Skip to main content

Full text of "The higher education and the common people [microform] : some thoughts on the educational movement that founded Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College"

See other formats

Huckel, Oliver 

The higher education and 
the common people 

Amherst [Mass.] 





^Box 437 

Huckel, Oliver, 1864-1940. 

The higher education and the common people: 
some thoughts on the educational movement that 
fomided Amherst college and Mount Holyoke col- 
lege, by Oliver Iluckel Address delivered at 
a union service of the First church and the 
colleges of Andierst in commemoration of the 
centennial of Ifery Lyon, February 28, 1897 • 
Amherst, Printed for Alumnae of Mount Holyoke, 

26 p. 

■ ■I II I i n I I I I ■ ■ 


Reproductions may n<M be made mtthoutpmnisskm mm CokM^ 


FILM SIZE: 35/»/»^ 




: lA (Jm) 








An Address delivered at a Union Service 
of the First Church and the Colleges of 
Amherst in commemoration of the centen- 
nial of Mary Lyon, February 28, 1897. 

Minister First Church Amherst. 

Printed for Alumnae of Mount ilolyoke. 




That was a striking scene when the first structure of 
Amherst College, the old South College, was about to be 
erected. The people of Amherst turned out with great 
enthusiasm to build it. They gave the materials ; they 
did the work with their own hands. Many of them 
camped on the ground and labored almost day and night. 
"The scene," as described by the lexicographer Noah 
Webster, an eye-witness and by Dr. Tyler the historian of 
the College, " seems more like a romance than a reality, 
— more like a chapter from the miraculous history of the 
Israelites in the Old Testament, such, for example, as 
the building of the Tabernacle, or the Temple, than an 
event in our nineteenth ceatury. For, not only did the 
people have a mind to work but they also, like the Israel- 
ites of old, felt that they were building the Lord's house." 
It was only ninety days, before the work was done from 
corner-stone to roof-tree. " It seemed " exclaims Presi- 
dent Humphrey " it seemed more like magic than the 
work of craftsmen." 

The scene at Amherst was almost duplicated fifteen 
years later in the building of Mount Holyoke College, 
oj This also was a people's movement, inaugurated and sus- 
tained by the common people. The first building of 
Mount Holyoke was a free-will ofifering of the people, 
made up of little gifts, of materials and furnishings and 

4^ of money from six cents to a thousand dollars but no 



gift greater than that, collected by one earnest woman, 
born in the hill town of Buckiand, who believed in the 
common people and appealed to them. The work at 
South Hadley did not have as many actual hands engaged 
upon it, it was not quite so picturesque a scene as the 
former one at Amherst, but the new building rose almost 
as magically, certainly as majestically, under the touch of 
that one woman witli a people's prayers and gifts behind 
her. She is remembered as being everywhere at that 
building, — almost omnipresent and omniscient. One work- 
man says that Mary Lyon saw every single nail that was 
driven, — she herself confesses that her whole life and 
heart was in the work of building, that her head for 
months was full of " joice, bricks, closets and hinges as 
later it was full of "bread, tin-dippers and clothes-pins." 
But she consecrated every brick to the Lord, and she gave 
it all, as the people gave it, for a school of Christ, for a 
house of the Lord. 

This illustrates, in striking way, the persistence of the 
Puritan idea. It illustrates the early New England passion 
for religion and education ; the basic sentiment of that 
unique life, the double reverence for liberty and law, 
human and divine ; the stern conscience that continually 
was flowering into a finer and loftier culture. Just how 
the manifestation came about, here in these western hills, 
is a most interesting study. But Amherst and South 
Hadley are the chief, if not the only, monumental eviden- 
ces of it. 

The movement which planted Amherst College and 
Mount Holyoke College was virtually the same, — a great 
popular uprising, — an (educational uprising. What aston- 
ishes one is that such a splendid work should have been 



done by a people having the scanty material resources of 
the hill towns and valley towns of this region. There 
was never a great amount of money here. It was the 
people who did it by their sacrifices. 

A visit last summer to the museum at Old Deerfield 
helped me to understand perhaps a little more clearly how 
it was that such a life and such scantiness of resources 
could bring forth such marvellous results. That quaint 
museum is the most fascinating history possible of the 
old time life of this region. Eveny one of the three floors 
is crowded with revelations. It is a three volume novel, 
thrilling with heroic romance. It shows exactly what thfe 
life was. No indications of any riches or opulence, not 
a sign, but full of the evidences of heart wealth, of home 
happiness, of brain culture. 

