Educating Young Women
Rev. Eliot's philosophy was powerful and profound. He saw no reason for families to send their young daughters far from home in order to receive a quality education that equaled what young men could receive in St. Louis.
In 1853, Unitarian minister William Greenleaf Eliot, with his friend and parishioner Wayman Crow, co-founded Washington University in St. Louis. Unfortunately, St. Louis had few students ready for advanced coursework in 1853. The University founders established Smith Academy, an "academic sub-department" for boys in 1856, teaching elementary and high school level classes. A similar secondary school for girls was soon added. Eliot established Mary Institute in 1859, named for his daughter Mary Rhodes Eliot, who died at age seventeen.
Eliot noted that by the 1860s, the Advanced Class at Mary Institute carried women "to a grade of scholarship equal to that of the seniors in the College." Eliot wrote to a friend in July 1870, and he mentioned that it was only a matter of time before women would be admitted at most Middle West colleges; however, at Washington University, most faculty and students seemed opposed to co-education at the time.