Annie began teaching high school in the 1870s, but soon realized that she would earn thirty to fifty percent less than men with the same qualifications would. Thinking that attaining the same education as her brothers would increase her pay, she wrote to her father and asked if he would allow her to attend the University of Michigan, which had just opened its doors to women in 1870.
Annie received responses from both her father and her brother John, who explained that a college education was too much education for a woman, but she might benefit from a private tutoring to improve her reputation, since it wasn’t befitting for her to associate with boys in school. They further argued that even if it was appropriate for her to go, it was now too late to attend university at the age of twenty-three and graduate at the very old age of twenty-seven.
On top of her father and brother’s reasoning, many people saw higher education for women as something that was hazardous to their health. This “fact” had been scientifically “proven” by Harvard professor Edward H. Clarke, in Sex in Education, a treatise against coeducation, which became a best seller at the time. Clarke explained that women who seek higher education are committing a “slow suicide” by using energy on the brain, which takes energy away from the reproductive system. In essence, educating women would render America a motherless society.
Annie was outraged that her father would deny her the same education as her brothers. She responded to him in a long letter with the following highlights: Continue reading