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Map of 1826 & 
Location & wanderings of the
aboriginal tribes

Emma Hart Willard

The early 19th-century cartographer, historian, educator, and women’s rights activist Emma Hart Willard pioneered new techniques for teaching geography and producing maps. She advocated a localized approach to learning one’s land, contrary to the era’s common practice: “Instead of commencing the study of maps with the map of the world, which is the most difficult to understand,” she and co-author William Woodbridge wrote in 1844’s Woodbridge and Willard's Universal Geography, “the pupil here begins, in the most simple manner imaginable, to draw a map of his own town.”

In her own maps, Willard stuck to representations of the United States, and in this, she was not without her prejudices. In one of her widely sold geography “readers,” she innovated new cartographic techniques while also reinforcing dominant assumptions about Native Americans. Pictured above, “Locations and Wanderings of the Aboriginal Tribes,” is the “Introductory Map” in 1828’s Willard’s History of the United States. The map uses colours and vectors to show settlement and movement patterns of Native Americans in the Eastern U.S.—an unprecedented visual strategy for mapping American history that “re-conceptualize[d] the past on a plane rather than in a narrative,” writes the historian Susana Schulten in the Journal of Historical Geography.


Emma Hart Willard (1787–1870) was the daughter of a farmer who encouraged her to read and learn, and eventually become a teacher. In 1807 she headed a female academy in Vermont. Willard's proposal for greater education for girls was positively received by the authorities of the day. In 1821 she opened her own school for girls in Troy, New York. The Emma Willard School is still going strong today.

Last Updated:
21th of June, 2023

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