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Emma Jane Scales


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At a Glance

Emma Jane Scales was one of the handful of Burwell School students who established and operated schools of their own successfully [1].


Emma Jane Scales owned and operated the Reidsville Female Academy, later the Reidsville Female Seminary, which flourished for almost half a century. Her great-niece, Mrs. Irvin Jensen, wrote of Miss Emma Scales' background:

"Emma J. Scales was born in Reidsville, NC, November 26, 1835, the daughter of Dr. Robert H. Scales and Jane Watt Bethell Scales, died March 8th, 1904. She never married, had a brilliant mind and was active and attractive. Her brother, Governor Alfred Scales (Alfred Moore Scales), frequently sought her advice. She owned and operated the Reidsville Female Academy (later Reidsville Seminary) for many years, very successfully. She was considered somewhat eccentric, kind, and most generous; she kept her philanthropies unknown as much as possible. She has many great-nieces and nephews living in Reidsville, NC, Winston-Salem, NC and Greensboro, NC, one of whom is her namesake--Emily Pryer (Mrs. Richardson)."

When Emma was a student at the Burwell School it seems likely that she met members of the Samuel Wellwood Hughes family. Sometime later Emma was to invite Samuel Wellwood Hughes' daughter, Annie Savalette Hughes, to become co-principal in her Reidsville Female Seminary venture. This working relationship united the teaching traditions of two successful schools, the Burwell School and the Hughes Academy.

Annie Savalette Hughes was seventeen years younger than Emma, but had been rigorously educated by her father. The late Samuel Hughes of Hillsborough presented the Historic Hillsborough Commission with an 1885 flyer advertising the Reidsville Female Seminary. It lists Miss Scales and Miss Hughes as principals of the seminary with one assistant, Miss Annie B. Scoffin.

Emma, like Margaret Anna Robertson (Mrs. Burwell), put a special emphasis on spelling, reading, writing and composition. She even offered a special separate course in Margaret Anna Robertson's (Mrs. Burwell) favorite book, Archbishop Richard Trench's The Study of Words. Latin, French, and piano rounded out an otherwise Spartan curriculum.

Emma died on March 8, 1904, at the age of sixty-nine, and Miss Annie Savalette Hughes returned to Cedar Grove, NC to take over the Cedar Grove Academy [1].

Biographical Data

Important Dates

Emma Jane Scales was born on November 26, 1835, in Reidsville, NC. She died on March 8, 1904.

Places of Residence

Schools Attended




  1. Mary Claire Engstrom. The Book of Burwell Students: Lives of Educated Women in the Antebellum South. (Hillsborough: Hillsborough Historic Commission, 2007).