The richest grapes, it is said, often come from the 
scantiest soils, and on severe and rocky slopes the trees 
are often of toughest fibre. The vines of Riidesheini 
j and Johannisberg cannot be grown in the fatness of gar- 
dens, and the cedars of Lebanon disdain the levei of 
marsh aiid meadow.'* And so these hill towns were the 
regions where sturdy Christian men toiled and tilled and 
tithed, some of them ten times tithed their poor rough 
farms, and planned great things for God. Our cities, our 
state and our nation owe these hill towns of Massachusetts 
a distinct debt of gratitude which shall some day be fully 
and wisely recognized. 

There came another vision of this thing in a fine note 
of appreciation of the heroic element in these hill towns 
in that recent book " The Whence and the Whither of 
Man written by one who knows and loves these western 
hills. The picture that he gives of the country church 



in this region is nobly true and makes plain life fuller of 
splendid dignity. " There is " he says " in the character 
of these people the granite of the eternal hills and in 
their hearts the sunshine of God. Their money may 
look small on the collector's plate, but God sees the real 
immensity of the gift in the self-denial that it cost." 
It is true. These are the kind of people that furnish the 
moral backbone and unswerving integrity for greater 
lives ; they are the material that God us^s for conq^uering 
kingdoms and establishing empires?— fheSe -^crnimon 
people to whose heart if we only keep close, we keep 
close to the heart of God. 

These common people, — they were commonsense and 
commonwealth. These sturdy Americans of western 
Massachusetts, — ^farmers, merchants, lawyers, teachers, 
ministers, —were stalwart democrats in simplicity of lif^ 
and freedom from convention, but in fineness of feeling 
and in dignity of spirit, they were the veriest aristocrats, 
— if aristocratic means truly what it means etymologically, 
— the best. It was the same brave blood and dauntless will 
that had founded Plymouth and Boston, taking a new 
lease of life under new pioneer conditions but with the 
same old divine loftiness of purpose. 

These common people were a people rich in faith, 
noble in ambitions, gentle in blood, miswerving in sense 
of right and worth, unconquerable in Puritan persistence 
and Pilgrim perseverance. They were a race of noble- 
men striding the furrows of the field, a race of sovereigns 
in the parliament of town meetings, a race of priests and 
philosophers in the sanctities of school and church, 



It was from such a people as this, and in the initial stir 
of a wide and deep religious movement that Mary Lyon 
came. The movement was a phenomenal movement in 
these hill towns of western Massachusetts. It was a pop- 
ular uprising; it was a silent revolution ; it was a sponta- 
neous outburst of religious faith and missionary consecra- 
tion that founded Amherst College and Mount Holyoke 
College. The primary and avowed ambition of both 
institutions was to increase religious effectiveness, and to 
enlarge noble service. 

Mary Lyon was in a sense a product of this wide and 
intense preparatory movement among a heroic people ; 
she had by inheritance the spirit of sacrifice for God and 
humanitv and when her own time came she was a leader 
in the movement. The movement did not originate with 
her ; but at one of its crises it crystallized in her. She 
was the one woman in the movement who splendidly con- 
creted it and made it practical and effective by the 
strong wisdom of her brain, the consecration of her heart, 
and the boundless energy of her hand and will. What 
she accomplished is "A Plain Tale from the Hills " more 
marvellous and heroic than any that Rudyard Kiphng 
ever conceived. 

There were prejudices against her in that day and in this. 
One, that she was a masculine sort of a woman, too self- 
assertive, not womanly ; another, that she was a religious 
fanatic, inquisitorial, introspective, righteous overmuch ; 
another, that she was a hard nature, narrow and unsym- 
pathetic, without womanly tenderness and without the 
sense of joy and beauty in life, in short, a practical, a 
progressive, but unattractive character. 


One who reads carefully the record of her life, and 
especially her letters, one who reads and hears the testi- 
monies of those who knew her and especially of her own 
pupils, will have to revise the prejudices which have 
grownup largely by exaggerated traditions and grotesque 
caricatures. Her own letters and the testimony of her 
own girls and friends reveal her as a most womanly 
woman, and not only as a womanly woman, but as one 
who loved life with a rare joy and delight, who believed 
in a frolic health, who loved music and painting and 
beautiful scenery, and strangely enough who had in the 
midst of her intense seriousness a most fine and keen 
sense of humor. This was the true Mary Lyon. She was 
a womanly woman of large heart and broad brain. But 
besides this was an extraordinary woman. 

