For "The Education of Our Girls" and Lucy Cobb’s Legacy


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016

Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb
(April 10, 1823 – December 13, 1862)

A letter to the editor titled “The Education of our Girls” appeared in the Thursday, August 24, 1854 edition of the “Southern Banner” a weekly newspaper published in Athens Georgia. Reading it that day was Thomas R.R. Cobb a member of the “Cobb” family of Georgia. The letter was written in what was described as one “writing from a ladylike modesty”. The author stressed the belief the city of Athens was not serving the young girls the same educational advantages as they gave their young boys. As the father of three young girls ranging in ages between ten and six, Cobb realized the truth of these words. His passion grew as he continued reading the author’s discourse on the state of education among young ladies arguing:​

"girls have the same intellectual constitution as men and have
the same right as men to intellectual cultural development”.

The anonymous author identified only as “Mother” challenged:

“some Athens business or professional man to take the lead in rectifying the situation.” {2}

Thomas R.R. Cobb responded to the challenge and immediately began raising funds for the building of a school for girls in Athens. Cobb was determined that this learning institution for young ladies would “be a place where orthodox southern moral and racial values could be transmitted to future generations” {3}. ​


Photos Find a Grave {*}

What Thomas Cobb did not know was the lady writing the article was Mrs. William Rutherford (aka) his older sister. Laura Cobb was born in 1818 the eldest daughter of John Addison Cobb. By 1842 she had married and given birth to her first and only son. Her husband, William Rutherford, Jr. was a professor of mathematics at the University of Georgia. By the time Thomas Cobb realized the author of the letter was his sister, the “College for Girls” fund had been formed.

The trustees purchased eight acres of land on what is now called Milledge Avenue and by 1858 the facility was completed. On January 10, 1959 the school welcomed it’s first class of young ladies. Thomas Cobb named the school in honor of his eldest daughter that had passed from scarlet fever in the fall of 1857. Laura Cobb Rutherford served as it’s director with R. M. Wright serving as principle. The majority of students came from the upper elite and well established southern families. Students were taught the typical curriculum of the southern “gentility” but faced a more academically challenged course of study.

“There were two interesting rules at the institute: young ladies were not to wave to young men from the second story windows, and students could not wander past the magnolia trees without a chaperone.” {2}

For Thomas R.R. Cobb the year of 1861 meant a time of change in his life. Now the father of a fourth daughter Marion (1860-1919) he was prepared to put his legal career on hold to enlist in the Confederate cause. He first served in the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States and helped draft their constitution. After Georgia seceded from the Union on January 19, 1861, Cobb was elected to the Provincial Congress of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama, and served on the committee that drafted the Confederate constitution. The original manuscript is believed to be in his handwriting. Cobb also headed the committee charged with rewriting Georgia's state constitution.

Cobb resigned from the Confederate congress and in August of 1861 he formed a regiment of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, known both as the Georgia Legion and as Cobb's Legion. Commissioned as a colonel by Governor Joseph. E. Brown, Cobb led his regiment into battles at Seven Days, Second Manassas, and Antietam. The Cobb family suffered their greatest tragedy when Thomas R.R. Cobb was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

The school never closed during the war years. Young ladies especially from Mississippi and South Carolina flocked to the Athens location where parents believed it was a safer place for their girls. As the Yankees drove deeper into the south, students came from New Orleans and other sea coast towns. It was spared the destruction during General Sherman’s march to the sea. Laura Rutherford was a member of the Soldiers’ Aid Society in Athens and kept busy collecting boxing and distributing clothing, blankets and food for the boys in gray. She was given the title “the Soldier’s Friend’ for her efforts.

The school remained open for over seventy years before the depression of the 1930’s forced its doors to close. The facility belongs to the University of Georgia however for those seventy years - - - ​


(LOC - No Known Copyright Restrictions)
Quote {1}

* * * * *

1. “Georgia: A Guide to Its Towns and Countryside”; complied and written by the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Georgia. (Link)
{*} Lucy Cobb & Callie Cobb Hull (Find a Grave AAAAAmerican)
Sally Cobb Jackson (Find a Grave Diggin’upbones)


Brigadier General
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Mar 15, 2013
Wonder why the "students could not wander past the magnolia trees without a chaperone” rule?
It was considered inappropriate for a young lady to be out wandering alone. I assume the magnolia trees marked the edge of the Institute's gardens. Back then young women were not allowed to go much of anywhere without a chaperone. Being seen out without a chaperone was only acceptable in a complete emergency, when the need to go somewhere was urgent and there was no time to find an appropriate chaperone. At least that was how it was in the South.


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016
"students could not wander past the magnolia trees without a chaperone” rule?
The school earned their reputation of "emphasis of gentle manners and old fashioned accomplishments". When I read the students were not allowed to "wave to young men from the second story windows," made me wonder how many young girls waved from somewhere else simply to challenge the rule?