chapter  3
20 Pages

"What Will Be the Use of This Study?"

In 1837, Virginia's Bedfard Female Academy published ablistering indictment of the science education offered in riyal institutions. "Women are not destined to be Navigators, nar Opticians, nor Almanac-makers, nar Practical Mechanics, nar Miners, nor Engineers, nar Doctars of Medicine;" instead, " ... [they] should understand ... much mare of Cookery than of Chemistry."l Accarding to Bedfard, the science commonly taught in female seminaries was a "pretended science taught only in name," a subject incapable of strengthening ar adorning the female mind. A conservative female school that took pride in offering a so-called ornamental rather than a scientific education far girls, Bedfard claimed that scientific study misled young women from their true vocation in the home. 2 The claims made by Bedfard Academy raise two interesting questions about the science education of girls in the early nineteenth century. First, did girls indeed study science "only in name," a science best characterized as rudimentary? Second, to what extent did the science in girls' schools include topics related to such traditionally male vocations as navigation, mining, mechanics, or engineering?