Huguenot Education in Colonial America by Caitlin Shuster

“And cause her being taught reading and writing and a trade, by which she may live.”

Dutch and French Calvinist Culture and Female Education in New Paltz , New York


Huguenot Sara Freer had been taught at home and at the town elementary school with both boys and girls. The three r's, reading, writing and some ‘rithmetic, were the fundamental elements of the education that Sara received. In 1699 at age eleven, the next stage of her education began. While in school, Sara and her classmates used ciphering books in which to solve their lessons, but Sara needed not only to learn reading, writing and 'rithmetic; she also needed to learn a trade by which she could live. Her brother arranged an agreement with the town minister that stated that Sara would learn the trade of dressmaking under his roof. This written agreement, or apprenticeship contract, delineated the education Sara would get and the rules she would be expected to follow. While the ciphering books offered formulas and other lessons to boys and girls, a new formula may be formed to examine female education. Start with the three r's and add religion. Then add government. Isolate the females. The result is a formula for female education. In the colony of the New Netherlands, later New York , the interactions between Dutch, French and English cultures, in particular their religions and forms of government, created a distinct educational system for females and began a tradition of a diverse education for females.

The French Huguenots were members of the Protestant faith, which developed during the sixteenth century when some members of the Catholic Church, disillusioned with some of the Church's practices and corruption, broke away and started a new religion in hopes of correcting injustices. Initially led by Martin Luther, the Protestant religion supported education, in particular reading and writing in the vernacular, so that the masses could read the scriptures and interpret the bible for themselves. As Protestantism developed, different interpretations of the Bible emerged and Protestantism split into different sects. The French Huguenots and the Dutch Calvinists became followers of John (Jean) Calvin, a native of France .

Jean Calvin's educational theory relied on the philosophy of humanism, which emphasized the learning of classical literature and the search for truth and morality in society. For Calvin, learning the tenets of the Calvinist faith was also a crucial component in his educational system. This was particularly important in the education of children so that the faith would be maintained. In addition to piety, Christian virtues such as patience, humility, and forgiveness were among the lessons that children had to learn. Moreover, Calvin also supported the humanistic belief in the educated individual in society and thought that education should be used to benefit the public. This belief in the educated individual meant that both men and women had roles to perform for the public good.

Calvinism's endorsement of educational opportunities for a wide range of people and its insistence of public activity attracted members of the nobility and upper middle classes in France . Nobles saw Calvinism and its promotion of individual interpretation as a way to advance their position in society. Those who converted drew members of a lower rank who depended upon their noble for their way of life into the Calvinist faith as well. The middle classes of merchant and skilled artisans leaned towards Calvinism because it emphasized literacy and the Scriptures and was in favor of giving the laity greater access to the Scriptures and thus more control over their beliefs and the course of their lives.

Upper class and middle class women, perhaps even more so than men, supported Calvinism's educational theory because it provided them with opportunities otherwise denied them. Both men and women had to develop their own capabilities for “approved ends.” Women found value equal to that of men under the Calvinist faith. In fact, “woman no less than man was an instrument of God's will, and her work, if carried out in the proper spirit, was equal in value and dignity.” Moreover, the belief in reform as a form of moral regeneration for society allowed women to enter other areas of self-improvement. They could become proselytizers, educators, sponsors, and protectors of others, and sometimes even policy makers. Calvinism thus appealed to the French noblewomen, because it afforded them more significant roles and opportunities in society.

In Holland , Calvinism was not initially dominant, but it was more widely practiced than it was in France at the time. The prevalence of humanism and Calvinism in the Netherlands led to a more liberal treatment of women. Both men and women learned “geometry and applied mathematics, the institution of free ports” among other subjects, which applied to business. Dutch law also gave women a significant degree of freedom. They could own property, make contracts, and participate in business, (trades) with their family or on their own. Women could notarize documents and make commercial contracts. They thus had all the requirements needed to conduct commercial or business dealings and many women did take advantage of these opportunities. Once married, a husband and wife held the property jointly. All of these rights provided women with some degree of legal and economic freedom.

