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"Mount Holyoke" sonnet on the death of Mary Lyon
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This sonnet on the death of Mary Lyon celebrates the beauty of the middle Connecticut River Valley, but laments the landscape is darkened with the death of "our Patroness." Mary Lyon (1797-1849) was born in Buckland, Massachusetts, and made her living as a well-respected educator working in schools throughout the state. In 1837, Lyon opened the South Hadley Female Seminary, the first female institution of higher learning to present women the same curriculum as found in men's colleges. The Seminary had rigorous entrance exams, but a tuition low enough to be accessible to women from middle income families. Lyon called her school a "seminary," a term which encompassed various levels of education including, preparatory school, college and even graduate school, because she felt a "college" for women would find less support from financial backers. Society at the time questioned the need for women to achieve a higher education, believing instead, their primary role was the moral guidance of the family. Following her death, the Seminary continued to thrive. In 1888, the school achieved collegiate status and changed its name to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary and College.
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