Lucy Cobb Institute
The Lucy Cobb Institute was a girls' school
Girls' School
Girls' School is a single by Wings released in 1977.Written and produced by McCartney, it is the other side of the double A-side with "Mull of Kintyre" and was the band's sole UK number one, spending nine weeks at the top in December 1977 and January 1978. The song was in complete contrast to the...

 on Milledge Avenue in Athens, Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Athens-Clarke County is a consolidated city–county in U.S. state of Georgia, in the northeastern part of the state, comprising the former City of Athens proper and Clarke County. The University of Georgia is located in this college town and is responsible for the initial growth of the city...

. It was founded by Thomas R.R. Cobb, and named in honor of his daughter, who had died of scarlet fever
Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by exotoxin released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics...

 at age 14, shortly before construction was completed and doors opened; it was incorporated in 1859. The cornerstone for the Seney-Stovall Chapel was laid in May 1882, and the octagonal building was dedicated in 1885. The school closed in 1931.

The campus of the Lucy Cobb Institute was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 on March 16, 1972. Today, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government
Carl Vinson Institute of Government
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government is an organization that works closely with officials and employees from state and local governments in Georgia and internationally to help them achieve their missions and improve public service...

 of the University of Georgia
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia is a public research university located in Athens, Georgia, United States. Founded in 1785, it is the oldest and largest of the state's institutions of higher learning and is one of multiple schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States...

 is housed in the former Lucy Cobb Institute.


In 1854, a piece called "The Education of Our Girls" ran in a local paper, the Athens Watchman. The letter was written by Laura Cobb (Mrs. Williams) Rutherford, who was "writing from a ladylike modesty" about the poor state of education for women
Female education
Female education is a catch-all term for a complex of issues and debates surrounding education for females. It includes areas of gender equality and access to education, and its connection to the alleviation of poverty...

 in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. It was signed "Mother" and argued, "girls have the same intellectual constitution as men and have the same right as men to intellectual cultural development". One of the letter's readers was Mrs. Rutherford's brother, Thomas R.R. Cobb, the father of several daughters. Cobb, a lawyer and later a secessionist, was completely unaware of the author's identity and after reading the editorial began raising funds for a girls' school. For Cobb, this school would be a place where "orthodox southern moral and racial values could be transmitted to future generations". His association with the school would come to an "abrupt end" in 1861 when one of his daughters quarreled with a teacher, and both Callie and Sallie Cobb were withdrawn.

School opens

The trustees purchased eight acres of land on what is now known as Milledge Avenue. When the school opened on January 10, 1859, its first principal was R. M. Wright. (It was in April of this same year the Watkinsville
Watkinsville, Georgia
Watkinsville is a town in Oconee County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 2,097. The city is the county seat of Oconee County...

 Road acquired its present name of Milledge Avenue.) The school was later headed by Madame Sosnowski (who organized the Home School after leaving the Lucy Cobb Institute).

Mildred Lewis Rutherford, or "Miss Millie", a graduate herself of Lucy Cobb Institute,
took over leadership of the school in 1880. The Georgia Writers' Project
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

, in a 1940 publication on the state published in the American Guide Series, characterized her thusly:
'Miss Millie,' always a champion of southern traditions, was a woman of powerful personality, commanding presence, and fearlessly outspoken opinions; she was known widely for the speeches she delivered in hoop skirts. For all her decorum, she seemed to enjoy the protracted battles over the plaster goats that stood at the end of the dormitory's long veranda. The college boys periodically painted these animals in their school colors, red and black. At last they were broken when the boys attempted to hide them; some of the former belles of Lucy Cobb still cherish pieces of the goats as souvenirs.

Seney-Stovall Chapel

It was Miss Millie who decided the girls needed a chapel and had them write seeking funding for one. In 1881, Nellie Stovall wrote "a beautiful and girlish letter" to George I. Seney, who responded with the funding for the $10,000 structure, an octagonal red brick building called the Seney-Stovall Chapel. It was designed by a local architect, William Winstead Thomas.

When Miss Millie stepped down from the role of principal in 1895, she was replaced at the school's helm by her sister, Mrs. M.A. Lipscomb. Rutherford and Lipscomb were nieces of T.R.R. Cobb.

The end

Although the institute "became a well-known girls' preparatory school", "praised throughout the South for its emphasis on gentle manners and old-fashioned accomplishments", it "did not survive the depression", and closed its doors in 1931. At that point, the University of Georgia
University of Georgia
The University of Georgia is a public research university located in Athens, Georgia, United States. Founded in 1785, it is the oldest and largest of the state's institutions of higher learning and is one of multiple schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States...

 took over its campus, and used the main building as a women's dormitory and eventually storage.

A restoration effort to save the complex was completed in 1997 with the renovation of Seney-Stovall Chapel. The former Lucy Cobb Institute became the home of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

External links

  • "Lucy Cobb Institute" in New Georgia Encyclopedia
    New Georgia Encyclopedia
    The New Georgia Encyclopedia is a web-based encyclopedia containing over 2,000 articles about the state of Georgia.The Georgia Humanities Council, the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the University of Georgia Press, and the University System of Georgia/GALILEO have collaborated in the funding...

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