These rights carried over to the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. There too, husbands and wives could have joint wills. Joint wills allowed women to have one half of the joint estate immediately upon the death of their husband. The Dutch custom called for an equal division of marital assets and the Dutch practices of inheritance allowed married women to hold property and be active in business. For many girls learning a trade was part of their education and something they could do even after they married if they so chose. Thus, learning a trade was an important educational experience for females as well as males. The French Huguenots who shared similar beliefs with the Dutch Calvinists and settled in the New Netherlands benefited from these practices. Indeed, Huguenot Sara Freer is just one of the females who profited from the Dutch policies.

Was it the Calvinist faith of the Dutch culture that promoted this relatively balanced educational system for boys and girls, or was it the interaction between the church and the colonial government? The Dutch Reformed Church dominated the colonies, so both religion and the state shaped the educational system. This interaction led to fewer gender restrictions on education. How long did it last? After the transfer of power, English practice placed more gender restrictions on education confining women to home education such as cooking and sewing and some ornamental subjects. Gradually, the diversity of educational opportunities for females decreased.

However, at least some of the girls of New Paltz, where Dutch influence remained strong, left behind ciphering books as evidence of the worth they placed on education. New Paltz girls with French and Dutch ancestry took advantage of the opportunities in female education that opened up after the American Revolution. So what role did education play in the Dutch culture and what was education after the elementary level, particularly for females? How did female education change from the late seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century? The people of New Paltz, both males, and females, consistently regarded education with value.

The French Huguenots arrived in the lush and fertile Hudson Valley in the 1660s at the same time that the English laid claim, not just to the valley, but also to the entire colony of the New Netherlands. By the time a group of approximately twelve Huguenot families decided to break away from their Dutch neighbors to establish their own community, the English controlled the colonial government. In order to form their community, the Huguenots had to interact with both the Native and English cultures. After making a deal with the local Native Americans the Huguenots had to obtain a land patent, or government deed, from the English colonial government. The patent covered almost forty thousand acres of land spanning from the vast Hudson River to the Shawangunk Mountains . The area alongside the Wallkill river provided ample farmland and the Huguenots decided to settle on its banks at the foot of the nearby Shawangunk Mountains . Here, they established their own community and named their town New Paltz. The Huguenots had already interacted, and would continue to interact with both the Dutch and the English who made the Hudson Valley their home.

The interaction between the French Huguenots and the Dutch laid the foundation for much of the society in New Paltz. Some first generation female Huguenot settlers succumbed to disease while others died in childbirth. Their husbands, now widowed, often took a Dutch woman for their next wife. The Huguenots of New Paltz interacted more closely with the Dutch than did Huguenots in other parts of the Hudson Valley such as New Rochelle . By the time Huguenots settled in New Rochelle , the English dominated the area, while the Huguenots in New Paltz settled in the colony twenty years prior when the Dutch still controlled much of the business and culture of the area even as they began to lose control of the government.

Under Dutch rule, the Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) Church dominated the colony, so both religion and the state shaped the educational system. The New Netherlands emphasized the “parochial school” which would instruct children in religion and morals. The Classis of Amsterdam, the administrative and judicial authority of the Reformed Church, supported this system. Made up of all the ministers in a district and one elder from each parish, the Classis of Amsterdam had the power to “license, ordain, instill and remove ministers.” The ministers in the colony of New Netherlands answered to the Classis of Amsterdam's authority. Since the religious and state authority worked together and sometimes overlapped, the Classis also set out guidelines for the educational system. For example, it required any schoolmaster in the Dutch colonies to teach to his pupils reading, writing, ciphering and arithmetic, as well as the ‘customary form of prayers.' The schoolteacher had to instill in them the habit of good prayer and tend and nurture their manners and bring them to a level of decency and respectability. Moreover, in Dutch New Netherland and Puritan New England, where Calvinism predominated, men and women displayed greater literacy than men and women not of the Calvinist faith in other colonies. A scholar of women's education, Thomas Woody, states, “In the Dutch town and village schools the master was generally the servant of the church as well as the school,” illustrating that the variables of religious and secular authority were immediately added to the formula for female education.

