provided students with the opportunity to be a part of an organization which brought women of similar interests together and allowed them to interact both intellectually and convivially.

By 1928 the Amateur des Belles Lettres and the Aletheorian had disappeared from the Monmouth College campus. With the development of intercollegiate debate as a separate activity, as well as the legalization of local college fraternities and sororities in 1923, the programs and activities offered by these societies were superceded. Their importance to the early life of Monmouth College, however, could never be replaced.


  1. Beth, Loren P. “Monmouth Literary Societies,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 43, XLIII (1950), 120-136.
  2. Davenport, F. Garvin. Monmouth College: The First Hundred Years 1853-1953. Cedar Rapids, IA:Torch Press, 1953.
  3. Monmouth College Ravelings, 1900.


Literary societies at Monmouth College promoted debate and public speaking. The Amateur des Belles Lettres (originally called the Philomatheon Society) and the Aletheorian were women’s societies. The two societies held annual contests. During some years, “Inter-Society Contests were held between the society at Monmouth College and a society at Knox College in Galesburg. The programs depicted below list the performers, judges, and the activities of the contests. [More information about these societies]





Caroline Grote, 1863-1941

Educator, Dean of Women at Western Illinois State Teacher’s College

wi000003Caroline Grote (left) & Anna H. McKee, Augusta, Illinois, June 5, 1894
wi000005Campus of Western Illinois University. Monroe Hall (renamed Grote Hall) is on the right. Sherman Hall, the first building on campus, is on the left
wi000001Monroe Hall, Western Illinois University
wi000002Monroe Hall, Western Illinois University
wi000004Caroline Grote
No woman was more important to the early development of Western Illinois University than Caroline Grote. A native of Illinois, she worked at every level of public education during her career, which spanned fifty-six years.

Caroline Grote was born in Perry (Pike County), Illinois in 1863, when Lincoln was president and the Civil War was being fought. During the next sixteen years, Grote completed primary and secondary school in Perry, graduating in 1879. At that time, it was not uncommon for school teachers to begin their teaching career having completed only a high school diploma, which is exactly what Grote did. After completing high school, Grote immediately started teaching school at Shady Dell School, near Perry. For a little more than the next decade, she continued to teach at several Pike County schools.

In the fall of 1889, Grote was hired as the superintendent of the Augusta (Hancock County) schools, where she remained until 1895. At that time, she left to teach mathematics and German at Vincennes High School in Indiana. A year later she returned to the position of high school principal in Pittsfield, Illinois. After holding that position for two years, she became the Superintendent of Schools for Pike County, the first female to serve as a county superintendent of schools in the state of Illinois.

All of these accomplishments were achieved by a woman who did not have any more education than a high school diploma. In 1911, she received a two-year diploma from Western Illinois State Normal School. She furthered her education by completing a Bachelor of Literature degree from Carthage College in 1913 and then a Master of Arts degree at the University of Chicago in 1927.

When Grote was Superintendent of Schools in Pike County, a man named Alfred Bayliss, State Superintendent of Schools, became acquainted with her. In 1906, when Bayliss was president of Western Illinois State Teachers College, he hired Carolyn Grote to be the ninth and tenth grade training school teacher. In addition to this assignment, Grote taught a variety of other classes, including English, history, mathematics, and education, during her early years at Western.

In 1907, at the beginning of her second year at Western, Grote was appointed Director of County School Training. Her duties included having charge of the special curriculum for those students who wanted to teach in rural schools. Miss Grote developed a one-year curriculum for students who had finished the tenth grade and a two-year curriculum for those who had only finished the eighth grade. Completion of either course of study allowed the student to receive a teaching certificate without having to pass an examination.

Grote’s interest in country school problems allowed her to complete a survey of rural schools in the Military Tract section of Illinois which documented the poor teaching and facilities in that sector of public education. In the report, she noted that many schools had “smoke begrimed walls and ceilings,” windows that “were seldom washed,” and outhouses that were “deplorable”. School libraries were often inadequate and not suited to the needs of the students.

Grote’s career took a new turn in 1908 when President Bayliss asked her to be Dean of Women, taking general charge of the women students. This meant living in Monroe Hall, the women’s dormitory and supervising the women students closely. An alumnus of Western remembers Miss Grote in this quote:

She watched over her girls like a mother hen. Her consuming desire was to keep us on the “straight and narrow”. Every week we had a conference, with warnings about the facts of life. We were instructed not to stroll in the ravine with a boy…One time we were advised not to read Sinclair Lewis’s new book, Main Street. “It will poison your minds”, she said. Naturally, we scrambled to find the book, and everyone who could, read it.

