The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 42. Mary Lyon

The pioneer work of Mrs. Willard in founding the Troy Academy was followed by that of Mary Lyon in the founding of Mount Holyoke Seminary (1837). Miss Lyon’s one contribution to literature, aside from the circular of the institution, was Female Education (1839), which was but an enlarged prospectus of the Seminary and a defence of the type of education then offered to girls. By a narrow margin the institution escaped being labelled “The Pangynaikean Seminary,” and by a margin quite as narrow did the education offered vary from the traditional formal education of young men. The tendency to make women’s newly won privilege a mere copy of the formal education offered to men is revealed in a yet more extreme form in the next step, the establishment of the first women’s college, Vassar, in 1861. Nevertheless the literary documents produced by these foundations are far more radical than the views prevalent and reveal a greater independence of thought than do the institutions in their practice.

The literary discussions called forth by this subject during this entire period while voluminous in quantity have only historical interest; nor had the cause any advocates who can compare in literary skill or influence with Hannah More or Maria Edgeworth.