GROWTH UNDER MISS LYON.
It illustrates the prevalent opinions of the time, that when Dr.
Anderson was invited to make the anniversary address in 1839, many friends,
solicitous for his reputation, sought to dissuade him from indorsing such
an enterprise. In an association of gentlemen, most of whom became distinguished,
only Prof. Bela B. Edwards favored his accepting the invitation. Some of
the ideas in that address reflect the views of the
wisest men in that transition age in the history of the higher education of woman. He said:-
It is cheering to cast our thoughts forward and see what would follow should such education become general among women. It would add to the sum total of efficient mind. It would exert an influence upon every profession in life and on every department of society, upon our religious character and all our social and civil institutions. It would be a powerful transforming influence, touching all the springs of action and reaching all the fountains of enjoyment.
Prof. B. B. Edwards said in the fourth annual address: "If a course of study like that pursued in this seminary could be introduced into every state it would be one of the firmest props of the Union. No disorganizing influences emanate from it. No beetle-eyed prejudice, no narrow-minded bigotry, can find a home where the sciences are truly taught; the air which is breathed is too invigorating; the impulses which it prompts are too noble. We do not deny that there are possible evils connected with a protracted and public course of education for woman. We think, however, that they can be obviated by a due measure of forethought and care on the part of guardians and teachers."
advice of friends; that lie became more and more impressed with the highly practical character of Miss Lyon's plans; that though they then seemed large, they appeared more comprehensive afterward, and time had indorsed them all; and that lie hoped the trustees would be slow to allow any change. These words show that the speaker twenty-five years ago was satisfied with the experiment made by the pioneer institution. Yet many are still in doubt. The seminary was more than forty years old when T. W. Higginson wrote in "Common Sense About Women": "Why is it, that whenever anything is done for women in the way of education it is called 'an experiment,' while if the same thing is done for men its desirableness is assumed, and the thing is done? Thus, when Harvard College was founded, it was not regarded as an experiment but as an institution. The 'General Court,' in 1636, 'agreed to give four hundred pounds towards a schoale or colledge,' and the affair was settled. Every subsequent step in expanding educational opportunities for young men has gone in the same way. But when there seems a chance of extending some of the same collegiate advantages to women, I observe that some of our periodicals, in all good faith, speak of the measure as 'an experiment.'"
These facts make it seem less strange that there should be difficulty
in raising funds for such an enterprise. The wonder is that Miss Lyon succeeded
so well when the general public did not yet take interest in the experiment.
She had been compelled to open the school with room for only half the pupils
in her plan. "We will begin," she said, "and when it shall be seen what
is the manner of our building, it may be that the wise-hearted will give
us of their treasures till we can finish the house of the Lord." She had
begun. She was no longer obliged to speak merely of what she intended,
but could state what the school was doing and add facts to her plea for
means wherewith to complete her plan.
Before the close of the second year she prepared a circular which set forth the ideas embodied in the seminary, invited friends to examine their operation, and confidently asked for twenty thousand dollars to finish the buildings and five thousand more for furniture, library, and apparatus, closing with these words: "Are there not many who will remember this cause around the mercy-seat of him whose is the silver and the gold? 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’"
The seminary had secured some hold on the New England heart and many, 'wise-hearted' gave willingly. Yet Miss Lyon had use again for all her powers of persuasion. Even among her friends there was opposition to enlargement. At the quarter-centennial reunion Rev. Dr. Joel Hawes of Hartford said: "I have rarely known a person so successful as Miss Lyon in winning others to her views. This was because she had good common sense and a good heart. I well remember my early objections to the system which she proposed. I remember too how I presented them to her at the house of Dr. Hitchcock, and how she met every one, and I said that day, 'Miss Lyon has converted me.' I had objections also to enlarging the building, but was again converted to her views. As we look around, we feel that God has not only fulfilled his promise but has let none of the words of his handmaid fall to the ground."
At her urgent solicitation the trustees had already begun to plan.
They voted in April, 1839, "to contract for brick to add thirty feet to
the building," and three months after, "to procure plans and proceed to
erect an addition of at least fifty feet, as soon as funds justify." A
year later they voted, "to extend the present building about seventy feet
to the south, and to erect a wing on the end when extended, that with a
corresponding wing on the north end shall be sufficient in all to accommodate
two hundred pupils, according to
the original plan," again repeating the condition, 11 provided in the judgment of the building committee, the funds will justify." The treasurer was allowed to hire a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars. The first building committee had been continued in office against this time of enlargement. The south end had been built without windows, save one at the end of the long hall in each story. For three years this unfinished appearance had borne silent witness to Miss Lyon's faith in the future addition. Work upon it was begun in the autumn of 1840. It was seventy feet long and of the same width and height as the original structure. From its end a wing forty feet wide extended eastward seventy-five feet; but there were no funds for a north wing.
