Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mary Lyon 1797 ~ 1849


Mary Lyon

While still very young, Mary Lyon, who was afterwards to become the foremost woman in America in the mental and spiritual training of young girls, wrote a letter to her sister revealing not only the strength of her thought and the intensity of her patriotism, but the deep bed rock of Christian faith which undergirded all her thinking. "This day," she wrote, "completes half a century since the Declaration of Independence. How interesting must be the reflections of those few who remember that eventful day. Who on the face of the earth fifty years ago could have expected such results? It is true that Washington and almost all Americans who lived in the days of Washington hoped for independence, but did they look forward to this time and expect such a nation as this? Must not all believe that self-promotion comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south, but God is the Judge who putteth down one and setteth up another. Must not all exclaim. This is the finger of God!'' This same spirituality of her mind was made manifest later in her influence over all those whom she taught.

As time went on and Mary Lyon became more and more entrenched in her life work of teaching, her spiritual life deepened and her activities were intensified in two or three very important ways. She was deeply imbued with the importance of instruction in Bible truths, and in the conversion of her pupils, and more and more impressed with the importance of loyalty and self-sacrifice for the promotion of foreign missions. I think she was the pioneer in what is now quite common in Christian colleges, a definite laboring for the conversion of students as an important part of the college work. It was her custom to write to Christian friends in all parts of the country and enlist their prayers for the spiritual condition of her school. She had wonderful faith in prayer, and the results justified her faith. Mary Lyon's power in developing Christian character in her pupils lay in the fact that she not only lived a Christian life herself, but regularly taught it to her pupils. Her manner was simple; there was not the slightest pretense of speaking for effect or trying to speak eloquently, but her intense faith and earnestness made her a powerful speaker. Doctor Hitchcock, at one time president of Amherst College, says that the vividness with which she evidently saw and thought the truths she was telling was only second to her power. If she ever had a fleeting doubt of the certainty of future retribution that doubt was never known or suspected by her most intimate friends. The foundations of faith never wavered. The principles of the Christian religion seemed interwoven in the fibers of her soul. The world to come was as present to her thoughts as this world to her eyes. Her confidence in God was as simple and true as a child's in its mother.

Mary Lyon had broad and noble ideas concerning the necessity for the education of woman and the possible blessings that would come from it to the world. On one occasion when she was under the strain of great effort to obtain needed help for Mt. Holyoke Female School (the institution of which she was the founder is now known as Mt Holyoke College) she wrote a letter to a leading minister, in the course of which she said: "Woman elevated by the Christian religion was designed by Providence as the educator of our race. From her entrance into womanhood to the end of her life this is to be her great business. By her influence not only her friends, her scholars and her daughters are to be affected, but also her sons, her brothers, the young men around her, and even the elder men, not excepting her father and his peers. Considering the qualifications which the mothers in our land now possess is there not a call for special effort from some quarter to render them aid in fitting their daughters to exert such an influence as is needed from this source in our infant Republic, on our Christian country?" Such a letter would not seem daring now, but it took a prophetess to write it twenty years ago. Miss Lyon's work in behalf of foreign missions was so immense that it can only be referred to in this short sketch of her life. So many missionaries went out from her seminary that worldly families became afraid to send their daughters there to school lest they should give themselves to Christian work. After her death, in 1849, one writer suggested the breadth of her missionary work in these words, "Is she missed? Scarcely a state in the American Union but contains those she trained. Long ere this, amid the hunting grounds of the Sioux and the villages of the Cherokees the tear of the missionary has wet the page which has told of Miss Lyon's departure. The Sandwich Islander will ask why his white teacher's eyes dim as she reads her American letters. The swarthy African will lament with his sorrowing guide, who cries, 'Help, Lord, for the Godly ceaseth!' The cinnamon groves of Ceylon, and the palm trees of India overshadow her early deceased missionary pupils, while those left to bear the heat and burden of the day will wail the saint whose prayers and letters they so prized. Among the Nestorians of Persia, and at the base of Mount Olympus will her name be breathed softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken."

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


Please Come back Soon!!

This page was last updated Monday, 02-Feb-2015 20:11:45 EST

Copyright August 2011 - 2024The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work.