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Scenes of Learning: Quaker and Girls' Schools

“From a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was
ever laid out in Books.…”
— Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography


«  Franklin's Reading as a "Youth"  »


I

n his Autobiography, Franklin described the books he had read as a young man which he considered influential for his own development. Two examples
(although not Franklin’s own copies) are shown here (nos. 87-88).


"From a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was
ever laid out in Books. Pleas’d with the Pilgrim’s Progress, my first Collection was of John Bunyan’s Works, in separate little volumes. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton’s Historical Collections; they were small Chapmen’s Books and cheap, 40 or 50 in all. —My father’s little Library consisted chiefly of Books in polemic Divinity, most of which I read…. Plutarch’s Lives there was, in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great Advantage. There was also a book of Defoe’s called an Essay on Projects and another of Dr Mather’s call’d Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a Turn of Thinking that had an Influence on some of the principal future Events of my Life.
"


The Pilgrim’s Progress… Historical Remarques, and Observations

«  Reading in the Quaker English School  »


L

ike the Academy of Philadelphia, the “Public School” run by Philadelphia Quakers at Fourth Street near Chestnut was divided into Latin, English, and Mathematical “schools,” each a distinct division with separate teachers and curricula. A 1764 list of books from the English school suggests the range of readings given to students. Franklin had recommended a similar group of books in his Idea of the English School. Included are works by William Penn and other Quakers, geography and mathematics texts, and some poetry and history. One noteworthy item is John Woolman’s radical plea against “Keeping Negroes,” which suggests that debates over slaveholding may have found their way into the classroom.

A Catalogue of Books Considerations on Keeping Negroes

«  Reading in Girls' Schools  »


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wo book lists provide evidence of young women’s reading in early Philadelphia schools. A school for girls was founded by the Quaker Anthony Benezet in 1754 and taken over by Ann Thornton one year later, at which point Benezet delivered a group of books to her. Thornton taught only for a short period, after which Benezet
returned. Daughters of many prominent Quaker families attended this school and were exposed to religious writings, travel narratives, and modern literature by both male and female authors, including Elizabeth Singer Rowe’s popular History of Joseph.

 

While there is no surviving record of books used in the Charity School for girls run by the Academy and College of Philadelphia, book lists from other charity schools do exist. Shown here is one from the Aimwell School, founded and run by Quaker women in 1796 (no. 93). The list, which is accompanied by precise borrowing rules, suggests that these schoolgirls had access to a variety of
books, from simple illustrated tales for beginning readers to novels like Robinson Crusoe.


Catalogue of Books The History of Joseph. A Poem. Catalogue of Books London Cries for Children

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Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania
Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania