MOUNT HOLYOKE SEMINARY ANTICIPATED.
Before opening his seminary in 1818, Mr. Emerson had been a tutor
in Harvard College and a pastor in Beverly. Besides doing other literary
work, he had published a course of lectures on the millennium, a theme
in which he took great interest. Among the influences to be concentrated
for the hastening on of that era, he gave a high place to the power of
woman. He regarded her chiefly as an educator of the race, since it is
from her that children learn to walk, to talk, to think, to pray; and looked
for the world's salvation mainly through her enlightened and sanctified
instrumentality. He saw that the education within her reach was superficial
and defective, and in a negative sense atheistic, and set himself to reform
and elevate it; to substitute the substantial for the showy, the Christian
for the worldly. His views were far in advance of his time. The former
tutor believed in educating young women on the same broad and thorough
principles as young men, and laid out a three years' course of study. Believing
also in the joint culture of the mind and heart in order to obtain the
best results from either, be gave the Bible the first place in the course.
The formation of character, mental and moral, was his chief aim. He combined
equal skill in stimulating pupils to think, and in leading them to feel
individual responsibility. The
principle he inculcated as pastor and as teacher was that of doing " the greatest good to the greatest number, for the longest time." Ann Hasseltine, the first American woman to be asked to become a foreign missionary, was a sister of Mrs. Emerson, and was much in their family. In the face of general disapprobation Mr. Emerson steadily encouraged her to go to India, and but for his efforts it is said to be doubtful whether she would have gone. Her decision undoubtedly influenced that of her friend, Harriet Atwood, who was asked the same question soon after. But Ann Hasseltine Judson and Harriet Atwood Newell were not the only ones who went forth from his influence to be lifelong servants of Jesus Christ.
By training his pupils to investigate for themselves the principles of language, mathematics, mental and moral philosophy, he aimed not merely to secure a high standard of mental discipline in his own school, but to train teachers who should ultimately fill the land with similar schools. He had the cooperation of many friends, but met with opposition from others who doubted woman's ability to attain such results, or their practical utility if attained.
Among his pupils who put the question. of ability beyond all doubt, were two who first met at Byfield in 1821,Zilpah P. Grant, afterwards Mrs. William B. Banister, of Newburyport, and Mary Lyon. The latter at twentyfour had been seven years a teacher in the old brown or new red schoolhouses of Franklin county. The former at twentyseven, twelve years from her first school in a log cabin near her Connecticut home, had just become Mr. Emerson's assistant. Her previous teaching had been marked with signal ability. Two years with Mr. Emerson as pupil and teacher gave her increase of knowledge, wisdom, and power. Mr. Emerson said of her: "Miss Grant has done more than any other young lady to raise my seminary."
Mr. Emerson. What he was to her through life is intimated in her later way of referring to him as 11 my dear teacher, now in heaven." In an address at the dedication of his seminary, in Saugus, January 15, 1822, Mr. Emerson predicted a time when higher institutions for the education of young women would be counted as needful as colleges for young men, and added, but when such an institution shall be built, by whom it shall be founded, and by whom taught, is yet for Providence to determine. Possibly some of our children may enjoy its advantages." The fruit ripened sooner than he expected. That same year Mr. Jacob Adams of Derry, New Hampshire, left the first bequest ever made exclusively for the academic education of girls. It led to the incorporation of the Adams Female Academy, in June, 1S23. When a committee of the trustees were looking for a principal, they overheard the question, "How would Miss Grant do?" and the whispered response, "Brother Emerson cannot spare her." But when the matter came before Mr. Emerson, he saw in it a possible opening for his ideal institution, and though sorry to lose Miss Grant, he yet bade her God speed, saying: "If you can put into operation on right principles a permanent seminary for young ladies, you may well afford to lay down your life when you have done it."
Mary Lyon had gone from Byfield full of enthusiasm for the same
great principles and was zealously planting them in the hearts of her pupils
at Ashfield. When the good news of the incorporation of an academy for
girls reached her, she at once hailed it "as an eminent means of doing
good." The secret wish that her be loved Miss Grant might have charge of
it, dismissed at first as a romantic idea, was soon revived by letters
and a visit from Miss Grant herself, who laid before her a well digested
plan for the proposed school and sought her aid in its execution. The plan
pleased her. Its aim, like Mr. Emerson's, was to develop the mind and heart
by a systematic course of study in which the
Bible should hold the first place; the completion of the course to be honored by a testimonial corresponding to a college diploma.
