Historical Marker #2197 in Lexington commemorates the Sayre Female Institute which is now the Sayre School. The school was founded in 1854 by David Austin Sayre for the education of young women. Sayre believed that women deserved an “education of the widest range and highest order.” Originally named Transylvania Female Institute, the school was renamed in honor of Sayre in 1885. The school’s original curriculum included French, Latin, German language and literature, and vocal and instrumental music, which were typical courses of study for women in that era. But, true to Sayre’s educational philosophy, other classes offered by the school included algebra, geometry, trigonometry, geology, chemistry, astronomy, history, English literature, and philosophy. These courses were somewhat of a departure from the traditional female academies which primarily focused on music and languages. The Sayre Female Institute survived the Civil War years. In fact, during this tumultuous time future Kentucky suffragist Laura Clay enrolled in the institute in the fall of 1863. Clay was at the school in June 1864, when General John Hunt Morgan and his Confederate cavalry held Lexington for a short period of time. After completing her education at Sayre, Clay attended finishing school in New York. She eventually attended one year of college at the University of Michigan and one semester at State College of Kentucky. She soon departed in order to focus on working for women’s rights. The serious academic curriculum that Laura Clay received beginning at the Sayre Female Institute may have influenced her pursuit of a more public life versus the traditional domestic life expected of women during this period. The Sayre School still exists today as an independent coeducational college preparatory school serving grades preschool through twelfth grade. The historical marker is located at 194 North Limestone, Lexington. Click here to view more information & map locating the Sayre Institute marker.
Article by Amy Roe