skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

Emily Fairbanks Talbot


American philanthropist and promoter of higher education for women. A teacher in Baltimore from 1854. Married Israel Tisdale Talbot, a homoeopathic doctor, in 1856; she promoted and secured funds for his work in Boston. In 1877, helped to establish the Boston Latin School for Girls, which offered a college preparatory course for female students. Helped form the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, to improve, promote, and set standards for women’s higher education, in 1881. Secretary of the education department of the American Social Science Association.

Further Reading

Further Information:

Emily Talbot (1834-1900) was born in Fairbanks, Maine. Because she lacked access to a college education, she instead taught school from age sixteen. She met Israel Talbot, a graduate of the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School, in Baltimore in 1854; they married in 1856. Emily secured funds for her husband to open the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Hospital, and continued to fundraise and manage publicity for the organisation.

Later, she focussed her energy on education reform. Her enthusiasm derived partly from her experience as a teacher, and partly from a desire for her daughters to have access to the best education possible. She was discouraged by the lack of a college-preparatory school for girls and the lack of scholarly courses in finishing schools. She tried to enroll her daughters in a number of male schools with the intent of giving them the knowledge necessary to successfully apply to Boston University. This effort failed, so in 1877 Talbot established the Latin School for Girls, which offered college-preparatory classes equivalent to those of the Boston Latin School. In 1881 she helped found the Association of Collegiate Alumnae to further the opportunities for female college graduates. During this period she consulted Darwin on his opinions about education and child development. She also organised the Massachusetts Society for the University Education of Women. All of these efforts were designed to remove the obstacles that prevented women from receiving the same educational opportunities that were available to men.

Relevant Gender Resources:

Primary Source:

Darwin Correspondence Database,

Secondary Source:

Schafer, E. D., "Emily Fairbanks Talbot", American National Biography Online, (Feb, 2000) (accessed March 5th, 2013).