Their mothers raised them to be proper, young ladies and expert housekeepers in expectation of marriage. If these women were fortunate enough to receive some kind of formalized schooling, they were to study penmanship, limited aspects of their mother language, and very little arithmetic (Philadelphia School of Design for Women 5). Unfortunately, this small degree of education was extremely constrictive to women. If they never married or were widowed at a young age, they really had no place to go. This form of women's education created generations of women that were almost entirely dependent on their husbands and male relatives.
During the nineteenth century, when the feminist movement was beginning, many schools were established specifically for the education of women, such as the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and also for the education of both. In the beginning, women's art schools mostly taught pupils practical applications of art. For example, female art students often studied drawing and lithographing, in hopes that they would be hired by industrial companies as designers. The Philadelphia School of Design for Women was one of the first all women's art schools to establish this form of education.
Founded in 1844 by a woman named Sarah Peter, the Philadelphia School of Design for Women was a school like none that had come before it. Peter was a wealthy woman of stature and decided to start this school in one of the rooms of her mansion and to hire a teacher to hold regular classes for women in art and design. (As a wonderful incentive for all women, tuition was free for the poor and the wealthy paid a very small sum.) Sarah Peter saw how truly poor the traditional education for women was and she strongly believed that every woman should "stand by her sex," thus her reasoning for establishing this soon to become famous art school.
As Peter saw it, she wished to give young women "some practical training,...should [they] so desire or the necessity arise, for well paying self support," (qtd. in Philadelphia School of Design for Women 6). In addition to her personal feelings, she had a very specific reason for starting the Philadelphia school--train women to create designs for the city's industrial lines, such as textiles, lithographing, wood engraving, floor coverings, and furniture. From this point on, Peter devoted the rest of her life to overseeing the School and also traveled around the U.S. to establish art schools, like the Philadelphia, in other cities (Philadelphia School of Design for Women 6-11).
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