EDUCATION TO MAKE ENDS MEET
Ann Wager (ca. 1716–1774) took up teaching after the death of her husband William in 1748, working for two years as governess to the Burwell children at Carter's Grove. She had at least two children of her own, William and Mary.
In 1760 the Associates of Dr. Bray, a group of philanthropists in England, followed Ben Franklin’s recommendation to establish a school “for the instruction of Negro Children in the Principles of the Christian religion.” They hired Wager to teach the Bray School.
INSTRUCTING YOUNG MINDS
Wager taught between twenty and thirty boys and girls each year. Most were young enslaved African Americans, but Wager also educated a small number of free blacks. She taught the tenets of Anglican Christianity as well as reading, writing, and general deportment. Girls were taught “knitting, sewing and such other things as may be useful to their owners,” and Wager was instructed to “be particularly watchful that her scholars, between the school hours, do not commit any irregularities, nor fall into any indecent diversions.”
After visiting the school in 1762, Robert Carter Nicholas, a Williamsburg trustee for the Associates, reported that “at a late visitation of the school we were pretty much pleased with the scholars’ performances, as they rather exceeded our expectations.”
Over the course of fourteen years, Wager taught about 400 students at the Bray School. By the early 1770s she was slowed by illness, and after her death on August 20, 1774 the Bray School closed for good.
Meet a Nation Builder
Fight the Good Fight of Faith
Two men, divided by time, share in a long tradition of preaching the gospel during times of war. Gowan Pamphlet and James Russell Brown, both studied, preached, and lived in Williamsburg during tumultuous periods in America…
Art Museums Admission
Walk through History with a Nation Builder
Experience the 18th century community of Williamsburg through the eyes of a Nation Builder as they delight you and challenge you to think about our shared history in new ways.
Visit a Nation Builder
Meet a Nation Builder, who helped shape their time, and whose legacy continues to influence and inspire American ideals.