School books

Contributed by intern Lauren Ericson

For the students in the Litchfield school system it is almost time to return their textbooks, clean their desks, and start their summer vacation! With graduation ceremonials underway, it seems appropriate to compare these traditions to those at the Litchfield Female Academy. Several books in the Sarah Pierce collection contain notes regarding who owned the book, when they used it, who they were associated with, and what they did in school.

For example, Jane Roxana Lewis was presented with A sketch of my friend’s family for her skill in Arithmetic. Miss Lewis also kept a reliable record of her social life at the Academy by listing her friends’ names in her copy of Sketches of universal history. This list included three girls in what John Brace Pierce referred to as “The Club” – Elizabeth (Betsey) Wolcott, Mary Landon and Elizabeth Cooke – as well as several others.

Similarly, Elizabeth Goodwin received a book for her participation at the Female Academy. Her copy of Village hymns for social worship was given to her, and signed, by Sarah Pierce as a “Prize in History & Geography & for general good scholarship.” Nancy Barclay was also rewarded with a book. Sarah Pierce presented Miss Barclay with The whole duty of women for her “perfect cheerfeeling and good term here in the family.”

So while today’s exemplary students may receive a plaque or trophy along with their customary diploma, this honor was parallel to that of receiving a book from Sarah Pierce herself. And although today’s social butterflies have friends sign their yearbook, a tangible list of all of your friends was not as unusual two-hundred years ago. Regardless of which traditions are abandoned or continued, the end of a school year is a time to celebrate accomplishments with friends. Congratulations!

Lauren Ericson is a student at Southern Connecticut State University. She worked on updating records to add to our online database of publications. She also added information about each volume with ties to Female Academy students to the Ledger.

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About Linda Hocking

I have been the Curator of Library & Archives at the Litchfield Historical Society since 2002. I also serve on the State Historical Records Advisory Board, as Immediate Past President of New England Archivists, and as newsletter editor for the Academy of Certified Archivists. I have been a certified archivist since 2005.

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