Dutch influence may be seen in the action of the leaders of New Paltz. Schoolmaster contracts and recommendations from the early years of the New Paltz settlement suggest the close connection between religious and civil spheres. Jean Cottin, the first schoolmaster, came to New Paltz in 1689. Under his contract the town leaders deeded Jean Cottin land that the town had reserved for a permanent church. Jean Cottin could have a cottage on that land, and the church would serve as the school for the community. Furthermore, the leaders of the community noted that he seemed of good character and stipulated that Cottin could not sell the land to anyone whom they did not deem of good character. The personal records of both Cottin and the second schoolmaster, Jean Tebanin, reveal that they were members of the church. A note from Pierre Simon, a New Paltz schoolmaster, acknowledges his contract with deacon Jacob Hasbrouck and indicates that as late as 1736, and probably later, the schoolmasters still had to answer to church authority. Paula Wheeler Carlo concurs with Woody and suggests that church membership may have been a prerequisite for the schoolmaster.

The combination of religious and civil influence had a positive effect on education for females in the New Netherlands. Males and females frequently received the same lessons. Thus the sum of the religious and secular authority was an educational system favorable to female education.

Indeed, in New Paltz both males and females received elementary education. In 1700, the contract for the second schoolmaster of New Paltz states, “Jean Tebanin has lived with us during the span of four years as schoolmaster for the instruction of our children…” The recommendation does not distinguish between girls and boys. Wills and marriage contracts illustrate that girls' schooling was not unusual and even expected Examples exist from as far back as the early seventeenth century which indicate that boys and girls received the same or very similar education in the New Netherlands: “In 1632 a contract was drawn promising with regard to Resel [Rachel] and Jan ‘both minor children,' to keep them at school, to teach them a trade.” Similarly, a father's will from 1680 stipulates that his daughter must receive some education, “She is to maintain my daughter Anna decently, and cause her being taught reading and writing and a trade, by which she may live.” Surrounded by Dutch, the French Huguenot community of New Paltz provided both boys and girls with elementary education.

In addition to elementary school lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic, many children also learned a trade. This was particularly important for girls in the early years of the community of New Paltz. Already motherless, Sara Freer became an orphan in 1698 at ten years of age. She needed to ensure that she would be able to support herself. She followed her brother's advice and apprenticed herself out to a minister and his daughter in-law, a dressmaker. As a dressmaker, Sara joined a trade that had only opened up to women within the last fifty years. The contract, translated from French, states:

said David Bonrepos and Blanche DuBois promise also and bind themselves to feed her, board her, and educate her in the fear of the Lord, and to furnish her with whatever shall be necessary having regards to her habits and manner of bringing up, during the space of three years, and above all to teach her the trade of dress making…

This contract also indicates the relationship between the Calvinist religious community and education. David Bonrepos was the minister of the New Paltz church while Sara's father, Hugo Freer and her brother Hugo, had been prominent members of the church. They may have assisted David Bonrepos in his duties. This connection may have aided Sara in gaining her apprenticeship. Although some girls may not have had this type of connection, the church community provided them with a network to obtain apprenticeships. Sara's apprenticeship illustrates both the importance of trade in female education and the close connection between the Calvinist faith and education.

Learning a trade was a priority for Sara, but some reading and writing was still necessary. The contract continues, “and to teach her to read and write, in so far as it shall be possible for them...” Sara Freer signed her name at the end of the contract, demonstrating that she had at least rudimentary reading and writing skills. This instruction probably came from school and home after the schoolmaster, Jean Tebanin, left in 1700. Both Sara's brother and David Bonrepos signed the contract; but the other woman, who played a role in the contract, did not sign her name. She may have signed it with an X. It may be assumed that teaching Sara the trade of dressmaking was not the Pastor Bonrepos's primary responsibility. Blanche DuBois would probably have had the responsibility of teaching Sara the trade of dressmaking. Blanche seems to have an important role in the apprenticeship of Sara Freer. She was probably quite a bit older than Sara and may not have known how to write. This possibility may provide insight into the stipulation in the contract, “and to teach her to read and write in so far as it shall be possible for them…” The value of each of the variables in the formula for female education varied according to a given time and place. Although the New Netherlands had a higher degree of literacy than other colonies, the exact number of literate women is unknown. Research by historians has estimated that sixty percent of Dutch women in New York in the 1660s were illiterate. Blanche probably could not improve Sara's literacy . The other possibility for the lack of a signature is that Sara's brother and David Bonrepos did not consider it necessary to formally include her in the making of the contract.