Grote did watch over her girls closely and reminded them often of what proper behavior was. She stressed to the girls that they should not go to campus events alone. “Girls, every modern girl should have a chaperone” Rules within the dormitory were also rigid. Grote reminded the girls to shut their blinds, as “we must look out for the peepers”. Men were allowed to visit, but no male dared stay in the dormitory lobby after ten o’clock, as this poem from the 1922 Western yearbook, The Sequel, relates:

Hickory dickory dock
Miss Grote looked at the clock;
The clock struck ten–
Out ran the men.
Hickory dickory dock.

Grote was the Dean of Women until 1935 when she retired. As the demands of this position grew, Grote found herself giving up more and more of her teacher training work. Later in her career, she made use of her deanship and associated work as head of the girl’s dormitory to study living conditions at Western Illinois State Teachers College, the topic of her doctoral dissertation. The title of her dissertation was “Housing and Living Conditions of Women Students in Western Illinois State Teacher’s College at Macomb.” She received her doctorate from Columbia University Teachers College in 1932 at the age of 69.

In the summer after she had finished her doctorate, Grote took a trip to Hawaii. This trip became the subject of her only book, A Summer in Hawaii (1937), which relates the tale of her travel experience and provides a historical and cultural description of the Hawaiian islands.

Caroline Grote retired from Western in 1935, after serving twenty-nine years at the institution and fifty-six years in the field of education. Western’s first woman’s dormitory, Monroe Hall, was appropriately renamed Grote Hall in her honor. On September 1, 1941, at the age of 78, Caroline Grote died.


Alumni from Ashland Community High School 1886-1919

Taken from the Ashland Community High School Hand Book, published by Board of Education, April 1925.

Ella Turner
Bruce Green
Albert Settle
Elnora Mitchell
Blank Anderson
Hester Buckley
Henrietta Anderson

Abbie Gates
Rudie Gates
Fred Spears
Alice Buckley
Harry Babb
Alice Sinclair
Fred Wyatt
1889 (no class)
Byron Gailey
Edna Middour
Mary Turner
Loretta Frazer
Lottie Spears
Alice Buckley
Bessie Sutton
Anna Walker
Anna Britton
Sadie Anderson
Nellie Whalen
Uel Hamilton
Ida Corson
Darwin Gailey
Lloyd Hamilton
Bertie Shortt
Eugene Gailey
Alta Horton
Arthur LaTouche
Beulah Ruggles
1895 (no class)
Cora Britton
Rena Cox
David Crum
Travis Elmore
Fanny Hexter
Myrtle La Touche
Lela Redmon
Verne Sinclair
Marietta Spears
Seymour Spears
Lula Spencer
Ina Clark
William O. Baumgartner
Euphemia Hamilton
Ada Glenn
Will M. Goff
Geo L. Ratliff
Philip Nollsch
Raye D. Hexter
Rose Salzenstein
Alethia Edwards
Watson W. Gailey
Harry Hexter
Wilbert H. Suydan
Nellie G. Britton
Nannie E. Smith
Clarice Rearick
Hazel La Touche
Maude Sorrells
Nellie Beggs
George Beggs
Ernest Clark
Claire Huston
Henry Conner
Eugene Clemons
Sherman Dorand
Sadie Duffy
Alma Graff
Eli Hexter
Ollie Hill
Helen Rearick
Hennie Salzenstein
Joseph Sinclair
Lawrence Sinclair
Emma Bentley
Georgia Combs
Mabel Daniel
Nellie George
Rolla Goff
Willie Graff
Louise Hamilton
Mary Larmon
Lizzie Nottingham
Richard Nottingham
Louise Spears
Maude Struble
Essie Davis
John W. Graff
Clark Jones
Blanch E. Lohman
Lela E. Lohman
Nellie F. Nix
Mabel Pfund
Cordia Wilburn
Cynthia Elmore
Pearl Buckley
Harry Lohman
Harry Harding
Ansel Hexter
Stella Eldredge
Frieda Lilienstein
Rowena Gailey
Grace Nix
Harold D. Garner
Kathryn C. Graff
Nellie E. Duffy
Maude B. Bentley
Bernice R. Davis
Byron G. Graff
Jeannette H.
Nellie Maye Grogan
Helen Lee
Ethel H. Graham
Harrison B. Corson
Carrie Crystal Harbur
Edwin Salzenstein
Clara Kandt
Alice Adeline Buckley
W. Henry McKeown
Thomas Almarin Sinclair
Elsie Spears
Katie Wright Goff
Oklahoma Lanham
Annette Pearn Rearick
William Ross Campbell
William Edmund Burns
Earl Ernest Zirkle
Henry Grover Suydan
Edestina Beggs
Frances Boyd
Jessie Parsons
Rena Shackel
Addie Smith
Verdie Stout
Harry Struble
Nona Bentley
Leta Burns
Marguerite Campbell
Sudbrinck Campbell
Walter Dyer
Myrtle Graff
Parthena Graff
Imla Hewitt
Ethel Jones
Enoch King
Mabel Newell
Ethel Shortridge
Giles Stowell
Julius Tiniam
Grace V. Bain
Robert W. Bast
Helen R. Conover
Lula M. Garner
Helen Grist
Rae Grogan
J. Joseph Jenkins
Elma Jones
Helen Reichert
Joe Waser
Stuart Wyatt
Gleana Byrkit
Eugene Caswell
Roy Massey
Louise Reiser
George Witty
Eula Bailey
Glenna Bailey
Lutie Beggs
Dorhie Bradley
Pearl Caswell
Russel Davis
Mary Massey
Louise Savage
Harold Wright
Andrew Wyatt
Myrtle Wyatt
Grace Bailey
Lora Bradley
Nellie Flinn
Ruth Jones
May Kendall
Frances Kennedy
Helen McCready
Bertha Newell
Horace Witty
Greta Davis
Frank Fitzgerald
Pearl Fitzgerald
Mabel Hawkins
David Jones
Nellie Kennedy
Ethel Ringler
William Stribling
Martha Wyatt
Mae Atteberry
Myrtle Carder
Rainey Caswell
Alfred Cosner
Frank Davey
William Kennedy
Edith Votsmier
Bertha Bergen
Jesse Douglas
Nellie Duling
Francis Fish
Elmore Gailey
Calista Newell
Marjorie Taylor
Billy Liter
Paul Duling
Verdie Jones
Glenn Holmes
Raychel Gist
William Beadles

