Celebrating 200 Years in Troy

Head of School Jenny Rao
Two hundred years ago today, Emma Hart Willard welcomed the first students to Troy Female Seminary, which was later renamed Emma Willard School. In Trudy Hanmer’s Wrought With Steadfast Will, we note a reference to the May 8, 1821 announcement in The Troy Post stating, "The Troy Female Seminary, under the direction of Mrs. Willard, will be open for the reception of pupils tomorrow morning at nine o'clock."

Although her school had been in existence in various locations since 1814, the citizens of Troy, who greatly valued education and innovation, appealed to Madame Willard to move her school to their city. Today, we celebrate the courage of our founder, whose vision made possible a place where each member of the Emma community could experience opportunities once only allowed to men—to learn, to lead, to invent, and to discover! 

As a community, we reap the rewards of Madame Willard’s tenacity. Although universal education has become more standard today, 200 years ago Madame Willard’s drive to educate women pushed against the status quo, even if not going so far as to make education universally accessible. Today, we still find ourselves in a world that is inequitable in many ways. In some parts of the world, access remains a prevailing issue. We are still faced with the challenges of changing age-old systems that restrict and confine.

One of our greatest tasks as the beneficiaries of Emma Willard’s work is to continue finding ways to grow beyond what is expected—to pursue with “Emma-like” tenacity the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership that will serve and shape our world. We are challenged to focus on building an intentional community, where each one of us can explore purpose, belonging, and contribution.

We invite you to take time today to reflect on your own authentic journey of personal discovery as we celebrate 200 years since our institution opened in Troy.
    • An early illustration of Troy Female Seminary

    • Troy Female Seminary after building expansion

285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180 | P: 518.833.1300 F: 518.833.1815
Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years. 

PLEASE NOTE: All visitors to campus must check in with Campus Safety, which can be found at the red flag entrance to Sage Hall (Pawling Ave. entrance).