Maggie Boyd’s Classes in 1873

Ed note: This winter and spring, we are tweeting the diary of Margaret Boyd, Ohio University’s first female graduate. We’ll also be taking a look at Boyd’s world with News Blog posts about the issues she discusses in her diary.

Margaret (Maggie) Boyd was a senior at Ohio University in 1873. Fresh back from her winter break, she started writing in her diary daily about her life here at Ohio University.

Have you ever wondered what type of classes a college student took here at the university more than 100 years ago? If so, take a look at Maggie’s class schedules for her second term in 1873. Matt Wesley and Karah Finan, PACE students at Alden Library, researched Maggie’s courses using resources available through the Libraries’ Digital Initiatives, such as the university course catalogs, which are available online for the years 1830-2008.

Maggie was in the beginning of her second term as a senior when she started chronicling her daily life in her diary. She took five classes winter term 1873, which ran from December 2, 1873 to March 2, 1874. Her classes included Astronomy, Evidences of Christianity, Butler’s Analogy, Psychology, Forensics and Original Declamations.

In Astronomy she studied planets and space objects, a class that can still be taken at Ohio University today. Evidences of Christianity focused on Christian Apologetic theory. A similar-seeming course covered Butler’s Analogy, published in 1736. It was a book that focused on the defense of Christian beliefs through logic and reasoning, according to a synopsis of the book now available on An online version Butler’s Analogy is available today at Alden Library; check it out here. Maggie’s last class was a subject that is very familiar to many students today, Psychology.

In addition to classes, Maggie had to attend weekly recitations in the Greek Testament. Learning languages such as Greek and Latin was a big part of Maggie’s coursework, as you can see from the list of coursework for students enrolled in 1873.

Her quarterly book list for her second term included titles such as: Harkness’s Latin Grammar; Daederlein’s Latin Synonyms; Hadley’s Greek Grammar; Anthon’s Classical Dictionary, Fiske’s Manual of Classical Literature and Long’s Classical Atlas.

Note that most of Maggie’s required readings were from standard grammar books, dictionaries or foreign language vocabulary books. This is very different from today where we have specialized books for each subject that come out with new editions on a regular basis.

Many of Maggie’s classes focused on religion and Christianity, which is typical of the beliefs of the Victorian period that Maggie grew up in. In addition to studying religion in her classes, much of Maggie’s life outside of class was also religion based; she attended church, Sunday school, and prayer groups with her friends and classmates. For example, on Sunday, January 12 1873, Maggie wrote:

Today went to morning meeting and church in the fore-noon and to sacrament in the afternoon Tonight I went with Davs to the Presbyterian Church to hear Elder with her friends and classmates.

Maggie’s courses at Ohio University were extremely different from today’s courses of study. Instead of specializing in a major, she attended school in the Normal Course of study, according to the 1873 Course Catalog. Let us know what you think about classes today versus classes back then in the comments!

To read more about Maggie’s experiences in her Winter Term classes, please follow the Twitter account – @MaggieBoyd1873 – in which we will be chronicling her day-to-day entries. Also, keep following the Library Blog, the @AldenLibrary Twitter account or the Alden Library Facebook page to read more about the university’s history during Maggie’s time and other aspects of Victorian life.