As at the first, there were trying delays, and the new part was
not finished till December, 1841, two months after the term began. Again
ladies' benevolent societies had contributed of their handiwork, and pupils
who could not themselves return, aided in obtaining what was needed for
their successors. Miss Lyon told the crowded one hundred and seventy that
they could be very happy in close quarters for a time, with a prospect
of such ample room the rest of the year. One says: "Already the seminary
had a history and we were often entertained with reminiscences of the past,
and Miss Lyon herself gave details of the enterprise from its first inception
as an idea in her own mind. She used to tell us of her gratitude to the
pupils of the first year who stood shoulder to shoulder with her in bearing
the burden, when everything was unsettled, and that we were privileged
with a discipline like theirs-a blessing which those of the intervening
years could not know." "We were so full of enthusiasm at entering Mount
Holyoke Seminary," says another, 11 that we did not mind inconveniences.
That we did not have all we needed was not Miss Lyon's fault. Her heart
yearned to do more. It is wonderful that with so small means she could
do so much."
As before and always, Deacons Safford and Porter stayed up her hands. Another writes: "My earliest memory of those noble trustees was of seeing them mounting the long flights of stairs, in some emergency, bearing on their shoulders the Young ladies' trunks. I think I had something of the feeling of the apostle when he said to his Lord, 'Thou shalt never wash my feet.' It was not many years before baggage elevators performed that service. and now I hear that a passenger elevator makes fourth-story rooms the most popular in the house. I might depict primitive scenes, like trying on a winter's morning at five o'clock to ignite, over the whale-oil lamp, a coal with which to kindle a fire in the little open stove. And yet I think those early pupils were as happy as any of later days."
When the new part was ready for use, a note book records: "Miss Lyon took her subject one morning at prayers from Ezekiel xliii.12. 'This is the law of the house, upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy.' The thought was one she often dwelt upon,-that the place was holy because it had been built with money dedicated to the Lord, and that life in such a place was full of responsibilities and new obligations."
In December Miss Lyon wrote: "We have a valuable addition to our building. I suppose more than fifty thousand dollars has been expended in all; the trustees are somewhat in debt, and something more must be laid out in finishing. One more addition will complete the design. When that will be done I know not."
She did not live to see it. Even the finishing of the part now erected
was not completed during her life. Besides the piazza of two stories, it
was designed to relieve the plainness of the structure by an observatory
on the roof. The engraving published in Miss Lyon's memoir represents this
feature of the plan, though then existing only on paper. When the north
wing was built in 1853, the committee in charge was
authorized also "to erect an observatory on the center of the main building, as originally intended." But the funds were insufficient and it was not done till 1860, more than ten years after Miss Lyon's death.
Delays never discouraged her nor slackened her zeal; and however it might be with outward enlargement there must be steady growth within. In no other way could the seminary answer its end. "Progress," no less than "Holiness to the Lord," was written on every brick. In 1835 she had said to the public that the literary standard of the seminary would be as high as that at Ipswich, and like that it would also be progressive. True to this idea the requirements announced in 1837 were in advance of those at Ipswich in 1835, although embracing essentially the same studies. At Ipswich it was not expected that all would take the regular course. Any not under fourteen could enter for primary studies, and when prepared, be admitted by examination to either of the two regular classes. At Mount Holyoke there were to be three classes, none were to be received under sixteen, nor without examination, and the studies required were to be taken in order. Requirements for admission were: "An acquaintance with the general principles of English Grammar, a good knowledge of Modern Geography, History of the United States, Watts on the Mind, Colburn's First Lessons, and the whole of Adams' Arithmetic." Other studies however advanced could not be substituted for these. The course was arranged as follows:-
Ancient Geography, . . Worcester's Ancient Atlas
Ancient and Modern History, . . . Worcester's Elements, with Grimshaw's France, and Goldsmith's England, Greece, and Rome.
Political Class Book . . . . . . . Sullivan
Botany, . . . . . . . . . Beek
Rhetoric . . . . . . . . . Newman
Geometry, . . . . . . . Playfair's Euclid
Physiology, . . . . . . . Hayward
Algebra, . . . . . . . Day
Botany continued, . . . . . . . Beek
Natural Philosophy, . . . . . . . Olmsted
Philosophy of Natural History, . . . . . . . Smellie
Intellectual Philosophy, . . . . . . . Abercrombie
Astronomy, . . . . . . . Wilkins
Geology, . . . . . . . Mather
Ecclesiastical History, . . . . . . . Marsh
Evidences of Christianity, . . . . . . . Alexander
Logic, . . . . . . . Whately
Moral Philosophy, . . . . . . . Wayland
Natural Theology, . . . . . . . Paley
Miss Lyon attached much importance to vocal music. As early as 1832
she wrote: "When passing near the music room last summer and thinking that
probably a large part of the choir had no more natural ability for singing
than myself, I found it needed grace to restrain a rising murmur. I have
sometimes felt that I would have given six months of my time when I was
under twenty, and defrayed my expenses, difficult as it was to find time
or money, could I have enjoyed their
privileges." Deploring her own lack, she gave all her Holyoke pupils who could sing, the opportunity for instruction in graded classes.
