emale Institute Building

Although not mentioned in the charter drafted by Stephen W. Taylor for the University at Lewisburg, which was signed by Governor Francis R. Shunk on February 5, 1846, a female seminary had been envisioned by the founders of the university as an integral part of the institution. Girls as well as boys enrolled in the “high school” in the “lecture room of the Baptist Church” that was opened by Taylor in 1846. Later, the girls attended classes with boys in the new Academy Building after its completion in 1849.

The Construction of the Female Institute Building in 1858

In 1852, the University at Lewisburg purchased the building on Lot No. 205 at the corner of St. Louis and South Second Streets from James K. Casey, Esq., for the sum of $3,500.00. This building was used as temporary housing for young ladies from its purchase until 1856 when the University sold the house for $5,000.00. In November of the same year, a contract for a new building on St. George Street, between South Fifth and Sixth Streets, was given to L.B. Root Co. to construct the building "with the exception of the furnaces and ranges for the sum of $16,500.00." The architect was Stephen Decatur Button (1813-1897) of Philadelphia who was a devotee of the Italianate style.

When completed for occupancy on September 20, 1858, the Female Institute Building contained offices, music and recitation rooms, a dining hall and kitchen, and a third-floor dormitory. Both teachers and students lived in the building. This building was the first building on the women's campus, which consisted of six acres bounded by St. George, Sixth and Loomis Streets. The building was within the borough limits.

Charges for Heat, Board, Room and Light in 1865

The building was heated by "heated air" from several furnaces, which were located in the basements of the wings and the center of the building. Separate charges were made for heating the public and private rooms. In 1865, the annual charge for fuel for public rooms was $4.00 and the charge for private rooms was $6.00. The charge for board, room and light per term was $40.00. Gas provided the lighting. The "Bath Rooms" for the young ladies were "...provided with accommodations for both warm and cold ablutions."

Courses of Study and Charges

The Institute was both a day school and a boarding school, which offered a one-year preparatory class as well as a three-year regular program that led to a diploma rather than a degree. Students in the Female Institute took courses in mathematics (algebra and geometry), science (natural philosophy, astronomy, physiology, geology and chemistry), language (Latin or French), rhetoric, English Literature, Moral Philosophy, Mental Philosophy, religion, and the Constitution of the United States.

In 1865, the Female Institute offered a juvenile class, a one-year preparatory class and a three-year regular course. The regular course consisted of three terms per academic year, which was a reflection of the practice in the Academy and the College.

Juvenile Class

Spelling and Defining
Mental Arithmetic
Arithmetic and Fractions
Modern Geography
United States History

Preparatory Class

Mental Arithmetic
Arithmetic completed
Natural History
English Grammar

Junior Class

Term I

Natural Philosophy
Ancient History
Elementary Algebra
Classical Antiquities

Term II

Modern History

Term III

Latin or French

Middle Class

Term I

Latin or French

Term II

Natural Theology
Latin or French

Term III

English Literature
Latin or French

Senior Class

Term I

English Literature
Moral Philosophy
Constitution of the United States
Latin or French

Term II

English Literature
Mental Philosophy
Evidences of Christianity
Latin or French

Term III

Elements of Criticism
Butler’s Analogy
Latin or French

Tuition for the Regular course was $12.00 per term and students were charged $1.00 for "repairs by general average." Additional fees were assessed per session for instrumental music ($14.00), use of piano ($3.00), vocal music ($1.00), German ($5.00), painting in oil ($12.00), and drawing ($6.00).

Life in the Institute in 1865

The Principles of the Institute were set forth in the Catalogue:

The first object of this Institution is to prepare young ladies for the cheerful discharge of the duties of life; and as this cannot be done by the mere training of the intellectual powers, attention is given to the education of the physical system, and of the heart.

Thoroughness is aimed at in all the instructions.

The character of each recitation is recorded at the time, and the result, together with a statement of the general industry and deportment of the pupil, is sent to the parent or guardian at the close of each term.

Moral culture, physical education and recreation were important parts of the education provided by the Institute:

Religious instruction is frequently given, and a recitation in the Bible is a daily exercise.

All the pupils are required to attend Bible Class on the Sabbath, and public worship twice on the Sabbath, at such places as the parent or guardian may designate. When no particular preference is expressed, they will accompany the Principal to the Baptist Church.

On the Sabbath, no calls or visits are allowed.


Regular and systematic Exercises in Gymnastics and Calesthenics are required of the pupils daily. No other exercise or recreation is so well calculated to promote health, secure fullness and strength to the muscles, and develop in graceful proportions the entire physical system.

Physical and Intellectual Education are found to be inseparable, and that a sound mind cannot exist but in a sound body.

A slight charge will be made for use of appratus.

A loose, short dress, such as is used for bathing, is required.


The pupils are required to take daily exercise in the open air. This regulation is made, as young ladies generally neglect taking sufficient exercise; and without it, health cannot be enjoyed. The health of the pupil is regarded as first in importance.

Saturday is devoted to recreation.

Every possible care is taken to secure the health of the young ladies.

William Gundy Owens, Class of 1880, has provided a description of life in the Female Institute in the mid-1870’s.