Our dear Dr. Tyler whom we honor as our Amherst 
Mstorian has also put upon record in his semi-centennial 
address as President of the Board of Trustees of Mount 
Holyoke, a fine tribute to her genius. 

« It is well " he writes, "that she were not like ordinary 
women. If she had not been quite extraordinary, both 
in her powers and in her virtues ; if she had not been 
almost superhuman in her courage and strength, in her 
patience and perseverance, in her faith and hope, in her 
unselfisliness and unworldliness, in her self-denial and 
self-sacrifice, in her consecration to the higher education 
of woman and to the service of the Master, in her capacity 
for planning and executing, for organizing and training, 
. she never would have accomplished the work which was 

given her to do." 

Now put a woman of this unique stamp and splendid 

type into the midst of the social and educational condi 

tions of the early part of this century and see what comes 
of it. Remember what ' was the condition of woman's 
opportunities for education in that day. It is astonishing 
to find how little was done for educating girls in the early 
century here in New England. Massachusetts of course 
led the states in organizing the common school system, 
but remember that even Boston did not allow girls to 
attend public schools until 1790 and then only during 
summer months when the boys were absent and so until 
1820, and Northampton, our shire town, did not admit 
them until two years later. Four years previously it had 
voted "that this town shall not be at any expense for 
schooling girls." There were of course some private 
schools for girls and some excellent schools where an 
academic training could be had, like Mrs. Willard's at 
Troy, a famous school, and Catharine Beecher's at Hart- 
ford. But such were very few and very expensive. It 
is almost impossible to believe, did not history record the 
facts, that Massachusetts was so restricted in her early 
educational policy,so blind in discriminatingagainst woman 
and so slow in appreciating the sources of her future 
strength. In 1836, when the charter was given to Mount 
Holyoke, there were one hundred and twenty colleges in 
the United States for men, — one of these, Oberlin, just 
beginning a coeducational system,— but there was not a 
single college for women either in the United States, or 
in England, or in the world. 

Is it any wonder that Mary Lyon's heart was stirred 
within her and that she began planning and praying and 
working for a day of better things ? But she met with 
enough opposition and discouragement, opposition from 
her own sex, opposition from fellow-teachers, like Catha- 


rine Beecher who thought her ^lans utterly impracticable, 
opposition from trusty advisers and friends whom she had 
counted on to help her. 

She wrote of some of these sharp criticisms ; " No one 
can be more sensitive to such criticisms. I feel them 
keenly, but " she adds " I receive them as a severe yet 
indispensable test of my character." And always as one 
says who knew her, there would be a brief struggle, then 
a smile and the gentle remark, " Well, we will go on." 

She was persevering with a divine persistence. Her 
own labors were heroic and incessant. " She went from 
house to house and town to town, over the rugged hills 
in winter's cold and summer's heat to create an interest 
in the education of girls." A contribution of a few cents 
encouraged her ; of dollars inspired her to more heroic 
efforts. She cheerfully bore the taunts of men and the 
lethargy of women and still persevered. Her mother 
told a neighbor: "Mary will not give up. She just 
walks the floor, and says over and over again when all is 
so dark, ' Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in 
him and he shall bring it to pass.' Women must be edu- 
cated, — they must be ! " 

There was a remarkable infusion of sanctified common- 
sense in all her planning, as we look back and consider 
it again at this day. It was this very thing that preju- 
diced her in some minds of that day, — she had too much 
common-sense and logic and business sagacity for a 

This was her thought for her college, Why not avowedly 
make this a distinctively Christian enterprise "for Christ 
and the Church," as Harvard was originally founded 
" Christo et Ecclesiae ?" Why not have it founded and 


supported, not by the few gifts of the rich, but as the 
missionary enterprises of the church, by the many but 
free-will offerings of the people? Why not insist upon 
teachers who shall consecrate themselves to the work as 
they would to a foreign field and who shall be given, not 
ample .compensation, but merely their support ? Why 
not give to the whole institution the spirit of self-sacrifice 
and benevolence, — patrons, teachers, pupils — all of the 
same spirit, working for each other and for God? 

