Section Four: The Cony Female Academy


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The three items on this wall are all related to the Cony Female Academy, founded in Augusta by the Honorable Daniel Cony in 1815, when the District of Maine was still part of Massachusetts.  Daniel and Susannah Cony had five daughters, and Cony firmly believed in the education of women. By 1825, Judge Cony’s academy, which was erected and endowed entirely at his own expense, had fifty students, many of whom boarded at the school dormitory for $1.25/week.  Tuition was $20/year (for students outside of Augusta, the trustees often covered half the cost). The school’s impressive library, also donated by Cony and the trustees, boasted over 1200 volumes. The site of the Cony Female Academy building can be seen on Ruger’s Bird’s Eye View map of Augusta (Building no. 10).

According to an 1828 Augusta newspaper advertisement, Cony’s curriculum offered instruction in: “orthography, reading and writing, arithmetic, grammar, rhetoric and composition, geography, History and Chronology, Natural History, Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, use of the globes, Drawing Maps, and also Drawing, penciling, and painting, and a variety of needlework.” On display here are two elements of the curriculum as executed by the academy’s pupils—drawing maps and needlework.

Sarah Young’s large map of the state of Maine was based on the work of mapmaker Moses Greenleaf, and resembles his 1816 map of the District of Maine, as well as his later map of the State of Maine from 1820. This Maine map exercise, completed in the early years of Maine’s statehood, exemplifies a local focus that became much more common in geographic education by the mid-nineteenth century. Young’s careful rendering of Greenleaf’s work depicts the steady hand and careful attention to detail needed in map drawing. As you can see in her elaborate rendering of the title, map drawing also served as an exercise in practicing penmanship. 

Mary Swan’s sampler, stitched with silk thread on linen when she was fourteen, was also created as part of the curriculum of Cony Female Academy. The daughter of a well-known clockmaker, Benjamin Swan, Mary stitched the history of her lineage as she practiced a variety of stitching and embroidery techniques. It is important to note that female students did not draw their maps in isolation; they drew maps at the same time they were practicing embroidery and penmanship, and techniques and motifs from one exercise were consistently evident in a variety of media.  For example, the blue ribbon bows on this sampler can also be seen on Hannah Comstock’s 1814 world map. The girls at Cony Female Academy were expected to combine their academic work with their fancy work for presentation.


Sarah A. Young
A Map of the State of Maine, 1822
Osher Map Library Sheet Map Collection
http://oshermaps.org/map/53525

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Albert Ruger
Bird’s Eye View of the City of Augusta, Maine, 1878
Osher Sheet Map Collection
http://oshermaps.org/map/1160

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Mary E. Swan
[Sampler], 1828
Collections of the Maine Historical Society
http://oshermaps.org/map/4000389

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