Educational policies changed under English control when the colony became New York . Under English rule, the records do not uncover any accounts in which a female apprentice “was taught to cipher, or ‘cast accounts.'” Within the first half of the eighteenth century Dutch influence remained strong and prompted the English to create laws that carried a degree of leniency in regard to women's activities. Women who wanted to participate in economic activities were legally entitled to do so, but the women often had to obtain the consent of their husbands. Denied that consent, however, women could not act independently according to law. A degree of leniency occurred because the English recognized that while they set up the foundation for their society and planned the laws, single and married women of Dutch descent were participating; indeed had already been participating actively in an array of trades and occupations. The Dutch culture continued to influence small communities such as New Paltz for years after the colony fell into English hands, even as the colony as a whole began an increasingly English system of laws and policies. Indeed, the small communities with a strong Dutch heritage often chose to overrule or ignore English policies as they increasingly limited women's freedom. New Paltz, in particular, seemed to have retained Dutch policies to the benefit of female education.

By 1750 the colony's policies became more similar to those of England 's and led to the decrease of legal and economic freedoms especially for women. The practice of joint wills declined rapidly in the eighteenth century. The increased used of English practices in the eighteenth century led to a decline in women's property rights. The declining legal rights severely limited women's participation in trade and the education necessary to learn a trade. Under English rule, education became more gendered.

Ciphering books provide insight into New Paltz education from the mid-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century. Maria Elting's ciphering book from 1739 contains math and reading exercises. These exercises suggest that the schoolteacher and the community expected her to obtain the same skills as the boys. It also indicates that at least some girls, if not all, were accorded education similar to their male counterparts. The ciphering book, written in Dutch, serves as a reminder that it was largely the Dutch influence and their inclusion of women in trades that provided for arithmetic in female education. Maria's ciphering book poses many questions on arithmetic and the computations and legwork solutions to the questions. Many of the arithmetic questions deal with Dutch and French currency, which the community used at the time. The ciphering book of Abraham Hasbrouck from the 1730s also contains a number of arithmetical computations. His penmanship is neat and in standard eighteenth century script, indicating that he must have already had some training in preparation to be a gentleman. Despite the slight differences, both females and males received similar education in the mid eighteenth century.

By the time of the American Revolution, the English influence in the area had increased and divided the community of New Paltz. A few men were loyal to the British during the Revolution. Half of the residents still spoke Dutch, while others spoke English. In 1800, the community finally began to use English on a regular basis. The American Revolution had come and gone. It had expanded women's educational opportunities, but still directed the focus of their education to certain household and social activities. The push for females' education centered upon two ideas. One idea suggested that despite the difference and probable inferiority of women's intellect, women could and should attain a general education. The second revolved around the concept of Republican Motherhood. Republican Motherhood outlined the role for women in the new republic. While she would not be able to vote or have equal status as a citizen the Republican mother did have an important duty to the new republic. The duty relied on her role as a wife and mother. Girls who would grow up to be Republican mothers needed some education so that they could raise their sons to be moral, patriotic citizens. Republican mothers acquired an education, not for themselves, but for the sake of their families and the new republic. Indeed, the concept of Republican Motherhood heightened the significance of women and their role within the home. Despite the limits of the Republican Motherhood ideology, educational opportunities for females grew, starting in the 1790s and continuing through the next century. Academies for females opened up, and it became publicly acceptable for respectable women to be instructors and establish their own institutions. These and other opportunities opened up throughout New York .

