Date of Completion

Spring 4-26-2018

Thesis Advisor(s)

Christopher Clark

Honors Major



The Litchfield Female Academy of Litchfield, Connecticut was the first academy for girls in America, founded by Sarah Pierce in 1792. At this time, when education for women was not widely encouraged or accessible, Litchfield Female Academy and its students served as a national example for intellectual equality of the sexes. This thesis examines the way close friendships served a vital role in the lives of young women students at this academy through the act of writing letters. Companionships amongst students, particularly in pairs, provided students the ability to safely display emotional vulnerability, and the confidence to share emotions in a space of free expression. This outlet of communication amongst friends was a source of self-care that was otherwise not provided to students by the academy. This was due to the constant surveillance, public assessments amongst classmates, and pressure to live a perfectly rational and academic life to prove intellectual equality. The young women of the Litchfield Female Academy lived in an extremely public environment, and were always expected to behave and present themselves properly. Based on primary document research of letters between friends, diary entries by individual students, and the steadfast rules and protocols of Sarah Pierce’s academy, this thesis casts a clearer look into the overly public and also much-valued private lives of Litchfield Academy students.