In April, 1824, the two friends opened the new academy. Of their sixty pupils, six were sufficiently advanced to be able, the succeeding November, to receive their testimonials, the earliest so far as known ever publicly conferred on young women. After four years of success at Derry a majority of the trustees became so dissatisfied with the prominence given to religious instruction that Miss Grant and Miss Lyon removed to Ipswich, Massachusetts. Most of their pupils followed them. There the number increased to nearly two hundred, and the course of study in both science and literature was extended as fast as public opinion would sanction. Assistant teachers were added as needed, the ratio of teachers to pupils being about one to twelve.
As the school in Derry was not in session from November to April,
Miss Lyon opened in her native town a school on a similar plan to that
at Derry, for teachers and others. Two winters in Buckland were followed
by two in Ashfield, and these by two again in Buckland. Introducing at
first only elementary studies, she added higher branches year by year and
employed assistants as students and classes increased. Her work was not
unappreciated. She came to be known and honored in a large circle of towns.
More than half of the days of one term found visitors in the school, most
of them from out of town. So eager was the demand of the public schools
for teachers of her training that "committee men" were chosen in November
instead of March as had been customary, that they might be ready to engage
the best candidates. She was repeatedly urged to continue her work through
the summer. During the sixth winter Rev. Dr. Packard of Shelburne was formally
delegated to express the wish of the Franklin Association of ministers
that she would remain permanently in that region; and funds were subscribed
for a building.
But her summers had been pledged to Miss Grant, who in her delicate health regarded her cooperation as indispensable. While admitting that a school at Buckland "would be composed of more substantial materials than are generally found in seaports," and that Miss Lyon's sphere of usefulness there was exceptionally large, Miss Grant urged that more good would be accomplished by their continued union than by a separation, and desired her to remain at Ipswich in winter as well as summer. An attack of fever in August and another illness in February had made it plain that to labor in two fields so far apart was too much for even Miss Lyon's energy or greatest usefulness. When it was found that she would not leave Miss Grant, an attempt was made by the same ministerial association to induce Miss Grant to remove to Franklin county. Instead of that Miss Lyon gave the next four years wholly to Ipswich. This she did in the hope that they might establish on permanent foundations that system which bad taken definite form under their united counsels. The permanent institution on right principles of which Mr. Emerson had talked so much, and which they were not permitted to establish in Derry, they hoped might grow up at Ipswich.
For a time Miss Lyon had been content with present opportunities,
and had often said, " Never mind the brick and mortar, only let us have
living minds to work upon." But at length the idea of permanence took as
full possession of her as of Miss Grant, and both labored earnestly for
the endowment of Ipswich Seminary. It was their habit to care for their
pupils in and out of school as if they were their own daughters. To find
boarding places and secure suitable arrangements for them in private families
consumed too much of their time and strength. In a joint letter addressed
to the trustees February, 1831, they set forth the need of a building for
a boarding home in addition to one for instruction, and also of a library
and laboratory with apparatus, urging that it would be Do less difficult
sustain a seminary for young women without these appliances than a college for young men. This letter resulted in the appointment of a board of prospective trustees who, according to Miss Lyon's biographer, 11 held several meetings, passed sundry resolutions, and made many inquiries." Friends of the Ipswich teachers pledged onehalf the needed sum, but the public was so apathetic that the failure of the project was anticipated. This led Miss Lyon, during Miss Grant's protracted absence in 1832, to prepare at the suggestion of the board, a prospectus of a new institution The New England Seminary for Teachers in which the superior advantages of a permanent over a private school were made the basis of an appeal for aid, the question of location being left for later consideration.
In November of the same year, attractive school buildings in Amherst were for sale. President Humphrey and Professor Hitchcock of the college urged that they should be secured for the proposed seminary. The Franklin Association had not forgotten Miss Lyon nor their appreciation of her work. A joint committee from that body and from the prospective trustees met in Amherst in April, 1833, and appointed a committee to call a meeting in Boston for further deliberation. So few came to the meeting that it adjourned, and the adjourned meeting utterly failed. The Ipswich board of prospective trustees dissolved, and the whole matter seemed to be at an end. But these efforts had not been useless. Attention had been drawn to the cause; a few had recognized its importance and saw that success would involve labor and sacrifice.