The families of New Paltz eagerly embraced these new opportunities while still preserving some of the Dutch influence. Esther Bevier and her sisters all attended Litchfield's Ladies Academy in Connecticut around 1800. Litchfield's was one of the ladies academies that sprang up after the Revolution. Sara Pierce founded the academy in 1792 with a handful of students sitting around her dining room table. The school grew in prominence, and Harriet Beecher Stowe would attend the Litchfield Academy in the 1820s.

The curriculum at the ladies' academies widened to include a range of subjects. It still included household management, needlework, and embroidery, but also offered lessons in “grammar, rhetoric, history, geography, mathematics and some of the natural sciences.” Sarah Pierce's curriculum offered “logic, chemistry, botany and mathematics.” The female instructors had more control over the style of teaching and presenting lessons. Many of the founders of ladies academies made their own teaching materials to engage their students' interest. Sarah Pierce composed a world history in the form of a dialogue for her students. Despite the new curriculum and teaching methods, ornamental subjects were still an important component of female education, particularly because they denoted status as well as education. The decision of Esther Bevier's parents to send all their daughters to the Litchfield Academy speaks to their status within the community because the ladies' academies could be expensive. Yet it also indicates the high regard in which they held female education, and reveals the place education held in the history of the community of New Paltz.

The Revolution was not the only influence on female education in New Paltz, where the Huguenot and Dutch culture and their economic practices had allowed at least some girls to receive a basic education throughout the previous century. The vestiges of the Huguenot and Dutch culture may have influenced some of the girls' education through the early years of the nineteenth century. Maria Elting's ciphering book dated 1799 contained lessons that would pertain not only to running a household but also to the managing of a store. Maria's mother was from the Huguenot family, the Lefevres, and her father was a descendant of the first Dutch family in New Paltz, the Elting family. The Eltings had run one of the first stores in New Paltz. In the mid eighteenth century the Elting store carried:

black and white lace, calico, silk, ribbons, black cravats, chocolate coffee, oysters, wine, teapots… rugs… stockings, worsted mittens, linen and cotton handkerchiefs, knee buckles, duck and goose shot, pen knives, carpenter's compasses, broadaxes, nails, gunpowder, barrels, bridles, flints, snuff, brown sugar, writing paper and rat traps.


The Hasbrouck store carried similar items illustrating the wide array of items with which the girls may have had to have been familiar. The lessons the girls had in their ciphering books would have taught them skills useful in this type of business.

Another schoolbook from the early nineteenth century provides lessons pertaining specifically to the mercantile business. The lessons in the schoolbook of Sarah DuBois cover a range of business topics. Moreover the lessons span the full spectrum of difficulty, ranging from basic business concepts to at least several sophisticated business concepts. In fact, Sarah's lessons resembled the topics discussed in The Elementary Principles of Arithmetic, with their application to the Trade and Commerce of the United States of America , In Eight Sections, written by Thomas Sarjeant in 1788. These topics included the “exchange of money, weights and measures, simple and compound interest, determination of a time for joint payment of sums due at different dates (equation of payments), discount for earlier payment, gross gain or loss on an individual sale, and fellowship.” Not only did Sarah come from a long line of Huguenot merchants in New Paltz, Sarah's mother, a member of the Huguenot Hasbrouck family, helped run the store with her husband, Josiah DuBois, indicating that the Hasbrouck women had been involved in running the store for many years. Other ciphering books demonstrate similar lessons beginning at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Sarah Dubois and Maria Elting both probably in their early teen years had to answer questions about measures and learn the lessons on interest and brokerage in their schoolbooks. The business lessons and the strong Dutch and Huguenot ancestry of both Sarah and Maria speak to the type of education the girls received in the early nineteenth century. Other girls' schoolbooks from the same period offer similar lessons. Rachel Elting, who later married John Bogardus, had a ciphering book spanning the years 1803-1812 that provides lessons on weights and measures, and savings and interest. Catharine Bevier's ciphering book dated 1824 also addresses the issues of interest, barter and invoices. Even though Rachael or Catharine may not have been training specifically for a mercantile trade, the content of their ciphering books remains consistent with the lessons in Maria Elting's and Sarah Dubois's schoolbooks.