The outline of study was so well matured that Wayland's Political Economy and Milton's Paradise Lost. introduced in the second year of the seminary, were the only English studies added until 1855; but the annual catalogues increased the requirements in mathematics, and show that the standard in other departments was steadily rising.
Miss Lyon never lost her early enthusiasm for the natural sciences.
Believing the God of nature, of providence, and of grace to be the same,
she traced his hand alike in history, in science, and on the inspired page.
She was never afraid of scientific revelations. "If the Bible," she said,
"only take the lead in our schools, I care not how closely the sciences
follow." But the catalogues give only glimpses of progress here, no pains
were taken to set it forth. She who, when learning to write, returned her
copy set in Latin asking for it in English, lest some reader might think
her wiser than she was, not only avoided every statement which might make
the seminary appear better than it was, but gave only modest representations
of what was really done. No new advantage it offered was ever announced
until it had been put in successful operation. The seminary journal tells
of lecture courses given in the third year, on architecture, by Prof. Snell;
in 1844, on galvanism, by Dr. Hitchcock; and also by Dr. Hitchcock on anatomy
and physiology, illustrated by a manikin. To make these lectures most profitable
the school was divided into classes for recitations upon them. July 2,
1847, Prof. Snell helped unpack and arrange new philosophical apparatus,
and began his course upon natural philosophy, having been preceded by Rev.
Mr. Stone on elocution. As one's eye runs over the journal it is caught
by a brief notice of "a lecture on temperance given here May 7, 1846, by
a, Washingtonian of some note in the last three years."
The writer adds, "He is not yet thirty, but if he lives he will soon be known throughout the length and breadth of the land. His name is John B. Gough!"
Outside the course, provision was made for all who desired Latin, French, drawing, or piano practice; the only extra charge being for use of piano.
French was taught from the opening of the seminary. For nine years the teacher was Miss Moore, afterward Mrs. Burgess, a senior and an assistant pupil of the first year. A part of the time her work was supplemented by a native of France who came regularly from Northampton to give lessons. Most of the time since then the teaching has been by a French or German lady resident in the family.
There were classes in Latin every year after the first. In 1840
Miss Mary M. Stevens came, as an assistant pupil, to teach this branch,
of which she continued in charge for eight years. The third annual catalogue
speaks of a four years' course in contemplation, that Latin might be included.
A year later the remark is added, " But it is supposed that the views of
the community will not at present allow of it." Though optional, more than
one-fourth of the school were already pursuing it. For the next five years
this study was "earnestly recommended by the trustees and teachers, not
only for the knowledge itself, but also as a means of gaining discipline
for the higher English branches." The catalogue of 1846 states: "A large
proportion of the late senior classes have had some knowledge of Latin,
and it is believed that the state of education in the community is now
such that it can be required hereafter of every graduate." It was accordingly
placed in the course. The amount was small at first, but increased from
year to year. The next year it was made a preparatory study. The class
that entered in 1848 - the last candidates Miss Lyon received - were required
to have a good knowledge of Andrews and Stoddard's Latin Grammar and Andrews’
Latin Reader. Miss Lyon continued to press the matter of a four years'
course, but we learn from a private letter that the trustees were still "afraid to venture it. She wanted time for Greek and Hebrew and more music. She often said she thought the time would come when Bible class teachers would feel that they must study the Scriptures in their original languages."
Some have said that Miss Lyon builded better than she knew, and that if she were to visit the seminary at the end of its first half-century, she would be surprised at the advance on every side. But those who best understand the scope of her plans reply that though she may not have seen all that it would require, yet her ideal, as described in the circular of 1835, was that this "school for Christ" should "be furnished with every advantage which the state of education in this country will allow."
"With almost prophetic eyes," writes Miss Spofford, "she portrayed the future of Mount Holyoke Seminary. She dwelt upon what Yale and Harvard were in their beginning, and declared her conviction that the seminary of her day was to that of the future only as the germ to the full grown plant - to the tree, under whose increasing shadow should be taught and given to the world, minds whose breadth, resources, and attainments would sink the meager acquirements of our day into insignificance. She did not call the school a college, for she had a wholesome aversion To anything like pretension, but she proceeded with all the energy and wisdom of the great woman that she was, to make it as much of a college as was possible in her day."
[END OF CHAPTER X]