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Wesleyan Female College

If you did not have to go to school, would you? Today school is mandatory for everyone, but it was not always that way. In the early 1800s there were not many schools, and if you were a girl, there was even less of an opportunity for an education. Florence Fleming Corley at Kennesaw State College reports that while boys and girls were taught the same basic skills, girls quit school sooner to learn homemaking skills. Tena Roberts, the archivist at Wesleyan College, states that people actually believed that too much education was bad for women’s health. Corley agrees that there were myths that girls with too much education might run fevers or not be able to have children. Men simply feared educated women would neglect the home. According to Gena Franklin, vice president of Wesleyan, the idea of a higher education for women eventually caught on. Methodists and enlightened citizens in Macon raised money and petitioned the legislature to charter the Georgia Female College, later named Wesleyan. The first college degree ever given to a woman was awarded in 1840. While viewed by some as a radical idea, the first students were primarily daughters of wealthy plantation owners hopeful of finding a suitable husband rather than a career. Today that has changed. Young women of differing races, religion, and ethnic groups from all walks of life and all parts of the world prepare for careers at Wesleyan. Nearly half of the student body goes on to attend graduate school. As student Janet Fallow says, there is a lot of pride in the history of the first college for women.

Teacher tip: Discuss problems that can occur when part of the population is denied an education. Who should be responsible for providing an education for Georgians?