It was a daring but splendid conception. It outdid in 
its demands for self-sacrifice and absolute consecration 
anything that had heretofore been conceived in collegiate 
institutions. Many of the most prominent educators 
thought it was visionary and impractical. It would be 
impossible to get the self-sacrificing teachers ; it would be 
impossible to mingle household work with educational 
without detriment ; it would be a lowering of educational 
ideals to underpay teachers and to give pupils their 
education at such a nominal figure. But Mary Lyon had 
faced every problem carefully and prayerfully, and she 
had made up her mind that it was r/^^/ and therefore 

This was the most prominent feature of the plan : " 1 
am convinced" she says " that, to give the first impulse to 
this work something tangible must be presented, must 
be made to stand out in bold relief. For this purpose we 
have chosen the reduction of expenses^ . . . every step 
we take proves it a good selection." Here is wise adver- 
tising as well as singular wisdom in benevolence. 

And this was her further method. " I am convinced " 
she writes " there are but two ways to accomplish our 
object. First, to interest a few wealthy men to do the 

whole; or second, to interest the whole New England 
community, beginning with the country population and in 
time receiving the co-operation of the more wealthy of 
our cities. Each of these modes would have its advan- 
tages. The first could be done sooner and with compar- 
atively little labor. The second requires more time and 
labor; but if accomplished, a salutary impression would 
be made on the whole of New England." Mark you ! is 
there not something of the spirit of a statesman in this 
planning ? 

She knew the common people of New England, she was 
sure that her plan would commend itself to their common 
sense. She was convinced that her plan was wise ; that 
others would soon come to see it that way ; she felt her- 
self deeply moved to do this work and bear its burdens, 
and she went ahead. 

She not only knew the common people, but she loved 
them. She wrote : " My thoughts have turned, not to the 
higher, not to the poorer, but to the middle classes, which 
contain the main-springs and main wheel's which are to 
move the world." Again she wrote : " 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." 

The address to the pubUc issued in 1835 among other 
things said : " The seminary is to be placed on such a 
basis that all its advantages may be within the reach of 
those in the common walks of life. Indeed it is this class 
principally, who are the glory of our nation, that we seek 
to help. The wealthy can provide for themselves, and 
though we expect to offer advantages which even they 
cannot now command, yet it is not for their sakes that we 


erect this seminary. We intend it to be . . . so 

valuable that the rich will be glad to attend it, and so 
economical that people in moderate circumstances may 
be equally accommodated. We expect that distinctions 
founded on wealth will find no place within its walls any 
more than at the table of Jesus Christ." 

It is most interesting in all this to remember that 
Amherst influences counted largely in her life and plans, 
and that Amherst friends were her most valued advisers. 

She had spent a year at the Amherst Academy in 1818 • 
when she was getting her education. 

She had spent some time in the family of Edward 
Hitchcock then a pastor at Conway and with him had 
studied natural science and with his wife something of 
drawing and painting. 

She had spent the winter of 1834 in Amherst, attending 
college lectures, reviewing natural sciences and chemistry 
and talking over her plans and projects. She had Amherst 
College constantly in mind as her inspiration. " Its funds 
were collected," ran a letter of hers to Miss Grant, "not 
from the rich, but from liberal Christians in common life." 
The institution and ground of Mount Pleasant here in 
town were the site selected in 1834 for the new institution, 
but the negotiations were not completed. 

And as the most important Amherst influence — she had 
constantly as her helper and adviser the wise and ener- 
getic President Hitchcock of Amherst who had been her 
adviser in her work for so many years and was to be her 
councillor until she finished her tasks and who was des- 
tined after her death to write that memoir of her which 
has been such a rich legacy and fruitful inspiration. 
Whenever there was an emergency, it is related she would 


say : " I must consult my good friend Dr. Hitchcock." 
His last visit to the seminary was on the 25th anniversary 
and his appropriate words to the school were those so 
often on his lips " " Nevertheless the foundation of God 
standeth sure." 