The subject of land proves to be the primary difference in the New Paltz males' ciphering books of this period. The ciphering book of Joseph Bevier, 1797, and one Louis Bevier provide brief lessons in geometry. The ciphering book of Louis Bevier dated 1800 contains many geometry questions, specifically asking how to find the area of a piece of land. In fact, the book has a section with many tables in it entitled, “Division of Land.” Questions often ask about chains and fathoms, terms used for measuring distance. The book also offers a lesson on the “Pennsylvania Method of Calculation,” used for calculating “meridian” distances. The same book also has a section on surveying that includes both written lessons and maps. Louis Bevier's ciphering book contains the most lessons involving land compared to the other male ciphering books from this time. In general, the boys' books suggest that geometry was a subject that more males than females learned. The presence of geometry in males' ciphering books may be related to the fact that men could more easily own property than women of this period.

The content of females' ciphering books in the 1820s and 1830s do begin to show evidence of change. Lessons on business run from few to non-existent. Neat penmanship fills the pages and well known quotes provide some insight into the values the young ladies learned. Despite the shift in the subject matter, education proved to be of great value. Indeed Catharine Bevier begins her ciphering book dated 1824 with a quote from Alexander Pope illustrating that she knew the value of education: “Tis education forms the common mind. Just as the twig is bent, the tree inclined.” The ciphering books from this period also indicate that the opportunities for women to be female instructors continued. In 1833, Blandina Lefever wrote in her book, “This Ciphering Book was done by Miss Blandina Lefever under the tuition of Miss Sarah Caverly New Paltz March 27.” The ciphering books placed less emphasis on math and more on penmanship and principles to live by illustrating that the education women received had shifted, Certainly the lessons had become less diverse and more gendered, however, the ciphering books also suggest that education was now instilled as a moral value among the owners of the ciphering books and other residents of the community.

The first public school building in New Paltz was not built until 1812. Ironically stones from the deconstructed French Huguenot and Dutch Reformed church, which had served as the school, were used to build the new school. At this time, we may be certain that the church no longer had authority over the education. The New York State Legislature created school districts and passed an “Act for the Establishment of Common Schools” to be established in each school district. An elected trustee would run the school and the members of the community would pay for it. It was an official public school of the state and it accepted both boys and girls. The school was probably under the direct authority of the town government. Perhaps this era marks the declining influence of both the church and Dutch culture in the community of New Paltz.

The growth of public control did not lessen the importance of education in the community. In 1833, the building for the New Paltz Academy was completed. The Academy had been started in 1828 as a Classical School , run alongside the public school. Descendants of the Huguenot and Dutch settlers funded the school and served as trustees, indicating that they had been able to prosper and maintain their influence in the town despite the overall decline of the Dutch and Huguenot culture. The list does not include any women, but it does include many prominent Dutch and Huguenot family names among them: Hasbrouck, Bogardus, VanWagenen, Elting and Dubois. One wonders what Maria Elting, Rachel Elting, and Catherine Bevier, those girls who stayed near New Paltz throughout their life, would have thought of the New Paltz Academy . Interestingly, Rachel's husband, John Bogardus was a trustee, but Rachel died at the age of thirty-eight, two years prior to the building of the Academy.

The women of New Paltz received a typical education for the colonial era, but they also experienced greater educational opportunity than other females in other parts of New York , and in fact, other colonies. Like other girls under Dutch authority, they were able to receive fundamental education in reading, writing and arithmetic and trade education. In fact they were expected to learn both. Although Sara Freer drew up her apprenticeship contract after England had officially taken over the colony, it reflects Dutch influence more so than it does an adherence to English laws or customs. Sara Freer's apprenticeship contract not only suggests that Sara had some literacy before entering into her apprenticeship, it also demonstrates the strong relationship between the church and education, a custom of the Dutch, because she was in the care of the town minister and his daughter in-law. Significantly, the trade of dressmaking was relatively new for women, having been dominated by men until the second half of the seventeenth century. Sara Freer married a Dutchman Teunis ClausenVan Volgen of Schenectady , New York . Prior to her marriage she quite possibly could have supported herself with her dressmaking skills. It is unknown if Sara Freer used her trade after she married. Thus, Sara Freer reflects the unique experience of female education in colonial New Paltz.

