Women and Education

Women have been students, teachers, and administrators in Rochester schools for almost 200 years. Within a year of receiving a city charter in 1834, there were least two private schools for girls in Rochester. By mid-century, private schools for girls included the Rochester Female Academy, Tracy Female Institute, Seward Seminary, and Clover Street Seminary, among others, all run by accomplished women.

The influx of large numbers of immigrants to Rochester, as well as the growing women’s rights movement, brought more women into the sphere of education, as their opportunities for careers as teachers and school administrators grew. A group of Rochester women founded the Industrial School of Rochester, with the mandate to care and instruct “vagrant children.” Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934), the daughter of two teachers, worked to establish the Rochester chapter of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, which offered women educational and vocational training. Montgomery was elected to the City School Board in 1899, the first woman elected to public office in Rochester.