ABSTRACT

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?