When the English took over, educational opportunities for girls became increasingly limited to the home. Despite the provision that poor children should learn a trade and have some basic learning, females were not taught to cipher. However, the Dutch Reformed culture influenced the small, rural community of New Paltz for almost a century after the English took over the colony. In New Paltz, at least one of the girls' ciphering books dates back to 1739. The collection of ciphering books from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is a small one, but they suggest that Dutch and Huguenot culture was still affecting female education. The girls who came from a Huguenot and Dutch background and whose families were in the mercantile business learned business skills, but even those who did not come from a line of merchants still learned some business concepts in their schoolbooks. As the nineteenth century progressed, education expanded within the community of New Paltz, including the establishment of the first official public school in 1812, a “ Select School ,” run by a Rebecca Elting, and the New Paltz Academy . The continued influence of the Huguenot and Dutch descendants assured the respected status of education in New Paltz.

The history of the area now known as the state of New York makes for an extraordinary formula. The Dutch brought both their culture and their Calvinist faith to the region. They interacted closely with both the colonial government and the church authority in the Netherlands to shape educational policies for both boys and girls. The economic liberties that the women of New York enjoyed for a time can be attributed to the Dutch system, which gave women greater freedom to participate in certain trades, and the potential to protect their earnings until 1750. The size and relative isolation of the town of New Paltz allowed females to benefit from the Dutch Reformed culture and its educational customs for almost a century, certainly longer than many other communities. Yet New Paltz did not operate in a vacuum. The town also benefited from the changes that occurred after the American Revolution. In fact, many members of the Huguenot and Dutch town seemed to embrace the changes in women's education, as evidenced by Esther Bevier and her sisters' Academy experience.

Education for both females and males occupied an important place in the minds of the people of New Paltz since its founding in the late seventeenth century and continuing to this day. The unusual variables of the Calvinism of Huguenot refugees and the Calvinism of the Dutch Reformed Culture, the Dutch government, and the English government added together, created the formula for a strong tradition of female education in the community of New Paltz, New York .




Robert D. Linder . “ Calvinism and Humanism: The First Generation .” Church History ,

Vol. 44, No. 2. (Jun., 1975), pp. 167-181.

Merry E. Wiesner. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe . ( Cambridge :

Cambridge University Press, 2000) 152.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. The Huguenots of Colonial New Paltz and New Rochelle : A

Social and Religious History. UMI 2001 24.

Ibid., 24.

Nancy L. Roelker. “The Appeal of Calvinism to French Noblewomen in the Sixteenth

Century,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2, 4 (Spring 1972) 404.

Nancy L. Roelker. “The Appeal of Calvinism to French Noblewomen in the Sixteenth

Century,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2, 4 (Spring 1972). 411.

Simon Schama. The Embarrassment of Riches : An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in

the Golden Age. New York : Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1987. 404.

Ibid., 260.

Ibid., 407.

Ibid., 405.

Michael Kammen. Colonial New York : A History. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons,

1975. 91.

Elene Wilson Farello. A History of the Education of Women in the United States . New

York : Vantage Press, 1970. 67.

John Franklin Jameson. Narratives of New Netherland , 1609-1664. New York : Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1909. 1.

Elizabeth and Robert Lang. In A Valley Fair: A History of the State University College

of Education at New Paltz , N.Y. New Paltz: State University of Education 1960. 6.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. “Train Up a Child: Educating Huguenot Young People in

Colonial New York .” Society of South Carolina Transactions No. 118 2001. 39.

Thomas Woody. A History of Women's Education in the United States . ( New York :

Octagon Press, 1912.) (reprint 1980). 196.

Jean Cottin Contract 1689.

For more on religious and civil influence on female education see Thomas Woody. A History of Women's Education in the United States . ( New York :

Octagon Press, 1912). (reprint 1980) 195.

Jean Tebanin Papers 1700-1730.

Thomas Woody. A History of Women's Education in the United States . ( New York :

Octagon Press, 1912). (reprint 1980). 195.

