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History

At Emma, history courses transcend disciplines by offering introductions to arts studies, social sciences, and cross-disciplinary scholarship.

The History Department stresses observation and interpretation of primary sources and data; critical engagement with scholarship; research and writing; and seminar discussion of ideas. We also provide opportunities for students to draw on our own extensive school archives, to visit historic sites in the Capital District, and to work with local public historians, museum staff, archivists, and others as they explore the past. 

All our students complete a three-year core history sequence built upon the school’s academic pillars of intellectual flexibility, purpose and community, and equity and justice. This sequence is designed to offer students a progression of reading, discussion, writing, research, and critical analysis skills; students in all levels regularly practice historical thinking by focusing on sourcing, corroboration, contextualization, and close reading. Threaded through this sequence is a set of special History Seminar lessons created to foreground how historical thinking skills can help us connect across differences, build empathy, honor one another’s point of view, and contemplate essential questions such as “What is justice?” and “What defines citizenship?”

In their first two years at Emma Willard, students engage with global history through a program that celebrates the diversity of the world’s cultures by encouraging deep study of individual regions as well as cross-cultural comparisons. Ninth graders take Classical Mediterranean History in the fall semester and then a global history elective (African History, East Asian History, or Indian History) in the spring semester. Tenth graders then enroll in a second world history elective (European History, Latin American History, or Middle Eastern History) in the fall semester before completing the global history requirements with Contemporary World History in the spring semester. 

After completing this global history sequence, eleventh graders have the choice of taking United States History, Advanced Studies United States History, or United States History: Experiential Learning Through Site Visits. All three courses explore the most significant and recurrent themes of American history, paying particular attention to the evolving and highly contested notions of liberty, democracy, citizenship, and equality.

Beyond their graduation requirements, students can choose to continue their study of history or branch out into related disciplines through an extensive elective program that includes Advanced Studies courses and an array of classes designed around our teachers’ personal passions.

students in art history class

A visit to History Instructor Emily Snyder’s classroom is a window into the world of art and our place in it. Emma alums look back on the experience as pivotal in their educational development.

A woman in a white sleeveless dress and wearing white archival gloves removes a folder from a box.

Archivist Stephanie Ross shared a few of her favorite pieces and stories from the Emma Willard School Archives in the Fall/Winter 2023 edition of Signature magazine.

Signature Magazine Fall/Winter 2023

The Fall/Winter 2023 edition of Emma Willard School’s Signature magazine highlights several aspects of the Emma experience. From experiential learning to our deep historical roots and our profoundly dedicated faculty, we explore and celebrate some of the unique aspects of living and learning on Mount Ida. 

a photo of the page spread from Ms. Bendall's dedication

Earlier this summer, Emma Willard School’s Gargoyle staff announced their dedication of the 2022-2023 yearbook to History Instructor Carol Bendall during Gargoyle Assembly.

Download our course catalog for more details and graduation requirements.

Course Catalog

History Faculty

Isabell Shields

Isabell Shields

Interim History Department Chair, History Instructor
John Ball

John Ball

Science and History Instructor, Assistant Varsity Soccer Coach
Carol Bendall

Carol Bendall

History Instructor
Margaret Curtin

Margaret Curtin

History Instructor
Katie Duglin

Katie Duglin

History Instructor
John Riley

John Riley

History Instructor, Assistant Varsity Indoor Track and Field Coach
Emily Snyder

Emily Snyder

History Instructor
Jeremy Valdes-Riccardi

Jeremy Valdes-Riccardi

History Instructor