Mount Holyoke has the singular good fortune to be an 
institution dominated by the pervading spirit of a unique 
and great personality. There is perhaps no other Amer- 
ican institution that so feels the ever-present life and 
example of its founder. John Harvard is a picturesque, 
shadowy figure, but not a potent personality to Cambridge. 
Ezra Cornell is a philanthropist but not a stimulating 
force to the Ithaca university. Matthew Vassar is a bene- 
factor but far from an ideal to the young women of the col- 
lege of his foundation. But Mary Lyon is felt in every 
pulse-beat of Mount Holyoke. She has given herself for- 
ever to the place, — ^her spirit is the living and uplifting 
atmosphere of the college. The influence of her rare 
life over the South Hadley college is like the life of Dr. 
Arnold at Rugby. He was the inspirer of more noble 
lives than any man of his age. She also was an inspirer, 
an awaken er of dormant nobleness and of sleeping spirit- 
uality. She has been a great spiritual teacher as well 
as an energetic educational force in thousands of lives. 

Amherst and Mount Holyoke have splendid tradi- 
tions to inspire and to maintain. Might it not be 
well, that one of the requirements for admission to 
Amherst College should be an examination on that 
classic and inspiring " History of the College " by Dr. 
Tyler ? And in the same way, if the splendid spirit of 


the Mount Holyoke institution is to be maintained, should 
not every young woman seeking admission be familiar both 
with the memoir of Mary Lyon by President Hitchcock 
and the most suggestive " History of the First Fifty - 
Years " by Mrs. Stowe ? Any student who loses this 
inner glimpse loses a large inspiration toward the best 

Mary Lyon was ideas, principles incarnate. And 
these she had the remarkable gift of incorporating 
successfully and permanently into her college. 

We may say that three things stand out most prominently 
in the Mount Holyoke spirit or ideal : First, the family 
ideal; second, plain living and high tli inking ; and third, 
a genuine religion. 

The first ideal, the family ideal, was the heart of the 
institution, perhaps its most distinctive feature. It 
involved not only loving fellowship, personal intimacies, 
but also household service. This was a distinctive feature 
in the system and taken altogether an exceedingly wise 
one. " Only honor," as Miss Lyon saw, "lies in mutual 
ministries of comfort and service and there is no dishonor 
in waiting on one's self. Such ministry and self-service 
from a worthy motive ennobles any labor." 

The second ideal, plain living and high thinking, was 
the body and brain of tlie institution, its worldly wisdom 
and its divine sagacity. It aimed to give and it did give 
the highest possible education at the lowest possible cost. 
The figures seem impossible but are true that at the start 
and for a number of years the college gave board and 
tuition for $60 a year. The average rate of the whole 
time of the college's existence has been about $rio a 
year. And now in these days when the price of every- 


thing has so advanced, the cost of a year at Mount Hol- 
yoke is about $250 only half or a third as much as other 
colleges. Surely it is cheaper for many a bright girl to 
go to South Hadley than to stay at home. 

The third ideal, a genuine religion, was the soul of the 
institution, its motive power and its highest aspiration. 
The college was tremendously religious, not largely, not 
intensely, but tremendously religious. Tlie religious 
atmosphere was so pervading that there was no escape- 
It was quickening or killing. There were no Laodiceans 
in South Hadley. It made either infidels or tremendous 
Christians. Perhaps a few of the former- Certainly a 
great and noble throng of the latter. Almost all of the 
six thousand who have touched Mount Holyoke have 
become strong and earnest Christians. 

The religious life manifested itself chiefly in tliree 
ways, — ^in earnest Bible study, in a strict and wholesome 
discipline and in an intense missionary spirit. 

First, the Bible was the book of the house. Its study 
was as thorough and systematic as in literature and science. 
1 ts lessons were the first work every day. Its precepts were 
in constant use. Miss Lyon was especial fervent in 
prayer to be guided in Bible instruction — that every word 
might be from her heart and be the truth of God. And 
these hours with the Word were marvellously blessed. 
They fashioned devout hearts and strong Christian 
character. The students who came forth from Mount 
Holyoke may not have been tailor-made girls ; but they 
were certainly Bible-built women. 

Then the discipline was a part of the religious life. 
It was aimed to show that the daily discipline all in 
the law of God and the love of Christ. This was the 


thoudit, "We live unto God," "we are members one oF 
another," and "if one member suffers, all suffer." The 
discipline was strict and stern. There were blue laws- 
good and wholesome but these have been exaggerated 
in tradition and have given South Hadley the reputation 
of being narrow. All the strict discipline however did 
the students no harm and for some of them it did an 
incalculable amount of good. Might not something more 
of such a discipline be a wholesome thing for our college 

girls and boys to-day ? 

