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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ellicott City in Howard County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Patapsco Female Institute

 
 
The Patapsco Female Institute Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
1. The Patapsco Female Institute Marker
Inscription. The Patapsco Female Institute (PFI), located on Church Road with a commanding view of Ellicott City, was one of the most famous and prestigious schools for girls in 19th century America. The school officially opened its doors in 1837 under Reverend J. H. Tyng's leadership with a basic curriculum of English , the classics, foreign language, and natural and abstract sciences. In 1838, Mrs. Mary Norris became principal and expanded the curriculum to include modern history, chemistry, and botany, as well as classes in the arts, including piano, painting, and guitar. Despite the expanded curriculum, enrollment did not grow as quickly as the school's founders hoped. In 1841, Bishop Whittingham of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland persuaded Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps to take charge of the struggling school. Mrs. Phelps was a nationally known educator at the time, a teacher at the Troy Academy in New York (which was run by her sister, Emma Willard) where she published a successful book, Lincoln's Botany.

Under Mrs. Phelps' direction, PFI flourished as a leading educational institution for young women. From 1842 through 1856, attendance rose steadily, the curriculum expanded, and the school became financially successful.

Mrs. Phelps and her husband provided significant funds of their own to improve facilities. PFI gained
The Patapsco Female Institute Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
2. The Patapsco Female Institute Marker
a national reputation for its high academic standards in areas of natural history, mathematics and the sciences. It was the first institution to teach mathematics to girls and, for many of the years that Mrs. Phelps was principal, was able to attract over 100 students, an impressive number at the time. Mrs. Phelps retired after the death of her daughter in 1856.She continues to be recognized as one of the most influential educators of women in the 19th century.

Mr. Robert Archer assumed the principal position after Mrs. Phelps, and PFI remained successful under his leadership until the start of the Civil War. Unfortunately, matriculation at school dropped quickly during the Civil War and did not recover in its aftermath. One theory for the decline is that students from the south, who prior to the war had enrolled in significant numbers no longer felt safe attending a northern school. The school remained open, however, and, after Mr.Archer's retirement in 1872, his wife Mary Ringgold Archer, took over as principal.

In 1878, Sarah Randolph, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, became principal. PFI was forced to close in 1891, due to the continued decline in enrollment.

Almost 100 years later, in 1955, in recognition of the important role the school played in educating young women, the abandoned ruins of the PFI were stabilized, creating the scenic memorable
Patapsco Female Institute<br>1837-1891 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
3. Patapsco Female Institute
1837-1891
Close-up of image on marker
setting here today.

The Patapsco Female Institute is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Women's Heritage Trail due to both its historical significance as a leader of 19th century education for women and its historic physical structures.

This sign is sponsored by the Howard County Women's Bar Association to mark a significant location on Maryland Women's Heritage Trail. The Women's Heritage Trail identifies locations throughout the State are important in women's history.
 
Location. 39° 16.209′ N, 76° 47.784′ W. Marker is in Ellicott City, Maryland, in Howard County. Marker is on Church Road, on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3727 Church Road, Ellicott City MD 21043, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Patapsco Female Institute (a few steps from this marker); Mount Ida (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sunflower Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Old Stone Tavern House (approx. 0.2 miles away); B&O Railroad Station (approx. 0.2 miles away); Hunt's General Store & Millinery Shop
Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps<br>Headmistress 1841-1856 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
4. Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps
Headmistress 1841-1856
Close-up of photo on marker
(approx. 0.2 miles away); Road Versus Rails (approx. 0.2 miles away); John Williams House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Ellicott City.
 
Categories. Education
 
The Patapsco Female Institute image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
5. The Patapsco Female Institute
The Patapsco Female Institute image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
6. The Patapsco Female Institute
The Patapsco Female Institute image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
7. The Patapsco Female Institute
Inside
Window image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
8. Window
Doric Column image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
9. Doric Column
Preservation image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, June 7, 2014
10. Preservation
View of Ellicott's Mills Station<br>Fifteen Miles From Baltimore image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress, circa 1857
11. View of Ellicott's Mills Station
Fifteen Miles From Baltimore
The Large Buildings on the hill in background represent the "Patapsco Instute" a celebrated Academy for Ladies.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 367 times since then and 109 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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