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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mary Lyon

b. 1797, near Buckland, Massachusetts; d. 1849, South Hadley, Massachusetts

Mary Lyon, a pioneer in women’s education, founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (later Mount Holyoke College) in 1837. Although Lyon herself left school at the age of thirteen, she had already received more education than most women in her day. She began teaching—for which no training was necessary—in 1814 for a wage of 75 cents per week. In 1817, she returned to school and for the next few years combined teaching and study. In 1824, she founded Buckland Female Seminary, which was soon turning out graduates much in demand as teachers by Massachusetts school boards. Lyon became an authority on women’s education, particularly its limitations, and in 1834 began raising funds to open another school that would cater to a broader, nonelite constituency. The result was Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where the daughters of artisans and farmers could get the same quality of education as that available to men at Harvard. Mount Holyoke met a national demand for new teachers, helping to feminize the profession and providing many women with the tools to attain economic self-sufficiency.