The Nashville Female Academy

The first formal school for girls and young women in the city was the Nashville Female Academy. Founded on July 4, 1816, a year before Adelicia Hayes' birth, her father, O.B. Hayes, did not buy shares in the Academy on that day but was one of the owners by the end of the month. In 1819, he added the role of board member to his capacity as a shareholder in the Academy that would eventually serve his children. By 819 he was father to the first of what would be four daughters. He evidently valued the education of girls as he served on the board till the end of 1826.

The Nashville Female Academy. Image courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

By the 1830s, the prominence of education in Nashville through the existence of the Nashville Female Academy and the University of Nashville gave rise to the city's moniker as the “Athens of the South”. The Nashville Female Academy presented a number of courses beginning with the expected “ornamental courses such as painting, drawing, hand work and music" commonly taught as part of the education of girls. However, the Academy took that a bit further with a more rigorous curriculum of Reading, Writing, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Composition, History, Geography (ancient and modern with the use of the globes), Rhetoric, Logic, Moral Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Botany and Mythology also being taught. The Academy continued to prosper through the 1850s. However, in February 1862 the arrival of Union forces at Ft. Donelson and subsequent fall of Nashville to the Union Army forced the closure of the school. It never re-opened.

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Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212


1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212


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The architecture of Belmont Mansion makes it one of the most significant homes of 19th century Tennessee.

Sold by the Acklen family in 1887, the house went to a developer who began one of Nashville’s early suburbs.

It was then purchased by two women who in 1890 started a college which evolved into Belmont University. Today the Belmont Mansion Association, which was formed in 1972, owns the collection, runs the museum, and shares this unique story of 19th century Nashville with visitors from far and near.

Photos by Ed Houk