Margaret Anna Robertson was born in 1810, and in 1831, she married the Rev. Robert Burwell. In 1835, the family moved to Hillsborough, where Rev. Burwell had accepted the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church. There she was prompted by local townspeople to open a school. In 1837, the Burwell School opened, initially for local girls. However, Burwell's curriculum for girls was progressive for the times and offered courses such as penmanship, geography, astronomy, algebra, chemistry, and philosophy. The boarding school soon attracted students from as far away as New York, Alabama, and Florida. The Burwell School operated for twenty years. During that time Anna Burwell was quite busy, raising her twelve children, teaching, looking after students boarding in her home, and being the wife of the minister. In 1857, they moved to Charlotte, where Rev. Burwell became president of the Charlotte Female Institute, now Queens University of Charlotte. Anna Burwell died in 1871.