The Education of Abigail Powers Fillmore

The Education of Abigail Powers Fillmore
Abigail Fillmore: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: One to two class periods


Abigail Powers is known most famously for creating a library in the White House.  Like Laura Bush, she was a teacher, and she developed a love of books very early in her life.  Unlike Abigail Adams, Abigail Powers did attend a school—New Hope Academy, in New York State.  But she began teaching at 16!


After participating in this lesson, students will have a greater understanding of the way education was conducted prior to the development of the common school, will know a good deal about the fourteenth First Lady of the United States and her times, and will gain practice in research and synthesis of data.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Library books or other materials on the life of Abigail Fillmore.


1.  Students should read the biography of Abigail Powers Fillmore provided on the First Ladies Library web site, and undertake additional research on her life from the sources listed below:
2.  Then, individually or in small groups, students should write a description of her education, being sure to answer the following questions:
  • How and where was Abigail Powers educated?
  • Who was important in her educational life?
  • Why did her mother educate her at home as a child?
  • Why didn’t she go to college?
  • How did she “substitute” for a college education?
  • How could she become a teacher?
  • Would you like to have the kind of education Abigail did? 

 3.  As a culminating activity, students can discuss what they have found in class, particularly what they have learned about the education of girls in the early 19th century American republic.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson could be extended by using any aspect of the materials gathered about Abigail Fillmore’s life, in addition to her education, to enable students to understand more about life in the first part of the 19th century when the nation was very young.

Sources & Resources:

Web sites: 

Abigail Fillmore

White House Biography of Abigail Fillmore

Abigail Fillmore on Wikipedia

First Ladies Library Biography of Abigail Fillmore


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.