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Early Education in Cass County

Some of the photos, etc. taken from An Illustrated Directory of Cass County Schools, by A. E. Hinners, County Superintendent, Copyrighted 1902.

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Early Teachers in Ashland, Illinois 1890-1917

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Early Women of Illinois Wesleyan University

Sources include: 1895 Wesleyana of Illinois Wesleyan University,
(also 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909 editions
An Historical Sketch of the Illinois Wesleyan University, Together with a Record of the Alumni, 1857-1895

Contributing Library:

Sheean Library, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois

Georgina Trotter, First Woman on the Bloomington Board of Education

Georgina Trotter, first woman on the Bloomington Board of Education, served on Withers Library Board (and raised funds for the library), was a successful businesswoman (with brother John Trotter) in the lumber, grain and coal business and had served in the Civil War as a nurse. With her friend, Sarah Raymond, she was considered a “power in the education affairs of Bloomington.”


Sarah Raymond

An Early School Administrator

Sarah Raymond, an Illinois native, was born in LaSalle (now Kendall) County in 1842. She was 24 years old when she graduated from a four-year course at Illinois State Normal University in 1866 and took a job in a private school.

Two years later she joined the District 87 (Bloomington) faculty as a primary teacher at the “Old Barn” school and two years later was made principal. In her third year here she was appointed principal of what became Sheridan School and the following year was named principal to organize yet another new large school. In 1873 she was named assistant principal of the high school, which position involved continued teaching. And when the principal resigned the next year to return to his medical career, there was Miss Raymond ready to take full charge of the high school. She accepted the position at $1,000 a year, $600 less than her predecessor had received, simply because unwritten board of education policy discriminated against women.

Apparently, the Board had learned that when a special person was needed for a difficult assignment, there was always Miss Raymond upon whom to call. She never applied for a higher position during her career but was always “chosen” by her superiors. Four months after she was named principal of the high school, in August of 1874, she was summoned by the board and asked to accept the position of superintendent of the school system–at once. Her predecessor in that job had been caught with his hand in the till. Even then she was paid $1,400 a year, $600 less than the thief!

She was the first woman superintendent of Bloomington’s schools, and one of the few in the country. Although she rose to the top of her field in a male-dominated society, although she began the superintendent’s position with a staff of 53–all women, and although women were allowed to vote in a school election while she was still in office, Miss Raymond was brought down when two men who campaigned on a platform of ridding the educational system of female administrators won seats on the board.