The principals at Ipswich patiently continued their work of training
young women for Christian service, but without the least abatement of interest
in their plan. It was a good plan and for a worthy cause. They were sure
it would succeed, some day if not in theirs, somewhere if not in Ipswich.
Their system had been tested. It made useful women, good mothers, and good
teachers. In 1835, seven years from their beginning in
Ipswich, thirteen missionaries of the American Board, fifty-three teachers in the West and South and three hundred teachers in New England, New York, and New Jersey, had gone forth from their school. Their success brought applications for teachers from nearly every state and territory in the Union. They saw the fruits of Ipswich training in the homes of the young wives and mothers they visited. Miss Lyon had tested the same methods at Buckland so far as her interrupted opportunities allowed, and the results were no less gratifying. Some of those Buckland pupils had become teachers in the Ipswich Seminary; two of them, Julia (Brooks) Spaulding and Abigail (Tenney) Smith,, were already missionaries in the Sandwich Islands. Could she have read the future she would have seen Mary Billings in Madura as Mrs. R. 0. Dwight and afterward in Madras as Mrs. Myron Winslow; Mary Grant, the first Mrs. Burgess, in India also; Mary Ann Longley, Mrs. Stephen Riggs, among the Dakotas; Mary A. White, teaching the boatmen on Lake Michigan; and many others, identified with the Lord's work at home or abroad.
With both principals the desire constantly deepened that the
system producing such results should have a more permanent basis
and larger advantages than were possible in a private school. " We
had hoped," wrote Miss Grant, "that if an endowment were obtained
the expenses might be somewhat less than in any existing institution,
though this had never been presented as a prominent object." Just
here lay a separate reason why Miss Lyon, though greatly prizing its opportunities,
had not been satisfied with her field of labor at Ipswich. She fully
shared Miss Grant's wish to bring together the young ladies of the
higher and middle classes of society for their mutual benefit; but
their pupils were mainly from among the more wealthy, and she
knew of many with equal or greater aptness for learning and desire
to be useful, who would value such privileges more than silver or
gold, but who could not
enjoy them for want of means. "My thoughts have turned," she wrote, "not to the higher, not to the poorer, but to the middle classes, which contain the mainsprings and main wheels which are to move the world." "My heart has yearned over the young women in the common walks of life, till it has sometimes seemed as though a fire were shut up in my bones." On their account she had long wished to see the expenses at Ipswich reduced onethird or onehalf. The failure to obtain the desired endowment there drove her to a closer study of the problem and to devising new measures for solving it. She noticed that while it was not a recommendation to a college to be expensive, there was a prevalent feeling that education for young women must be costly. She knew that at one of the most prominent schools in New England three hundred dollars had not been enough to support one young lady for one term, while onethird of that amount would pay the board and tuition of a pupil at Ipswich for the year of three terms. She remembered how the Buckland people in a winter when she made her charge for tuition only one shilling per week, responded by boarding her pupils f or five shillings per week, thus securing to them for fourteen dollars, the board and tuition for fourteen weeks. She believed that a similar interest shared by teachers and patrons elsewhere would kindle a like liberality. How to awaken the interest became her study.
The argument drawn from the superior advantages of permanent institutions
had not taken effect. She would try new arguments. The effort to enlist
the wealthy and eminent had failed. She would try another class. She called
to mind the way in which colleges were founded. Having been a pupil of
Amherst Academy, she had watched with special interest the origin and growth
of Amherst College. " Its funds were collected," she wrote Miss Grant,
"not from the rich, but from liberal Christians in common life. At the
commencement of that enterprise the prospect was
held out that it would be a college of high standing where the expenses would be low, and that it would be accessible to all. This was the mainspring without which it is doubtful whether it would have been possible to raise the funds. I am inclined to think that something of this kind may be indispensable to our success."
The end she sought was not personal aggrandizement or emolument. It was personal in no sense. It concerned the welfare of the race. It had to do with the sex which molds in the nursery the coming men and women, which presides in the home and reigns in society; yet her zeal was not championship for woman. Her object was not the benefit of woman as woman, but the good of the world through woman. It was a benevolent object, and naturally led to a study of the benevolent operations of the day. Could not a seminary for the training of young women for Christ and the world, she asked, be founded and conducted on the same principles as benevolent organizations? Their treasuries were filled more by the smaller gifts of the many than by the larger donations of the few. The greater the number of actors in any work, the more widespread the interest. Again, those who gave themselves to a benevolent cause should and did expect for their services a mere support rather than ample compensation. Were there not teachers of a like spirit? She believed there were.
