Sophia Sawyer papers 1814-1833
Had Sophia Sawyer (1792-1853) chosen a more traditional course she would probably have spent her life as a Yankee schoolmarm. Instead, she combined a passion for education with intense religious zeal to forge a career as teacher and missionary to the Cherokee.
Sawyer was born into poverty, but her intellect and ambition won the support of Congregational clergyman Seth Payson and others in her hometown of Rindge, N.H. The Payson and Raymond families took her in and provided for her education at the New Ipswich Academy and at Rev. Joseph Emerson's progressive female seminary at Byfield, Mass. In 1821 Sawyer was still at Byfield, unsure of whether to continue her studies or try to find a teaching position and begin to earn a living. Two years later she was in Georgia, running a school supported by the American Board of Missions. For the next 14 years she taught in mission schools at Brainerd, New Echota and Running Water and in 1837, after a visit to the north, she joined the new Cherokee settlements in Arkansas. Sawyer established the Fayetteville Female Academy, which educated both Cherokee and whites, in 1840 and conducted it until her death of tuberculosis in 1853.