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Judson College in Marion, Alabama is the fifth oldest women’s college in the United States opened its doors on January 7, 1839

Judson College is the fifth oldest women’s college in the United States. It was founded by members of Siloam Baptist Church in 1838 in Marion, Alabama at a time when formal education for women was rare. The college opened its doors on January 7, 1839. It was named after Ann Hasseltine Judson, the first female foreign missionary from the United States to Burma (now Myanmar). It has been affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention throughout its history and is currently still heavily funded by the convention.1 (continued below)

The following article was published in The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Spring Issue, 1941 and provides a unique glimpse and thoughts about how girls should be educated before the War Between the States. Times have really changed thank goodness!

Judson -The First Jewett Hall burned in 1888 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)The first Jewett Hall at Judson College, constructed in 1840 and burned down in 1888 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)


By A. Elizabeth Taylor

The Judson Female Institute1 opened on January 7, 1839 in Marion, Alabama with an enrollment of nine students, three of whom were boys. 2 This school, which is one of the oldest of its type in the country, was founded through “the influence of the Reverend Milo P. Jewett of Vermont, assisted by General E. D. King and Mrs. Julia Barron of Marion”.3 From the beginning, the Judson Female Institute prospered and by December, 1839, seventy students were receiving instruction there.4 The enrollment had increased to 142 students by 18505 and had reached 234 by 1859.6

Regulations governing students provide insight

Instruction ranged from primary to college work. The following regulations governing students of the Judson Female Institute give one some insight into the school life of Southern girls in the decade preceding the Civil War and also furnish some basis for the claim that the high reputation of the Judson Institute was due to “its strictness of discipline; its regulations, putting down all extravagances, and securing economy and order, system and punctuality; and salubrity of its location, and the, pure moral and religious influences which surround it”.7

Judson - Partial View of Judson College, Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)Partial View of Judson College, Marion, Ala ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)


THE GOVERNMENT is vested in the Principal, aided by his Associates in the Faculty of Instruction. A prompt arid cheerful obedience to the laws is always expected; and; this is enforced by appeals to the reason and to the conscience of the Pupil. This course, sustained by constant reference to the Word of God, has been uniformly successful in securing alacrity in the discharge of duty. Should the voice of persuasion remain unheeded, and any young lady continue perverse and obstinate, in spite of kind and faithful admonition, her friends would be requested to withdraw her from the Institution. None are desired as members of this seminary, except such as are happy in observing wise and wholesome regulations.8

Kiya the Gull Hardcover and illustrated by Fen H. Lasell– 1969

Reports to Parents

MONTHLY REPORTS, showing the scholarship and deportment of the Pupils, are sent to the Parents and Guardians.9

Judson photograph of graduates of Judson College in Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (ADAH)Judson photograph of graduates of Judson College in Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)


LETTERS for the Pupils should be directed to the care of the Principal, POST-PAID. All correspondence, except between Pupils and Parents and Guardians, it liable to inspection.10

All instructions relative to their Correspondence will be carefully observed.11

NO Books, Magazines or Newspapers to be received, without permission of the Principal.12

No Boarder shall send any Letter or Package to the Post Office or to any individual of either sex, without permission of the Principal. Nor shall any Boarder receive, either for herself or for any other Pupils, any Letter or Note, Package or Parcel; any Bouquet of flowers, any Memento or Token of regard, or any Verbal Communication from an unmarried Gentleman, on penalty of expulsion.13

Judson College, Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)Judson College, Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Religious Training

Pupils attend church, once at least, on the Sabbath, under the direction of their parents or guardians as to the place of worship. Other religious exercises are attended at the discretion of the Principal, but all sectarian influences are carefully excluded.14

With intellectual and physical education, is combined the most careful moral and social culture. The BIBLE is constantly used as the Text Book in Morals, and all the religious training of the pupils is conducted on the broad principles of the Gospel Sentiments of truth and honor, piety and benevolence are sedulously inculcated. All external evil influences are rigidly excluded, and Parents may here safely trust their daughters, assured that they will be strongly though tenderly guarded, in all that is dear to a parent’s heart.15

