Back in the beginning of the 19th-century, it was believed that women should be educated to understand domestic economy, because they were to play the major role in educating the young, primarily in their homes, and later (as the school population grew and there was a shortage of teachers) as school teachers. (Beyer)
Gender segregated schools were established. Although schools for upper-class women were in existence prior to the 19th-century, the female seminary for middle-class women became the prevailing type of institution from 1820 until after the Civil War.
The most prominent female seminaries on the continent were Troy Seminary (1821,) Hartford Seminary (1823,) Ipswich Seminary (1828,) Mount Holyoke Seminary (1837) and Oxford Seminary (1839.)
The seminary’s primary task was professional preparation: the male seminary prepared men for the ministry; the female seminary took as its earnest job the training of women for teaching and motherhood. (Horowitz, Beyer)
Western-style education did not begin in Hawai’i until after members of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) arrived in 1820.
Because the primary educators responsible for developing the education system of Hawai’i were Americans, the educational practices for Hawaiian girls tended to mirror, but not necessarily duplicate, what was taking place on the continent. (Beyer)
In 1835, at the general meeting of the Mission, a resolution was passed to promote boarding schools for Hawaiians; several male boarding schools and two female boarding schools were begun (Wailuku Female Seminary on the island of Maui and the Hilo School for Girls on the island of Hawai’i.)
Wailuku Female Seminary (or the Central Female Seminary, as it was first called) was the first female school begun by the missionaries. It received support at a time when the missionaries were experimenting with both boarding schools and a manual labor system.
In 1837 the missionaries opened the Wailuku Female Seminary to educate girls to be “good Christian wives” for the graduates of Lahainaluna a school for boys at Lahaina. A boarding school, they thought, would have a deeper influence than day classes.
The opening of the school raised some concern by the Wailuku missionaries: “It will be remembered that our station is really on West Maui, and now may be considered as having only one man to attend to the appropriate missionary work of the station.”
“The Seminary about to go into operation is for the benefit of the islands generally & will occupy the whole time of its teacher. So that E Maui with a population of some 20,000 has really no missionary”. (Wailuku Station Report, 1837)
Rev. Jonathan Green, his wife Theodosia and Miss Maria Ogden were the first teachers, followed by Edward Bailey and his wife Caroline.
Green noted, “the object of our Seminary is to impact to the pupils, and through them to the entire population of Hawaii, a thorough going Christian education.”
The missionaries felt that in order to run “a good Christian household”, the girls needed to learn domestic skills: housekeeping, washing and ironing, sewing and mending. They also learned how to spin cotton and weave cloth.
A strict schedule was considered to be an important part of their education. An hour of gardening before breakfast, each girl having her own little plot, was added to relieve the stress. (MHS)
As to their studies, “They have attended to Reading, Writing, Mental and Written Arithmetic, Geography Sacred and Civil, Exhibition of Popery, Gallaudet’s Book on the Soul, and Natural Theology.” (General Meeting Minutes, 1841)
The plan for the school included a two story stone building, used for classes but including a room for a chapel and a dining room, which was completed in 1837; and an adobe building, used as a dormitory, also completed in 1837.
An additional building was added before the end of 1839. It was made of stone, attached to the original two story building, and used as a dining hall. It is the only building of the Wailuku Female Seminary that is still standing today (part of what is now known as the Bailey House.)
No sooner was the Seminary open than a letter arrived from the Missions’ headquarters asking that no more money be spent on the school. By 1849, however, the Mission Board was unable to raise money, and the Wailuku Female Seminary was closed after its 12th year. (MHS)
Edward Bailey and his wife Caroline Hubbard Bailey arrived in Honolulu April 9, 1837. Not long after their arrival, the couple was transferred to Wailuku to head the Wailuku Female Seminary.
Bailey worked at the Wailuku Female Seminary until its closure in 1849. At that time he purchased the fee simple title to the Girls’ boarding school, the house and lot, and began his interest in what was to become Wailuku Sugar Company.
Edward and Caroline lived in their Wailuku home for 50-years; at the time of his death in 1903 Edward Sr was the oldest living missionary sent to Hawaiʻi.
The Bailey House is now the Maui Historical Society’s Hale Hō‘ike‘ike (House of Display) showcasing Hawaiian history and culture, as well as paintings and furnishings from nineteenth-century Maui.