Wesleyan Female College (Wilmington)

Coordinates: 39°44′30″N 75°32′54″W / 39.74162°N 75.54821°W / 39.74162; -75.54821
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Wesleyan Female College of Wilmington, Delaware, USA, was a college for women that operated from 1837 to 1885.[1]

Reverend Solomon Prettyman founded the institution in 1837 as the Wesleyan Female Seminary, with the support of the Philadelphia and Baltimore Conferences of the Methodist Church. The school started on Market Street in 1837, moved to a new building at Ninth Street and Market Street in 1838, and built a building of its own in 1839 on French Street near Sixth Street. The general location of the school is now occupied by One Alico Plaza.

In 1841, the school was chartered under the name of "Wesleyan Female Collegiate Institute". By 1842, it had 111 students and nine instructors. Some complained about the growing intellectual rigor of the school. For example, an 1847 editorial in The Delaware Gazette noted the many courses in academic subjects but "heard nothing of the class upon making bread, puddings, and pies..."[1] A literary magazine called The Female Student and Young Ladies Chronicle was published by the school from 1844 to 1849.[citation needed]

In 1851, after a period of decline, the board of trustees took over control from Prettyman for the Methodist Episcopal Church. The school was renamed the "Wesleyan Female College" in 1855.[2]

Enrollment started to decline during the 1870s, probably due in part to the opening of the Wilmington Conference Academy, a secondary school which went co-educational in 1874. By 1879, enrollment had dropped to 66 students. A smallpox outbreak also decreased enrollment in 1880.[1] Between 1855 and 1881, the school had 228 graduates.[1]

In 1882, the college was sold at a sheriff's sale to William Bright, who renamed it Wesleyan College and operated it as a non-sectarian school.[citation needed]

Despite support from local prominent businessmen, the school closed in 1885. One of its three buildings became the Central Hotel.[3]

After its closing, no college option for women existed in Delaware until the Women's College of Delaware (now part of the University of Delaware} opened in 1914.[1]


  • Solomon Prettyman (1837–51)
  • T.E. Sundler (1851–52)
  • George Loomis (1852–57) (later president of Allegheny College)[4]
  • Lafayette C. Loomis (1857–58)
  • John Wilson (1858–78)
  • James M. Williams (1878–82)
  • John Wilson (1882–85)

Notable alumnae[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Taggart, Robert J. (2008). "Wesleyan Female College of Wilmington, Delaware: A College Before its Time?". American Educational History Journal. 35 (2): 221-232.
  2. ^ Prettyman, Edgar Cannon (2 October 1938). "Of the First Fruits of Methodism". Sunday Morning Star – via Google News.
    - Simpson, Matthew, ed. (1883). Cyclopaedia of Methodism (5th Rev. ed.). p. 956 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Scharf, J.T. (1888). History of Delaware : 1609-1888: Local history. L. J. Richards. p. 690. Retrieved 10 July 2015 – via Google Books.
    - Powell, Lyman P. (1893). The History of Education in Delaware. p. 83-84 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "George Loomis". Allegheny College. Retrieved 13 January 2014.

39°44′30″N 75°32′54″W / 39.74162°N 75.54821°W / 39.74162; -75.54821