Little Bits of History

Affordable Education

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 8, 2015
Mount Holyoke in 1837

Mount Holyoke in 1837

November 8, 1837: Mount Holyoke Female Seminary opens its doors to student. Mary Lyon was born in Massachusetts in 1797 to a farming family. Her father died when she was five and the entire family had to pitch in to make the farm successful. She was able to attend a variety of district school and in 1814 began teaching in the same types of schools. Her impoverished childhood led her to a lifelong commitment to creating educational opportunities for girls from middle and poor backgrounds. In 1834, Laban Wheaton and his daughter-in-law, Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, came to Lyon to ask her to help found the Wheaton Female Seminary (today Wheaton College). Lyon created the curriculum to be equal to what was offered in male colleges of the time. The school opened in 1835 with 50 students.

As the new school took off, Lyon hoped to created another institution which would bring in students from wider socioeconomic backgrounds. Her new school was founded by people of modest means and was meant to serve the daughters of the founders rather the daughters of the rich. Joseph Emerson had written a treatise in 1822 stating women should be trained as teachers rather than just learn to please the other sex. Lyon took this message to heart. The entrance exam was difficult and given only to those “young ladies of adult age, and mature character” which helped maintain the rigorous educational standards. Tuition was just $60 per year (about $1,450 today) , about one-third the tuition charged at Ipswich Female Seminary.

She was also a believer in daily exercise and her students were required to walk after breakfast although during the cold winters, the time was reduced to 45 minutes. Calisthenics was also taught at the school. In order to keep costs low, the student body was required to perform domestic tasks which included cooking meals and cleaning living spaces. Lyon realized the role of women in society was changing and offered a comprehensive curriculum to better prepare her students for the demands to come. They were taught mathematics and science, including laboratory classes. They were taken on field trips in order to gather specimens which would later be studied in the labs in greater detail.

Today, Mount Holyoke College remains a liberal arts college for women. It was the first member of the Seven Sisters colleges and remains committed to the education of women to prepare them in an ever changing world. Their campus covers 2,000 acres, with the academic campus covering half that space, and they have an academic staff of 200 to educate their 2,183 students. Lynn Pasquerella is President and Marcella Runell Hall is Dean. They have a $717 million endowment. They offer 50 departmental and interdepartmental majors ans they also offer three master’s degree programs for those interested in furthering their education. The tuition today is $56,746 which includes tuition, room and board, as well as student fees. Mandatory heath insurance is an additional $1880 per year.

The highest culture is not obtained from the teacher when at school or college, so much as by our ever diligent self-education when we become men. – Samuel Smiles

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library. – Frank Zappa

Academic education is the act of memorizing things read in books, and things told by college professors who got their education mostly by memorizing things read in books. – Elbert Hubbard

A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students. – John Ciardi

Also on this day: Aerial Warfare – In 1950, the first jet-to-jet dogfight took place.
The Bod – In 1602, the main research library at the University of Oxford opened.
173rd Airborne – In 1965, Lawrence Joel attended to wounded soldiers on the ground.
Four – In 1971, Led Zeppelin released another album.
Playing Games – In 1836, the Game of Life went on sale.

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