Educators. Between approximately 1816 and 1850, Madame Talvande’s Ladies Boarding School in Charleston educated the daughters of the elite families of South Carolina, including the diarist Mary Chesnut and the novelist Susan Petigru King. The school provided a typical finishing-school education for girls, including lessons in French, music, and dancing. In the early nineteenth century, however, a new idea of women’s citizenship had emerged that required the future mothers of the republic to be educated, particularly the daughters of the elite classes. The Talvande academy followed this trend by offering instruction in rhetoric and the sciences, courses in which girls seldom received training otherwise. The curriculum reflected the high expectations of the Talvande academy’s clientele, who paid dearly for the school’s services. Talvande’s was considered exclusive enough not to have to advertise for students.
Little is known about Madame Talvande, however, beyond the stories told of her by her most renowned pupil, Mary Chesnut. According to Chesnut, who attended the school between 1835 and 1840, Madame Talvande was Ann Marsan Talvande. Another student, Harriott Horry Ravenel, remembered that Talvande ran the girls’ school with her aunt, a Mademoiselle Daty. Both women believed their teachers to have been refugees from Santo Domingo.
The stories written by Chestnut about her years at Talvande’s school, while helpful in reconstructing Talvande’s life, are problematic. Chesnut’s descriptions appear in fictional stories based on her childhood, for which she may have taken a certain extent of literary license. She also wrote the stories set at the Talvande school later in her life, when time may have distorted some of her impressions. Certainly Ravenel had confused some of her own memories because “Mademoiselle Daty” was actually Julia Datty, who ran a different girls’ school across Legare Street from Talvande’s.
According to city directories and census information, two women assumed the professional name of “Madame Talvande.” The elder, Rose Talvande, a widow by 1835, may actually have been the refugee from Haiti. She had moved to Charleston by 1806, when she first appeared in the city directory, and took a federal naturalization oath in Charleston in 1835. In 1816 “M. Talvande’s Ladies School” opened at 32 Broad Street. The location changed to 51 Meeting Street before the school settled at 24 Legare Street in a large mansion that adjoined the lot containing the Talvande home on Tradd Street. By 1819 the proprietors of the school were Rose Talvande and Andrew Talvande (1787–1834), probably a younger relative. Andrew continued his involvement with the school into the 1830s.
During that decade the younger “Madame Talvande,” Ann Marsan Talvande, joined the faculty through her marriage to Andrew. Sometime in the 1840s, she took over proprietorship of the school. Ann Talvande was certainly the “Tyrant of Legare St.” as remembered by Chesnut. She does not seem to have lived in the school as “Madame Talvande” at the same time as Rose Talvande, but some of her students seem to have transferred to Ann many of the stories surrounding Rose. Ann was an immigrant from Santo Domingo and, like Rose Talvande, took a naturalization oath in 1835. After the death of the elder two Talvandes, Ann ran the school with Ann Johnston until about 1850, at which time the school no longer operated. Ann Talvande died on November 16, 1850, after a residence in Charleston of forty-three years. She was buried in St. Patrick’s Churchyard.
Muhlenfeld, Elisabeth. Mary Boykin Chesnut: A Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.
Ravenel, Harriott Horry. Charleston: The Place and the People. New York: Macmillan, 1906.