When [the building] was completed, the Female Institute was moved into this new building situated in the midst of a six acre grove of oak trees which was surrounded by a board fence.…. The principal and teachers lived with the girls, and each teacher was “housemother” in her hall. Each week one teacher was appointed to ring the bell for classes and to take to town those girls who need to see a dentist, doctor or make purchases. Each day all the girls were taken for a walk. At least two teachers went with them, one leading the procession and the other one, the more important of the two, following. In the same manner they marched to church twice each Sunday and to Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evenings.

No callers of the opposite sex except brothers and near relatives were allowed to visit the girls, save for one occasion; this was the annual Soiree given by the “middle years”. The boys could come to this affair which was held in the school room, if they were invited. Four girls, seated at two pianos, furnished the music. Essays were read by the “middle year” girls. When a girl read her essay, one or two friends would stand beside here to keep up her morale. After the program was over the girls and boys went across the hall to the parlor and marched around the room in couples forming an elongated circle. They then indulged in conversation. When conversation lagged, the weather and the state of their health having been settled, the young man passed his girl over to his friend, or, if she were not a good conversationalist, to his enemy.

As can be seen, special precautions were taken to ensure that the young ladies of the Institute were isolated from the boys in the Academy and the young men in the College.

Academic Calendar in 1865

The school year was divided into three terms. In 1864-1865, the first term of study began on Thursday morning, September 22 and ended on December 23. The second term began on Tuesday morning, January 3, 1865, and ended on March 29. A vacation of three weeks followed. The third term began Thursday morning, April 29 and the school year ended Thursday, July 27. A vacation of eight weeks followed before the first term of the 1865-1866 school year began on Thursday morning, September 21.

Lewisburg in 1865

Although most students at the Institute were from Lewisburg and central Pennsylvania, some students came from a greater distance. Probably to attract students from outside the local area, the Catalogue contained a glowing description of Lewisburg and its inhabitants:

Lewisburg is delightfully situated on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. It has a population of about 4,000, and is, without exception, the prettiest town in Central Pennsylvania. It has seven Churches, a flourishing University, two Express Offices, two newspapers, and is the seat of Justice for Union County. It also has direct telegraphic communication with the principal places throughout the United States.

Lewisburg is noted for the salubrity of its air, and the high moral character of its inhabitants. It is easy of access from all points, being reached from Philadelphia by two railroads, and also having direct Railroad connection with Baltimore, Pittsburg, Elmira, Easton, Wilkesbarre, &c., &c....

Young ladies from distant parts of Pennsylvania and other states could feel safe in Lewisburg.

Teachers and Students in 1865

In 1865, Miss Lucy W. Rundell was principal and Teacher of Mental Science and Painting; Miss Harriet E. Spratt was her assistant and Teacher of Mathematics. Seven teachers including Rundell and Spratt taught one hundred and eighty-five females in the Institute. The other teachers were Miss C. Hilker, Teacher of English Branches; Mrs. L.W. Roussel, Teacher of French and Music; Miss Emily H. Rundell, Teacher of Natural Sciences; Miss Mary E. Brown, Assistant Teacher of Music; and Miss Amaly Volkmar, Assistant Teacher of Music. the positon of Professor of Music was vacant. In addition Mr. Francis W. Tustin was a Lecturer on Natural Sciences. Mrs. Harrietta S. Delp was the Matron.

The faculty in the Institute changed quite frequently. For example, in 1863-64, Miss Augusta B. Tucker was Teacher of Natural Sciences; by the next school year she had been replaced by Miss Emily H. Rundell who was replaced the following school year by Miss Mary A. Hakes.

Seventeen women graduated in 1865. Of these graduates, fourteen were from Pennsylvania, two were from New York, and one was from New Jersey. Of the Pennsylvanians, three were local: two from Lewisburg and one from Milton.

"high school" Oliphant, p. 31; Linn, p. 546

"in the lecture room..." Linn, p. 546

"with the exception of..." BT '46-'82, p. 229 (3/27/1857)

"...provided with..." FIC '64, p. 15

"repairs by general..." BT '46-'82, p. 451 (7/26/1865)

"The first object of..." FIC '65, p. 20

"Religious instruction is..." to ** , ib., p. 21

"Regular and systematic..." to **, ib., p. 22

"The pupils are required..." to **, ib.

"When [the building] was..." Owens, File 4-4-55, p. 3

"Lewisburg is delightfully...", ib., p. 19

The major source for the information on this page is the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of Bucknell University, 1846-1882 (BT '46-'82). Additional sources are Oliphant, Rise of Bucknell; Theiss, Centennial History; Mauser, Centennial History; Linn, Annals; William Gundy Owens, “From File of William Gundy Owens”, four pages typescript dated in pencil 4-4-55, which are reminiscences prepared for the editors of the Bucknell Alumni Monthly, Bucknell University Archives; and the 10th Annual Catalogue of the University Female Institute at Lewisburg, Pa., For The Year Ending July 28, 1864, (FIC '64) , the 11th Annual Catalogue of the University Female Institute at Lewisburg, Pa., For The Year Ending July 27, 1865 (FIC '65) and the 12th Annual Catalogue of the University Female Institute at Lewisburg, Pa., For The Year Ending July 26, 1866 (FIC '66)

This building in other years: 1895 | 1915 | 1945 | 1965 | 1985 | Current
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