Salem Academy and College
Old Salem Museums & Gardens shares the Historic District with Salem Academy and College–the country’s oldest private institution for women and girls.
Schools for girls were rare in the early South. In Salem, Single Sister Elisabeth Oesterlein began a small day school for girls in 1772. By 1788, families across the South were asking if their daughters could come to Salem to receive an education.
In 1805, a girls boarding school was constructed in Salem and the first class had 30 girls from across the South. Girls took classes in reading, writing, syntax, history, geography, music, drawing, and needlework. In the late 1880s, the school was approved to offer a college education as well as the traditional preparatory program.
It was the Single Sisters in Salem who were the teachers and staff of the school for most of its early life. The Sisters’ House museum rooms are open to the public and share the history of the school.