The other phase of the religious life was an intense 
missionary zeal. Notice how this manifested itself. For 
the first seven years, those students gave $7000 to foreign 
missions and this in spite of special needs with a new 
building and furnishings and every one practising the 
most rigid economy. This is a renarkable record for 
a hundred college girls. How was it possible for diem 
to do ir? It was all Miss l.yon's contagious example. 
Another thing, for fifteen years, with the exceptions of one 
year, the graduating class never failed to send one or 
more of its members to the foreign held. Still Miss 
Lyon said that they were not doing enough and at one 
missionary prayer-meeting she pressed the matter of per- 
sonal sacrifice so earnestly upon them that six out of her 
twelve teachers offered themselves for the foreign work. 
This was more than she had expected, but ungrudgingly 
she sent them with a hearty Godspeed. 

How did they do such things ? Because the spirit in 
all their ideals was sacrifice. This was the deepest note 
of the institution. This was Mary Lyon's own spirit. 
She said : " If I had a thousand lives, 1 would sacrifice 
them all in suffering for this work. Did I possess the 


^eatest fortune I would readily relinquish it all and 

become poor, if the prosperity of this work demanded it." 
And never would she accept a salary of more than $200 
a year and more than half of this found its way back into 
the treasury of the Lord. This spirit she infused into her 
fellow teachers. Dr. Tyler who has been on the board of 
■trustees for thirty-five years or more, bears witness that 
the teachers at Mount Holyoke have done more and 
iaetter work with less pay and less grumbling, nay, with 
more Christian gladness and singleness of heart than 
^ny other body of teachers within the range of his 

Only the other day I heard one say who speaks out of 
-a full acquaintance with this and other institutions : 
There is no more heroic loyalty in the world than has 
been shown by the teachers and alumnae of Mount 

It was told me that not long ago the teachers were 
jjetting such small salaries tliat the trustees rather re- 
pented. Such teachers could get $1500 to $2000 or more 
elsewhere, so the trustees raised the salaries. Imme- 
diately the teachers protested and refused, they asserted 
that the money was more needed in the work of the sem- 
inary. This is something of heroic sacrifice. And such 
sacrifices make possible many things. Of course, the 
girls of Mount Holyoke can be educated at a low figure, 
if teachers can be had for almost nothing and then if the 
girls do some part of their own household work. 

It is true, is it not, that the immediate end of education is 
-service, while the ultimate end is fulness of being? The first 
of these is thoroughly recognized at Mount Holyoke. 
Service is the immediate end of all their education. And 


the second part, as far as I can read and learn, has not 
been entirely neglected. The fulness, richness, variety, 
pleasures of being are recognized and emphasized. 
President Hitchcock once called it a " whole-woman- 
making institution." And so it was and is. Fulness of 
being, sympathy with the infinite life of God's heart and 
world is the ultimate thought of all its work. 

The spirit and principles of Mount Holyoke College 
were great and wise in their inception ; they were also 
great and wise in their self-perpetuating and diffusive 

As soon as Mount Holyoke was successfully launched^ 

the idea and work spread like a prairie fire. And not 
only has Mount Holyoke been the inspiration of hundreds 
of institutions tliat have been founded for woman's 
higher education in varying lines from it, but one remark- 
able fact : It has planted a score or more of institutions 
that exactly reproduce its lineaments and spirit. There 
are Mount Holyokesin other places, in the west, from Ohio 
to California, in Persia, in Spain, in South Africa. So 
Rome in the old days planted its colonies, — little sections 
of Rome itself, — in the most distant provinces. Mr. 
Durant a trustee of Mount Holyoke, in founding Welles- 
ley to reproduce many of the characteristic features of 
Mount Holyoke used to say "There is no danger of 
having too many Mount Holyokes." The spirit of Mount 
Holyoke has gone forth in marvellous way. It has been 
the radiating center of an educational and spiritual force 

that has splendidly touched and quickened the most 
distant parts of the world. 


This is the astonishing, the epochal thing about Mount 
Holyoke College. It was absolutely a new departure. It 
followed no traditions from the old world as did the men's 
colleges. It was not merely the first woman's college for 
the Connecticut valley, for Massachusetts, for America. 
It was the first woman's college for the world. It 
was the first beginning of a new era in the rights of 
education for woman. 

