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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Woman’s Mind

By Joseph Story (1779–1845)

[From his Autobiography as published in the Life and Letters of Joseph Story, edited by his Son, W. W. Story. 1851.]

THERE is one circumstance connected with my studies at the Marblehead Academy, which has probably given a turn to my thoughts, which you may easily trace. Girls as well as boys went to the same school at the same hours, and were arranged on opposite sides of a large hall on their appropriate forms. In the simplicity of those days, it was not thought necessary to separate the sexes in their studies. Generally, we studied the same books, and as we recited our lessons in the presence of each other there was a mutual pride to do our best, and to gain an honest portion of flattery or of praise. I was early struck with the flexibility, activity, and power of the female mind. Girls of the same age were on an average of numbers quite our equals in their studies and acquirements, and had much greater quickness of perception and delicacy of feeling than the boys. Remaining thus at school with them until I was about fifteen years old, I could not be mistaken as to their powers; and I then imbibed the opinion, which I have never since changed, that their talents are generally equal to those of men, though there are shades of difference in the character of their minds resulting from several causes. My impression is, that the principal difference in intellectual power, which is marked in after days, results not so much from their original inferiority of mind, as from the fact that education stops with females almost at the time it effectively begins with men; and that neither their habits nor pursuits in life enable them afterwards to cultivate science or literature with much diligence or success. They have no professions which constantly require and constantly encourage them to master new sources of knowledge.