Mary Lyon Collection

    Correspondence and Writings, 1818-1849

Mount Holyoke College Collections Online

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Introduction and Notes

The entire Mary Lyon Collection at Mount Holyoke College consists of 27 linear feet of material, including Lyon's own papers as well as an extensive amount of material written about her.  See the College Archives manuscript register for information about the entire collection.  Series A through C are also available on microfilm. The digitized portions of the collection that are available online are:
  • Series A. Correspondence, 1818-1849 (1.5 linear feet)
  • Series B. Writings and Documents of Mary Lyon, 1821-1848 (1 linear foot)

Biographical Note

Mary Lyon was born on February 28, 1797, in Buckland, Massachusetts. She started teaching school in 1814. She attended Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Amherst Academy in Amherst, Massachusetts and the Byfield Female Seminary in Byfield Massachusetts. In 1824, she opened a girls' school in Buckland called the Buckland Female School and at the same time she taught the summer term classes at Ipswich Female Seminary under her friend Zilpah Grant. In 1828, she began teaching full time at the Ipswich Female Seminary. She resigned in 1834, with the intention of starting her own school. For the next couple of years Mary Lyon toured around the country visiting various schools. Finally in 1837, she returned to Massachusetts and founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Lyon served for twelve years as principal, teacher, and the organizer of the domestic work system. She died on March 5, 1849, in South Hadley. 

Further reading:

  • Green, Elizabeth Alden.  Mary Lyon and Mount Holyoke: Opening the Gates.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1979. 
  • Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary.  Edwart T. James, editor.  Harvard University Press, 1971.  Contains an extensive biographical sketch of Mary Lyon prepared by Sydney R. McLean.
  • Mary Lyon web site (, prepared by the Mount Holyoke College Office of Communications, 1997.
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