This we must bear in mind. That from its inception, 
Mount Holyoke was, in its breadth of view, its largeness 
and thoroughness of curriculum, its life and purpose a 
college. It was so in all of Mary Lyon's planning and 
working, in all her thoughts and ambitions. It was to be 
equal in every particular with the best men's colleges. 
The name seminary was both a bit of womanly modesty 
and also of diplomatic wisdom in deference to the legis- 
lative requirements for a charter. It was to be, as Mary 
Lyon says, for the work of furnishing teachers of the best 
education and self-denying zeal. It was to be permanent, 
continuing onward in its enlarging work from generation 
to generation. It was for the safety of the nation that she 
was interested, the welfare of the church, the good of the 

Strange it is, — these ideals for which she contended and 
labored so earnestly now seem so just and reasonable 
that we wonder that they were ever deemedan innovation 
or that they ever excited serious opposition. But it was 
Mary Lyon's privilege and her glory that she saw the 
opportunity to which others were blind.'' The noble 
saying is true : " The example of a hero is a legacy to the 


race." And surely the legacy of the example of this 
woman has changed '^tbe thinking of the race;" has 
given an impulse to '^much of the best work" of these 
later times ; and is destined to touch with blessing the 
interests of a thousand generations." 

It may be pleasant to remember that Mount Holyoke 
was founded in 1837 in the very year that Queen Victoria 
began to reign. In June next the Queen's sixtieth birth* 
day will be celebrated ; and also the sixtieth birthday of 
Mount Holyoke. Queen Victoria's reign has been one of 
splendid progress and abundant prosperity. May we not 
say that the reign of woman in splendid progress and 
abundant success began with Mount Holyoke. Victor 
Hugo calls this the century of woman." The German 
theory, that the ewigweibliche, — ^the eternally feminine, 
the ever womanly, — is the receptive, the spiritual, tlie edu- 
cative, the uplifting factor in human life has found new 
expression. The work which was inaugurated at South 
Hadley was for the better equipment and the larger ser- 
vice of all those who are not only the mothers, but in 
the most intimate and widest sense the teachers of the 

There seems to me to be something larger in the event 
that Mary Lyon brought to pass at Mount Holyoke than 
we sometimes dare to imagine. We are not in danger of 
over-estimating it. I like to think of it in connection 
with another great movement in American history. 

The revolutionary pamphlets that preceded the Declar- 
ation of Independence of 1776 were on " The Rights of 
Man " and The Age of Reason." That outbreak had 
long preparation. It began five centuries before when 
the English barons met King John in the long meadow of 



Runnemede and forced from him the Magna Charta — the 
foundation and bulwark of English liberty. The contest 
Avaged through the centuries. It was in the spirit of 
Raleigh, Hampden, Sydney. Milton had spoken for 
liberiy " in a prose as majestic as any passage of the 
Paradise Lost." And when the American people declared 
their rights, they were only working under the noblest 
inspiration of the past. A thousand years were brooding 
over them and calling to them in " luminous events and 
illustrious men." And they obeyed. It was the spirit of 
liberty, speaking in a people, and leading them to a dig- 
nity, strength and permanence of achievement that is our 
priceless heritage forever. 

There seems to me something in this event at South 
Hadley, when we look at it in its right perspective, that 
bears almost as august a significance as that immortal 
deed of the fathers at Philadelphia. The founding of 
Mount Holyoke was a declaration of woman's liberties 
in the fullest education of the race. It was a declaration 
for the women of the whole world. The charter of Mount 
Holyoke is a Magna Charta. It came in a peaceful 
revolution, but it is no less astounding ; for it was the 
advent of "The Rights of Man and Woman," and "The 
Age of Fullest Reason." 

Bancroft says in his own fine way of that American 
Declaration of Independence: "the astonished nations, 
as they read that all men are created equal, started out 
of their lethargy, like those who have been exiles from 
childhood, when they suddenly hear the dimly-remembered 
accents of their mother-tongue." 

The founding of Mount Holyoke in like manner 
awakened the womanhood of the world from its lethargy. 

Women everywhere started and rubbed their eyes and 

remembered that God had created them equal with men 
in heart and brain, and that the noblest education was 
not only their privilege but their duty. 