Judson View of Judson College Lawn, Marion, Ala ca. 1900 (Alabama Department Archives and History)Judson View of Judson College Lawn, Marion, Ala ca. 1900 (Alabama Department Archives and History)

Advantages of Boarding at the Institute

Only by boarding in the Institute, can the highest advantages of the Institution be realized. Here, young Ladies are always under the inspection of the Governess and Teachers; they have regular hours of study and recreation; habits of order, system, punctuality, neatness and economy, are constantly fostered. They also enjoy an amount of moral and religious culture, which cannot be extended to others less favorably situated. The regularity of their lives; the alternation of sedentary habits with exercise, of hours of study with amusement, the kind and judicious supervision constantly maintained., secures the highest degree of mental vigor and bodily health.16 .

Social Life

The MANNERS, personal and social HABITS, and the MORALS of the young Ladies are formed under the eyes of the Governess and Teachers, from whom the Pupils are never separated.17

The Boarders never leave the grounds of the Institute, without special permission of the PRINCIPAL.18 They attend no public parties, and receive no visitors, except such as are introduced by Parents or Guardians.19

MONTHLY LEVEES are held, conducted by Committees of the older Pupils, under the supervision of the Governess. These are attended by members of the Board of Trustees and other married gentlemen with their ladies. They are designed to FORM THE MANNERS of the young ladies, and make them practically familiar with the usages of polite society.20


They go to town but once a month, and then all purchases must be approved by the Governess.

They are allowed to spend no more than fifty cents each month from their pocket-money.

No young lady will be allowed to have money in her own hands; all sums intended for her benefit must be deposited with the STEWARD.

No accounts will be opened in town; and no purchases will be made for the Pupils, except under special instructions from the Parent or Guardian.21

Judson Carnegie Library at Judson College, Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)Judson Carnegie Library at Judson College, Marion, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)


To promote habits of economy and simplicity, a UNIFORM DRESS is prescribed.

For winter, it is a DARK GREEN WORSTED.

Of this fabric, each young lady should have three Dresses, with three Sacks of the same—one of the sacks to be large and wadded.

For summer, each Pupil should have two Pink Calico, two Pink Gingham, and two common White Dresses, with one Swiss Muslin. Also, one Brown Linen Dress. Every Dress should be accompanied by a Sack of the same material.22

BONNETS—One of Straw; in winter, trimmed with dark Green Lustring ribbon, plain solid color; in summer, trimmed with Pink Lustring, plain solid color—may be lined with Pink only—no flowers or tabs. Also, one Cape Bonnet, of Brown Linen.23

APRONS, of Brown Linen and Barred Muslin—none of Silk permitted.24 All the Dresses must be made perfectly plain; without inserting, edgings, or any trimming whatever.25

ALL PUPILS, except those in Mourning Apparel, must be provided with the Uniform, and must wear it at all times.26

Small linen Collars, with Black Velvet Bands, are worn around the neck. No Neck Ribbons are tolerated.27

ALL JEWELRY, of every description, is interdicted.28

Every young lady should be provided with several pairs of thick walking shoes, one pair of India Rubbers, and an Umbrella.29


No young lady shall make any Presents to any Teacher, or to any of her School-mates, without the express permission of her Parents or Guardian.30


Any young Lady DIPPING SNUFF, or bringing Snuff into the Institute is liable to instant EXPULSION.31


They (the pupils) retire at nine o’clock at night, and rise at five o’clock in the morning, throughout the year, and study one hour before breakfast; they also study two hours at night, under the direction of the Governess.32

