Women Pioneers in Education

Women Pioneers in Education




Women Pioneers in Education


Throughout history, the achievements of women who helped form the foundation of the world have been understated. Despite these, there are women who have managed to make tremendous achievements and change the world in the process. The world will forever remember pioneers such as Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie and Rosa Parks for the significant ground that they covered in areas such as nursing chemistry and civil rights. Within the field of education, Catharine Beecher, Mary Bethune and Elizabeth Blackwell are excellent examples of women who trudged forward in their quest to establish technical training for their counterparts.

Catharine Esther Beecher

Catharine Beecher was born in 1800, in New York in the famous Beecher family. The Beecher family became well known for its influence in the culture and politics of America in the late 1800s. The death of her mother bestowed Beecher with the responsibility of caring for her twelve siblings (White, 2003). Beecher started her education at the Litchfield Female Academy. At the institute, she wrote several poems, one of which attracted the attention of Professor Alex Fisher. The two fell in love some time after that and became engaged. Her venture into the field of education started after her fiancé died in a shipwreck (White, 2003).

Beecher’s achievements in the field of technical education started when she opened a girl’s school in Connecticut with her sister Mary. Her school was different from most others in that student’s were not restricted to literature and the arts. Beecher sought to teach them practical subjects that could help them better their lives, and this became one of her biggest achievements in the field. Beecher’s foray into education affected her deeply as she suffered from a number of nervous breakdowns that repeatedly confined her to mental institutions (White, 2003).

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary Bethune is another notable female educator, widely recognized for providing her students with skills and knowledge to help them in life. She was born in Maysville, South Carolina in 1875. Her parents were former slaves and Mary was the only one of their children born free (Jones, 2001). Her education started when some white women opened independent schools after the end of the Freedman’s Bureau. Her parents could only afford to educate her, so her siblings stayed home. Bethune’s contributions to technical education started when she started the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Through the institution, she taught black girls practical skills such as poultry farming (Jones, 2001). Through her initiatives, Bethune built a strong reputation for herself. She was appointed to the American delegation that attended the 1945 founding conference of the United Nations. Bethune’s work in pioneering the education of African American girls came at a price, as she was subjected racially based threats and abuses, including one incident where a white farmer threatened her and her students with a rifle (Jones, 2001).

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 in England. She carries the distinction of being the first woman in the United States to have earned a medical degree (Leavitt, 2008). She was born the third of nine children and was brought up by a progressive father who raised his children with feminist principles. Her involvement in education started in 1837 after her father died and she had to work as a teacher, along with her mother and two siblings, to make money for the family. Her exposure as a teacher made her realize the difficulties women faced, and she decided to become a doctor. Blackwell’s attempts to venture into the technical world of medicine were met with a lot of opposition. Some schools barred her from attending lectures and later on in her life, hospitals refused to let her practice (Leavitt, 2008).


The opposition that Mary Bethune, Elizabeth Blackwell and Catharine Beecher faced shows that it was not easy for women to involve themselves in technical education, in the past. However, these three women overcame numerous obstacles and moved forward, and in doing so ensured that their counterparts would have an easier time going down the same path. Thanks to sacrifices such as these, the world is a better place for women and the human race in general.



Jones, A.R. (2001). Mary Mcleod Bethune. Chanhassen: Child’s World.

Leavitt, A.J. (2008). Elizabeth Blackwell. Hockessin: Mitchell Lane Publishers.

White, B. (2003). The Beecher Sisters. London: Yale University Press


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