They thronged to South Hadley. Other colleges 
began to spring up in New England and all over this 
country. All the institutions from Vasser to Bryn Mawr 
owe their inspiration to Mount Holyoke. At length, we 
see the seed taking root across the ocean in Girton and 
Newnham in England and even some of the German 
universities opening to women. At length we see our own 
most ancient and greatest American university, old 
Harvard, after two hundred and fifty years of exclusive- 
ness unable to resist any longer, and taking Radcliffe 
under its fostering care and granting to it equal rights and 
an equal degree. This has all come about in less than 
sixty years. Now whether popular liberty and popular 
government are a success or not, the declaration was 
responsible for it ; and whether the woman's college and 
higher education for women are a success or not. Mount 
Holyoke is responsible for its inception. Here the mar- 
vellous movement began, — began for all womanhood, 
began for all the world. It is a new era, an epoch of 
human history, a declaration, not of independence, but of 
equal liberties. 

Perhaps we may be mistaken, perhaps we are too near 
in time and too much involved in interests to get the 
proper perspective for a just estimate, but one wonders if 
in the years to come this Connecticut Valley shall not be 
better known and more widely honored for this illustrious 
deed of Mary Lyon than for anything else that ever 
happened here. 




This question comes to us, in view of the vast results : 

Would Mary Lyon be surprised at tlie growth \i she saw 
Mount Holyoke to-day? I think not She believed 
in it, she expected it, she prophesied it. Her watchwords 
were Holiness to the Lord, — ^and Progress. 

Mary Lyoii was emphatically fifty years in advance of 
her time. Were she living to-day she would not be fifty 
years behind. The institution must not be ruled by any 
cold dead hand of tradition, but by a warm living spirit 
Mary Lyon is still at the head and in the heart of the 
college, only as there is growth, progress, more abund- 
ant life. The institution must still retain its old spirit of 
simplicity and commonsense, of sacrifice and sanctity, 
but if Mary Lyon be in it still, as she is, there must be a 
seizing of the present providential opportunity of the 
calamity of fire to make an enlargement of scope and 
accommodation for an enlarged service. 

We appreciate most thoroughly the later and the present 
work done by such large and vigorous institutions as Smith 
and Wellesley in our state, but we give special honor to 
Mount Holyoke as the pioneer-worker apd the mother of 
them all and we owe her a special debt of gratitude. 

No institution has ever done better work with its 
money; no institution has ever made every single dollar 
tell so well ; no institution has ever had a finer educational 
output of alumnae and yet no institutions has received 
less. Money in abundance has gone into the new educa- 
tional work, but little at South Hadley. Friends, the 
cause and work of Mount Holyoke is a cause close to the 
heart of the common people. They inaugurated it and 
they should generously sustain it. 

Constantly astonishing is it to read the history of this 

movement and see how much the common people — the 
farmers and the small business men — did for the cause of 
education in the latter part of the last century and the 
beginning of this. Ideals and sacrifices were in their 
blood. It is a tremendous lesson to us. 

They believed in these things with all their hearts and 
were willing to give and give again till they felt it and 
grew strong under it. 

We need more of their spirit — we need more iron in 
our blood — more of a strong and tonic religion — ntore of 
the gladness of heroic sacrifice. 

It is still the part of the common people, the heart and 
strength of the state, to sustain and enlarge this college. 
There has been an enlistment of rich people in various 
lines — such institutions as Vassar and Smith have vastly 
profited by these princely gifts — but Mount Holyoke has 
still to depend largely on the smaller gifts of those who 
beheve in her and /o7'e her. She is still a college of the 
people, by the people, for the people. She had done, as 
we said, more splendid work and received less money than 
the other women's colleges and yet she is the mother of 
them all. 

One may be glad for some reasons that this is so. 
It still lays a noble burden on the people. It still 
gives them a magnificent opportunity. Dr. Pearsons, 
a man of the people, a Chicopee physician in the old 
days, a personal friend of Mary Lyon, is a connecting 
link between the old days and the new. Let the people 
unite with him in seconding generously his gifts. Let 
everything be given with prayer, and not merely to Mount 
Holyoke, but to the Lord for Mount Holyoke* 


Mount Holyoke college ought to he a monumental pUe, 
worthy of the faith of its founder, worthy of the great- 
ness of the movement that it inaugurated, worthy of the 
heroic people who so nobly and so self-sacrificingly began 
its work, worthy of the Lord in whose name and to 
whose glory it is forever in covenant.