Thursday, October 17, 2013
Lucy Sheldon Beach 1788-1889 & the role of Art at Litchfield Academy
Lucy Sheldon Beach, daughter of Daniel & Huldah Stone Sheldon of Litchfield, Connecticut, was born June 27, 1788. From 1801 until 1803, Lucy was educated at the Litchfield Female Academy. In 1832 she married Theron Beach (1785-1864), a physician, as his second wife. None of their children survived. At some point in the mid-1800s, Elizbeth Prince Child, Lucy's first cousin once removed (Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Lucy's aunt Dothe Stone Cutler (1756-1805), moved in with her. She inherited her father's house on North Street (now called the Sheldon House) living there for her entire adult life. Lucy passed away on April 7, 1889 at the age of 100 years.
At the Litchfield Academy, Sarah Pierce experimented with innovative ways to unite the academic & ornamental subjects. Students drew & painted maps & made charts of historical events to reinforce geography & history lessons. Students also illustrated poetry, literature, & mythological & biblical readings with elaborate embroideries & detailed watercolor paintings. Botany & natural history lessons often were illustrated with watercolor drawings.
Although primarily interested in a strong academic curriculum, Sarah Pierce knew that teaching the ornamental subjects was critical to the success of her school. In the 18th century, most wealthy parents were willing to invest in a son’s education because it increased his chances of pursuing a profitable career. For young women the ability of their families to pay the high cost of an education became a symbol of wealth. The decorative paintings & needleworks made by the girls at female academies were hung in formal parlors as proof of family prosperity. Learning dancing, music, foreign languages, art & other ornamental subjects was also important for those students who wanted to become teachers or start their own academies, as no school for young women would be successful without them.
"Beach, Lucy Sheldon (Mrs. Theron) 1802-1803 Journal" (Archives, Litchfield Historical Society).
1802 Litchfield Female Academy Catalog (Vanderpoel, Emily Noyes. Chronicles of A Pioneer School From 1792 To 1833. Cambridge, MA: The University Press, 1903).