In seeking for further lessening of expenses, the idea of having
the pupils contribute to this end with their own hands, suggested itself
to this broadminded, practical woman. – “I have no faith," she wrote, "in
any of the schemes of manual labor by which it is supposed that girls can
support themselves at school. I should expect anything of that kind would
become an expense rather than an income; but I am confident that arrangements
can be made by which a family of young ladies can do the housework of the
family, and without any sacrifice of refinement or loss in the acquisition
The idea was not to earn money but to lessen outlay; not to defray but to diminish expenses. She was not planning for idlers nor for the helpless, but for those who were able and willing to help themselves. In her view the selfhelpful were the most likely to be the useful. That each pupil should thus bear her part in promoting the general good would only be carrying out the same unselfish spirit counted upon in donors and teachers. And this feature might remove much of the prejudice of those who thought that the higher education would unfit young women for practical life. The more she thought of it the more reasons she saw in its favor, till the pecuniary advantages sank into comparative insignificance.
At length her plan for founding a new institution took definite shape with these features: buildings to be erected and furnished by voluntary gifts; teachers to receive comparatively low salaries; domestic work of the family to be done by the pupils;each feature grounded in Christian benevolence, and all together greatly reducing the cost of education. Nowhere in the world had a system of thorough intellectual training combined with careful religious culture been made accessible to the class of young women most likely to be benefited by it and to use it for the good of the world. If it could be done, though on a small scale, she felt assured that success would enlist public interest and secure means for enlargement. A single example would be worth more than all that had been or could be said on the subject. One such institution would be followed by others. Thoroughly possessed by these ideas her soul was stirred within her to see them realized.
Again the question of leaving Miss Grant arose. In the nine years
of the DerryIpswich school she had been absent from its sessions but two
winters. For a year and a half during Miss Grant's absence, she had had
the entire superintendence of the school. The assistant teachers had been
acquiring experience and ability.
Was it still true, as it had appeared three years earlier, that they could do less for the cause of education separately than together? For many months the growing question had been suppressed. When it became a subject of correspondence with Miss Grant, their letters show at what sacrifice of feeling to both the decision to separate was reached. Miss Grant returned to her post in the spring of 1833, and they decided to continue together another year. Leaving Miss Lyon again in charge, Miss Grant spent the summer of 1831 in traveling, and in the autumn their official relation was dissolved. Their lives were consecrated to the same cause and they continued as long as Miss Lyon lived, to confer together as before. In the summer of 1835 Miss Lyon returned to take Miss Grant's place once more in her absence. Separation did not lessen their mutual regard and each had gladly pledged to the field of the other her interest and her aid.
The following extracts from Miss Lyon's letters indicate her spirit in leaving:
"I have longed to be permitted to labor where the expenses would be less than they are here, so that more of our daughters could reap the fruits. Sometimes my heart has burned within me; and again I have bidden it be quiet; I have thought that if I could be released from all engagements, perhaps I might in time find some way for promoting this object."
"At length I have decided to close my connection with this institution in the hope of using my limited influence towards advancing the belief that young ladies' schools of an elevated character may be furnished at a very moderate expense. I have much stronger desires to do something towards establishing some general principles than to accomplish much myself. But I hope that Providence will open a door where I may labor directly in a school in behalf of this great cause, as I believe I can do more in this way than in any other."
Christ, and for the good of souls, than I ever did in any other step in my life. I want that you should pray for me, my dear mother, that I may be guided by wisdom from above, and that the Lord would bless me and make me a blessing. My daily prayer is, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? If the Lord go not with me let me not go up hence."
"I am about to embark in a frail boat on a boisterous sea. I know not how I shall be tossed, nor to what port I shall be directed, but it is sweet in the midst of darkness to commit the whole to His guidance."
"The question of the expediency of devoting myself to this object in some place farther west has been several times mentioned to me. But considering that improvements in education seldom make any progress eastward, and that New England mind carries the day everywhere, my purpose to live and labor in New England has become fixed."
"I have no definite spot in view where I may spend the remnant of my strength in behalf of an object which for a long time has seemed to drink up my spirits; yet I never had a prospect of engaging in any work which seemed so directly the work of the Lord as this. The present path is plain. The future I can leave with Him who doeth all things well."
[END OF CHAPTER III]