INSTRUCTION THE REGULAR COURSE OF STUDY prescribed for those who aspire to the honors of Graduation, is elevated and extensive, occupying four years. It is, substantially, a College course; substantially, for it is not pretended that our Course; of Study is identical with that pursued in our Colleges and Universities. Nor is this desirable. In the intellectual and physical constitution of the sexes, there is a difference; a wise course of training will not disregard this difference. Girls are also destined to occupy very different spheres of action from boys, in the business of life; the education of girls should prepare them for their peculiar sphere. Hence, the extended curriculum so properly demanded of young men, ought not to be required of young ladies. For the Greek language and Higher Mathematics, the Course, of Study in the Judson substitutes the Latin or the French Language, English literature, Belles Lettres, Aesthetics, Music, Hygiene, the Science of Domestic Economy, &c.33

In this Course,, the study of Languages, and of the Mathematics and other Sciences, is carried far enough to secure that thorough mental discipline, which no succedaneum can impart; while, at the same time, a critical and appreciative knowledge of our own language and literature, is acquired; the taste of the Pupil is cultivated; her soul is imbued with the love of the beautiful, the true and the pure; she becomes prepared to be a WOMAN—a woman, fitted for the practical duties of life; fitted, wisely and beautifully to fill and adorn her own appropriate spheer in society.34

THE INSTRUCTION in the various studies pursued is of the most thorough character. It is intended that the Pupil shall fully understand every subject which engages her attention. By combining familiar Lectures with the teaching of the text-book, the instructor causes the knowledge acquired by the students to assume a practical character, and teaches her how it may be applied to the duties of common life! The Pupil learns things, not mere names—ideas, not were words.35

Particular attention is given to Reading, Spelling and Defining throughout the whole course.

COMPOSITION is taught methodically, on the Inductive System, with great success. Regular instruction is also given in the important art of LETTER-WRITING.

A half-hour, every day, is devoted to PENMANSHIP, exclusively.

Great care is taken to secure a correct pronunciation of the French Language, and the Pupil is constantly exercised in translating English into French, as well as French into English.

In teaching the LANGUAGES, constant use is made of the BLACK BOARD.36


There is but one session a year in the Institute, and that of NINE months, commencing always about the first of October. On this plan, daughters will be at home with their parents during the months of July, August and September; while the winter months, the golden season of study, will be spent at school.

No recess at Christmas.

The next session will commence on Monday the first day of October. It is of great importance to the pupils to be present at the OPENING of the session.37

1The name was changed to Judson College in 1904

2Louise Manly, History of Judson College, p. 9

3Bulletin of Judson College, 1940, p. 11

4Manly, op. cit., p. 10

5Catalogue of the Trustees, Instructors and Students of the Judson Female Institute, 1850, p. 11. Hereafter cites as Judson Catalogue

6Ibid., 1859, p. 14.

7Judson Catalogue, 1851, p. 23.

8Ibid., 1850, pp. 15-16.

9Ibid., 1851, p. 17

10Ibid., 1852, p. 20

11Ibid., 1850, p. 16

12Ibid., 1852, p.20

13Ibid.,1853, p. 19

14Judson Catalogue, 1850, p.17

15Ibid., 1852, p. 26

16Ibid., 1850, pp.17-18

17Ibid., p. 16


19Ibid., 1851, p. 17

20Judson Catalogue, 1851, p. 17. After 1855, no mention was made of the Monthly Levees in the catalogues.

21Ibid., 1850, p. 16

22Ibid., 1851, p. 17




26Judson Catalogue, 1851, p. 19

27Ibid., 1852, p. 21

28Ibid., 1851, p. 18

29Ibid., 1852, p. 21

30Ibid., 1853, p. 19

31Ibid., 1851, p. 18

32Ibid., 1850, p. 16

33Judson Catalogue, 1855, p. 17

34Ibid., pp. 17-18

35Ibid., 1852, p. 19

36Ibid., p. 16

  1. 37Judson Catalogue, 1860, p. 19. Prior to 1853, the session has been ten months, from October through July.

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