The Lucy Cobb Institute was founded in 1859 as a secondary school for young women. It offered an academically rigorous education to genteel girls and became one of the best schools for women in the South. It closed its doors in 1931, and the University of Georgia purchased the building. Today it is the central administrative home of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.
The Lucy Cobb
Institute was a secondary school for young women in Athens, GA.
The school was founded in 1859 by Thomas R. R. Cobb,
a prominent lawyer and
proslavery writer. Laura Cobb Rutherford was perhaps the
first advocate for the education of women in Athens. Through her efforts and
the financial backing of her brother, T. R. R. Cobb, the Lucy Cobb Institute
was constructed in 1858 and held its first classes in 1859. W. W. Thomas was
the architect for the building. The school was named after T.R.R. Cobb’s daughter, Lucy Cobb, who
had died at the age of 13 from scarlet fever. She never got to attend the
school her father helped establish.
after the first classes were held at the Lucy Cobb institute the Civil War
broke out, but the school never closed. Pupils still came from other states,
especially Mississippi and South Carolina during this time. Parents seemed to
feel that Athens was a safer place for their girls. When Franklin College
closed in order for the professors to enter the Confederate army, refugees from
New Orleans, and other sea coast towns came to live in the college dormitories
and sent their girls to the Lucy Cobb Institute. Mr. Muller of Charleston, S.
C. was in charge of the school during the Civil War.
Lucy Cobb students came from wealthy and well-established families.
Nineteenth-century schools for elite young women emphasized subjects that would
enhance their gentility, including art, music, and French. The Lucy Cobb Institute
was no exception. Yet even from its early days, the school offered a more
academically serious curriculum than the stereotypical finishing school.
Between 1880 and 1928 Cobb's niece Mildred
Lewis Rutherford, a Lucy Cobb graduate, taught at the school and served as
principal for 22 of those years. Under Rutherford and
her sister Mary Ann Lipscomb, the curriculum became even more rigorous.
Students, or Lucies as they were called, in the collegiate track
studied sciences (including chemistry and physics),
higher mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry), logic, rhetoric,
languages, history, and literature. After 1918, once the University of Georgia (UGA) began accepting women students, graduates of Lucy
Cobb's collegiate program could enroll. The school aimed its curriculum to
prepare graduates to attend the university. In her extensive 1916 report on
women's education in the South, Elizabeth Avery Colton of the Southern
Association of College Women listed Lucy Cobb as one of the very best schools
for young women in Georgia.
school faced financial difficulties in the 1920s, mostly because of the agricultural depression that hurt the entire state. The institute
struggled to maintain high enrollment and keep its bills paid. After
Rutherford's death in 1928, the school struggled on for a few more years,
finally closing in 1931. UGA purchased the building. It served as a
dormitory for girls attending the University of Georgia up until the 1960’s. Subsequently,
it was used as faculty offices and for other purposes until being closed in the
late 1970s. Thereafter, the condition of building deteriorated rapidly.
The entire Lucy Cobb complex was renovated
in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with two appropriations by the U.S. Congress
of $3.5 million and $1 million, and contributions of another $1 million by
public and private donors. The Lucy Cobb Institute's inclusion on the National
Register of Historic Places was a major consideration in the appropriation of
federal funds. In 1991 the institute became the central administrative home of
the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.