Mary Mason Lyon (February 28, 1797 - March 5, 1849) was an American pioneer in women's education. Lyon's modest beginnings fostered her lifelong commitment to extending educational opportunities to girls from middling and poor backgrounds. She established the Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts, (now Wheaton College) in 1834. She then established Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) in Massachusetts in 1837 and served as its first president (principal) for 12 years. Lyon's vision fused intellectual challenge and moral purpose. She valued socioeconomic diversity and endeavored to make the seminary affordable for students of modest means. Lyon anticipated a change in the role of women and equipped her pupils with an education that was comprehensive, rigorous, and innovative, with particular emphasis on the sciences. She required seven courses in the sciences and mathematics for graduation, a requirement unheard of at other female seminaries. She organized field trips on which students collected rocks, plants, and specimens for lab work, and inspected geological formations and recently discovered dinosaur tracks. Lyon died of erysipelas (possibly contracted from an ill student in her care) in 1849, at the age of 52. Print of painting by L.R. Jewett, 1906.
April 22nd, 2019
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