William Kilpatrick. The Dutch Schools of New Netherland and Colonial New York .

Washington : Government Printing Office 1912. 218.

Ibid., 218.

Clare Haru Crowston. Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France .

Durham : Duke University Press, 2001. 1.

Sara Freer Apprenticeship Contract 1699.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. The Huguenots of Colonial New Paltz and New Rochelle : A

Social and Religious History. UMI 2001. 187.


Here I disagree with the findings of Paula Wheeler Carlo who does not think that Sara learned reading and writing in school.

Sara Freer Apprenticeship Contract 1699.

Michael Kammen. Colonial New York : A History. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons,

1975. 97.

Ibid., 93.

See Michael Kammen. Colonial New York : A History. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons,1975 for more on women's rights during transition from Dutch to English rule

Marylynn Salmon. Women and the Law of Property in Early America . Chapel Hill :

University of North Carolina Press, 1986. xiii.

Joan R Gunderson and Gwen Victor Gampel. “Married Women's Legal Status in

Colonial New York and Virginia .” William and Mary Quarterly. Vol 39: No 1.

1982. 132.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. The Huguenots of Colonial New Paltz and New Rochelle : A

Social and Religious History. UMI 2001. 11.

Thomas Woody. A History of Women's Education in the United States . ( New York :

Octagon Press, 1912). (reprint 1980). 196.

Ibid., 118.

Ibid., 120.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. “Train Up a Child: Educating Huguenot Young People in

Colonial New York .” Society of South Carolina Transactions No. 118 2001. 40.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. The Huguenots of Colonial New Paltz and New Rochelle : A

Social and Religious History. (UMI 2001) 117.

Carl F. Kaestle. Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, 1780-

1860. New York : Hill and Wang, 1983. 27.

Linda Kerber. Women of the Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina

Press, 1980. 228.

Ibid., 229.

See Linda Kerber. Women of the Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina

Press, 1980. Chapter 7 Education and Intellect.

Katherine Bevier. The Bevier Family: a history of the descendants of Louis Bevier, who

Came from France to America in 1675 after a sojourn of ten years in the

Palatinate and settled in New Paltz, New York . New York : Tobias A. Wright,


Mary Beth Norton. Liberty 's Daughters. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1980. 256.

Linda Kerber. Women of the Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina

Press, 1980. 215.

Paula Wheeler Carlo. The Huguenots of Colonial New Paltz and New Rochelle : A

Social and Religious History. UMI 2001. 108.

Joan Hollister. The Accounting Historians Notebook. “Promiscuous Problems Vulgar

Fractions: The Early Nineteenth Century Schoolbook of Sarah DuBois,”

October 2001 12.

Ibid., 12.

Ibid., 13.

Louis Bevier Papers, Elizabeth Wright Collections Ciphering book of Louis Bevier,

1800. Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz , New York .

To see examples of pages from various ciphering books, see the end of the paper.

Catharine Bevier. “Ciphering Book,” 1824. Louis Bevier Papers: Elizabeth Wright

Collections. Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz , New York .

Blandina Lefever. “Ciphering Book,” 1833. Ciphering Book Collection #14. Huguenot

Historical Society, New Paltz , New York .

Elizabeth and Robert Lang. In a Valley Fair: A History of the State University

College of Education at New Paltz. New Paltz. 1960. 7.

Ken Hasbrouck. “Schools at New Paltz.” 8.

Blandina Lefever. “Ciphering Book,” 1833. Ciphering Book Collection #14. Huguenot

Historical Society, New Paltz , New York .

Ken Hasbrouck. “Schools at New Paltz.” 10.

Robert Francis Seybolt. Columbia University Contributions to Education:

Apprenticeship and apprenticeship education in Colonial New England and

New York . New York : Columbia Teachers' College , 1917. 93.

See Joan R Gunderson and Gwen Victor Gampel. “Married Women's Legal Status in

Colonial New York and Virginia .” William and Mary Quarterly. Vol 39: No 1.

1982. and Marylynn Salmon Women and the Law of Property in Early America . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Prospects for female property ownership brightened at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but did not compare to men's rights in any way.