Early in her administration Miss Raymond put together “A manual of instruction to teachers and graded course of study”, the first complete curriculum guide of the school district.

On August 1, 1892 she held her last meeting with the board of education, and distributed copies of her farewell address, “A Retrospect.” She presented a brief history of her years as superintendent, and spoke to the topics of teachers, curriculum, discipline, and the problem of unequal wages for men and women teachers.

Miss Raymond left Bloomington and moved to Boston, where she engaged in charity work and later married William Fitzwilliam. Raymond School in Bloomington was named for her–the first Bloomington school named for a person (previously, schools were given numbers).

Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam died in 1918 in Chicago.

Photograph: MCHS collection
Pantagraph: I February 1918; 4 July 1976
Tompkins, Dortha C., “District Eighty Seven, Bloomington, Illinois” [1976] [Bloomington, IL]: McLean County Historical Society
[Raymond, Sarah] “Rules and regulations, manual of instruction to teachers and graded course of study of the Public Schools of Bloomington, Ill.” [Bloomington]: Bulletin Printing Co., 1883.

Contributing Library:

Stevenson – Ives Memorial Library, McLean County Historical Society, Bloomington, Illinois

Women’s Educational Association at Illinois Wesleyan University

The Woman’s Educational Association of Illinois Wesleyan University 1874-1881 (Images #000001-000048)

The Woman’s Educational Association of Illinois Wesleyan University was formed on June 3, 1874, by “several ladies” who met at the University. Prof. Jennie F. Willing, Professor of English Language and Literature, was elected Chairman of the meeting. The first annual meeting, which was held at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomington on June 17, 1874, featured Prof. Willing and four other women who delivered “stirring speeches on the subject of higher education for women” to “a good audience of ladies and gentlemen”. Four months later, on October 22, the Association adopted a constitution that defined the goals of the Association: “to raise funds for the endowment of a professorship in the Ill. Wes. University always to be filled by a woman”, and “to establish a Christian Home in Bloomington for lady students of the University where board shall be furnished at the lowest available rates.” The Constitution stipulated that “any person” could become a member of the Association for a fee of ten dollars.

This information and many other details concerning the history of the Woman’s Educational Association are found in the Record of the Woman’s Educational Association, a 7″ x ” volume containing the handwritten minutes of the Association. The accompanying images reproduce the minutes of the Association from 1874 to 1881. Pages 9-11 record the minutes of the first meetings, and pages 12-15 contain the Constitution and By Laws. Page 28 reports various decisions concerning the opening of the home to be known as Ladies’ Hall at Major’ College and the election of Mrs. C. A. Hart as Superintendent of the Home for the compensation of $25 dollars per month plus the provision of “bedding, washbowl, pitcher, towels, [and] looking-glass.” Page 29 contains the resolution That we charge $2.25 per week for board in the Ladies’ Hall. That each boarder furnish fuel and lights for her room. Each Lady may be allowed to do her washing and ironing in the laundry. Each to work an hour a day under the direction of the Superintendent.

Pages 33-34 permit the admission of Mrs. Hart’s niece, daughter, and granddaughter to Ladies’ Hall, but page 35 resolves “That no gentlemen be admitted as boarders.” Various other pages document the dedication and tenacity of the members of the Association in supporting women students by maintaining Ladies’ Hall.

The Record of the Woman’s Educational Association, which covers 1874-1885, and an accompanying volume, the Record of Trustees’ Meetings of the Women’s Education Association, which covers 1874-1892, are preserved in the Archives of Illinois Wesleyan University.

The organization of the Woman’s Educational Association followed by several years the opening of Illinois Wesleyan University to women students. The trustees of the University voted 20 to 1 to admit women in 1870. Twenty-two women were admitted that year, including Kate B. Ross of Dover, who was admitted as a sophomore, Delia Henry of Bloomington and Rhoda M. Wiley of Lexington, who were admitted as freshmen, and nineteen women who were admitted to the preparatory department. Hannah J. Shur of El Paso graduated from the University in 1872, and two other women, Martha Benjamin and Kate B. Ross, graduated in 1874. The first two women faculty members were Jennie F. Willing, Professor of English Language and Literature, and Mary H. Kuhl, Instructor of German, both of whom appear in the faculty roster for 1874.

Minutes of the Educational Association:

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