Tutwiler, Julia Strudwick (1841–1916)

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Tutwiler, Julia Strudwick (1841–1916)

American educator and prison reformer. Born on August 15, 1841, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; died on March 24, 1916, in Birmingham, Alabama; daughter of Henry Tutwiler (an educator and school administrator) and Julia (Ashe) Tutwiler; attended Madame Maroteau's boarding school (Philadelphia), Vassar College, and Deaconesses' Institute (Kaiserswerth, Germany).

Born in 1841 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Julia Strudwick Tutwiler was the third of eleven children of Henry Tutwiler, an educator and school administrator, and Julia Ashe Tutwiler . Her maternal grandfather Pascal Paoli Ashe was steward of the University of Alabama; her father was a member of the first graduating class of the University of Virginia and had known Thomas Jefferson. Henry founded the Greene Springs School near Havana, Alabama, and encouraged his daughter to pursue her educational interests.

These interests led Tutwiler to attend Madame Maroteau's boarding school in Philadelphia. With the onset of the Civil War, she returned home. She had wanted to be a nurse, but her father believed it was improper for an unmarried woman to nurse soldiers, so she taught in his school instead. In January 1866, she went north again, to attend Vassar College, but left after a semester and returned to teaching in Alabama. She studied Latin and Greek privately with professors at Washington and Lee University, then went to Europe, spending a year at the Deaconesses' Institute in Kaiswerswerth, Germany, a philanthropic institution that specialized in teacher training. Tutwiler was instructed by a Lutheran order of sisters of charity, and her experience there deepened her interest in helping others.

Tutwiler considered becoming a writer and contributed poems to several American newspapers and magazines during her stay in Germany, but by the time she returned to America, in 1876, she had decided to become a teacher. She joined the faculty of the Tuscaloosa Female College and taught modern languages and English literature for five years. She became well known as an educator and was appointed co-principal of the Livingston (Alabama) Female Academy in 1881. Through her urging, in 1883 the Alabama legislature approved an annual appropriation to establish the Alabama Normal College for Girls at Livingston Academy (later named Livingston Normal College). Tutwiler became principal of the college in 1890, a position she held for the next two decades. Elected president of the department of elementary education of the National Education Association (NEA) in 1891, Tutwiler persuaded the Alabama legislature to establish an industrial school for girls (later known as Alabama College at Montevallo). She also convinced the trustees at the University of Alabama to admit women at the sophomore level in 1893 and as freshmen in 1897.

Tutwiler also crusaded for better treatment of prisoners. In 1880, she organized the Tuscaloosa Benevolent Association, which worked toward prison reform. She sent a questionnaire to the jailers of every county in Alabama and publicized the results, which led to legislative reform of conditions in county jails. A few years later, she served as chair of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's prison and jail work. Although she firmly supported the need for classification of offenders and regular state inspections of prisons and jails, she was unsuccessful in abolishing the practice of leasing convicts for labor. She believed strongly in the need for religious education in prisoner rehabilitation, and she conducted religious services and distributed Bibles to the prisoners, but she also continued to work toward legislative reform.

Tutwiler retired as president of Livingston Normal College in 1910, and died six years later in Birmingham. Her poem "Alabama," which she wrote in Germany in 1873, was later adopted as the state song.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer