Categories: Education, Hartford, Literature, Women

Miss Huntley’s School Opens – Today in History: August 1

Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney
Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney
– Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

On August 1, 1814, a young teacher named Lydia Huntley opened a school for young women in Hartford. Daniel Wadsworth, the art collector and later founder of the Wadsworth Atheneum, helped Miss Huntley by allowing her to conduct the school in his home and by encouraging his friends to send their daughters. Miss Huntley, who would become much better known under her married name as the poet and writer Lydia Huntley Sigourney, regarded Wadsworth as her patron, and he also helped her get her first work published. Lydia had opened a school for young women in Norwich in 1811 with friend Nancy Maria Hyde, but when Hyde fell ill, the Norwich school closed and later reopened in Hartford at Wadsworth’s home. She operated the highly regarded school for five years, until 1819 when she married Charles Sigourney and began a new chapter in her life. Later celebrated as the “Sweet Singer of Hartford,” Lydia Sigourney became extremely successful and famous for her dozens of books, articles, and collections of poetry. She was considered the most famous “poetess” in the United States until the Civil War.

Though once dismissed for the sentimentality of its verse, Sigourney’s work is increasingly studied by modern scholars because she was one of the first women in the US to have a successful literary career. She and her husband lived in a mansion on a Hartford street called Hurlburt, which no longer exists, but three years before her death in 1865 a street running between Asylum and Farmington Avenues was named Sigourney Street in her honor.

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