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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Warrenton Female Academy

by Jean B. Anderson, 2006

See Also: Women's Colleges

Warrenton Female Academy was founded by Jacob Mordecai (1762-1838) in 1809 as a means of livelihood after his commodities brokerage was bankrupted by the Embargo of 1807. Over the years, he was assisted with the teaching by his son Solomon and his daughters Rachel, Julia, Caroline, Judith, and Ellen. The school gained immediate repute for its excellence and attracted the daughters of planters from all over North Carolina and southern Virginia. Students were to be taught the full range of subjects of any classical male academy as well as needlework, music, and dancing.

Having accumulated a modest fortune by 1818, Mordecai decided to retire from teaching and move to Virginia. He sold the building to his son-in-law Achilles Plunkett and two Philadelphians, Joseph Andrews and Thomas P. Jones, who continued the school. Plunkett shortly afterward withdrew to start his own school, but Warrenton Female Academy survived and maintained its strong reputation under various principals until the Civil War shut it down. The restored school building remained standing in the early 2000s.

References:

Charles L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1840 (1915).

Stanley L. Falk, "The Warrenton Female Academy," NCHR 35 (July 1958).

Lizzie W. Montgomery, Sketches of Old Warrenton (1924).

 

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

Please tell me where the Female Academy was located in Warrenton NC. am interested to see if the buildings are still
standing. Thank you. Beth Beck

Comment: 

Hi Beth,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing this question.

And it's a great question!  Unfortunately, I cannot give you an easy answer since the history of female education in Warrenton involves more than one school and building over time.  

There are a few resources you may want to look at:

National Register of Historic Places listing for the Warrenton Historic District -- it mentions both the house on Wilcox Street and the Fitts House (purchased by Mordecai).  http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/WR0017.pdf

Article on Mordecai's Female Academy in Warrenton from the N.C. Historical Review, 1958: Falk, Stanley L. "THE WARRENTON FEMALE ACADEMY OF JACOB MORDECAI, 1809-1818." The North Carolina Historical Review 35, no. 3 (1958): 281-98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23516962.

You may also wish to contact the N.C. State Office of Historical Preservation -- http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/. They would most likely know the answer to this question.

Lizzie Wilson Montgomery's history of Warrenton has a fair amount of information on the schools.  You may find it helpful, and it also includes an image: 

Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson. 1984. Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina: traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co.

Finally, you may find the Warren County Public Library a helpful resource with questions about local history.  Here is a link to their website: http://www.wcmlibrary.org/.

I hope this helps!  Please feel free to post back if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

Beth,
About 25 years ago I was in WarriEnton looking for Warrenton Female Academy. Someone at the Courthouse suggested I contact Mrs Mary Kerr. She knew of the school, and told me that Louisa Mae Alcott' father had taught there. She went with me to. House that was being restored and said this had been the school, and that after the Civil War it had been. School for African American childre n. My g g grandmother (see above) attended the school in 1821. I have the medal she got for scholarship.

Comment: 

Dear Beth,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.  That's a great question.  I am connecting you by email with Reference Services at the N.C. Government & Heritage Library.  A librarian will contact you shortly to help with this question, if you are still looking for information. 
 

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan

 

Comment: 

Jane Smith, daughter of William Rand Smith and Martha Norsworthy of Isle of Wight Co., VA, and my grandmother, attended Warrenton Female Academy and was awarded a gold medal for scholarship in Nov. 1821. another medal of the same date was awarded to Martha Tompkins from Mathews Co,.VA who was a distant cousin on another part of my family. Martha Tompkins' medal now belongs to Colonial Williamsburg. If there are other similar medals I am not aware of them.

Comment: 

Dear Kathleen,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing this information with us.  Your contribution will stay with the entry as additional information.  We appreciate it greatly when readers share their history and knowledge with us for future readers.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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