Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History



Mary Lyon

Mary Lyon was a pioneer in American education who acted as a consultant to the Wheaton family at the founding of the Seminary and established the curriculum.

Mary Lyon, at age 38, an already well-known and respected teacher, who had been influenced by Catherine Beecher and the Rev. Joseph Emerson, was teaching at Ipswich Academy, and was planning to open her own school for young women. She agreed to aid the Wheatons, developing the first curriculum and rules, providing the first teachers, and doing some teaching when she was in town. She also brought Wheaton its first principal.

While resting in Norton she wrote numerous letters and circulars, took time for quiet study and thought, taught some classes at Wheaton Female Seminary, and made short trips across New England to raise funds and an endowment for what would later become Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Mass.

She began by concentrating on the alumnae of Ipswich Female Seminary, at which she had lately been a teacher, and on the women in that town. Walking door to door, Miss Lyon succeeded in collecting $1000 from the ladies of Ipswich. She then used the example of their patronage to raise funds in other communities. While she relied on women's organizations like sewing circles and evangelical associations, Miss Lyon also encouraged husbands to give a portion of their estates to be invested in the education of their daughters. She steadfastly maintained her appeal to establish a widely based, permanent endowment so that the institution would not have to rely on high tuition for its programs.

In 1837, she took Wheaton's first principal, Eunice Caldwell, and eight Wheaton students with her to open Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

Mary Lyon Hall was named for Mary Lyon in 1910.

To learn more about Mary Lyon, visit Mary Lyon, consultant.

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