Heading South to Teach

The World of Susan Nye Hutchison, 1815-1845

By Kim Tolley

278 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 halftones, 4 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2433-4
    Published: October 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2434-1
    Published: August 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4711-9
    Published: August 2015

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Susan Nye Hutchison (1790-1867) was one of many teachers to venture south across the Mason-Dixon Line in the Second Great Awakening. From 1815 to 1841, she kept journals about her career, family life, and encounters with slavery. Drawing on these journals and hundreds of other documents, Kim Tolley uses Hutchison's life to explore the significance of education in transforming American society in the early national period. Tolley examines the roles of ambitious, educated women like Hutchison who became teachers for economic, spiritual, and professional reasons.

During this era, working women faced significant struggles when balancing career ambitions with social conventions about female domesticity. Hutchison's eventual position as head of a respected southern academy was as close to equity as any woman could achieve in any field. By recounting Hutchison's experiences--from praying with slaves and free blacks in the streets of Raleigh and establishing an independent school in Georgia to defying North Carolina law by teaching slaves to read--Tolley offers a rich microhistory of an antebellum teacher. Hutchison's story reveals broad social and cultural shifts and opens an important window onto the world of women's work in southern education.

About the Author

Kim Tolley is professor of education at Notre Dame de Namur University and author of The Science Education of American Girls.
For more information about Kim Tolley, visit the Author Page.


“A worthwhile contribution to the scholarship of US education history as well as women’s history. . . . Highly recommended.”--Choice

“Has much to offer both lay readers and academics interested in nineteenth-century intellectual and social history. . . . A new and interesting perspective on teaching in the antebellum South.”--Journal of Southern History

“Transcends the limitations of studying a single individual and is convincing in its analysis of important aspects of nineteenth-century American life.”--Journal of Social History

“An eminently readable conversation starter for scholars across disciplines.”--Journal of American Culture

"Kim Tolley is a brilliant social historian. Here, she ventures far beyond Hutchison's diary to find details and build a deep context, searching local newspapers, combing census returns and church records, and exhausting every other source that would reveal aspects of Hutchison's life. Tolley works in a number of fields in this book and makes fascinating contributions to all of them."--Ronald E. Butchart, University of Georgia

"Heading South to Teach vividly and effectively brings Susan Nye Hutchison's career, communities, and writings to life in an engaging fashion, shedding new light on women's religious, educational, professional, marital, and communal experiences in nineteenth-century America."--Lucia McMahon, William Paterson University