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Lyon, Mary Mason

LYON, MARY MASON (1797-1849), American educationalist, was born on the 28th of February 1797 on a farm near Buckland, Franklin county, Massachusetts. She began to teach when she was seventeen, and in 1817, with the earnings from her spinning and weaving, she went to Sanderson Academy, Ashfield. She supported herself there, at Amherst Academy, where she spent one term, and at the girls' school in Byfield, established in 1819 by Joseph Emerson (1777-1833), where she went in 1821, by teaching in district schools and by conducting informal normal schools. In 1822-1824 she was assistant principal of Sanderson Academy, and then taught in Miss Zilpah P. Grant's Adams Female Academy, in Londonderry (now Deny), N.H. This school had only summer sessions, and Miss Lyon spent her winters in teaching, especially at Buckland and at Ashfield, and in studying chemistry and natural science with Edward Hitchcock, the geologist. In 1828-1834 sne taught in Miss Grant's school, which in 1828 had been removed to Ipswich, and for two years managed the school in Miss Grant's absence. In 1828-1830 she had kept up her winter " normal " school at Buckland, and this was the beginning of her greater plan, " a permanent institution consecrated to the training of young women for usefulness . . . designed to furnish every advantage which the state of education in this country will allow ... to put within reach of students of moderate means such opportunities that none can find better." She was assisted by Dr Hitchcock, and her own mystical enthusiasm and practical common sense secured for her plan ready financial support. In 1835 a site was selected near the village of South Hadley and Mount Holyoke; in 1836 the school was incorporated as Mount Holyoke Female Seminary; and on the 8th of November 1837 it opened with Mary Lyon as principal, and, as assistant, Miss Eunice Caldwell, afterwards well known as Mrs J. P. Cowles of Ipswich Academy. Miss Lyon died at Mount Holyoke on the sth of March 1849, having served nearly twelve years as principal of the seminary, on a salary of $200 a year. From her work at Holyoke sprang modern higher education for women in America.

See Edward Hitchcock, Life and Labors of Mary Lyon (1851); B. B. Gilchrist, Life of Mary Lyon (Boston, 1910).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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