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Education] Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

Address to the Christian Public.


Fundraising Prospectus For
Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, 1835
[Education]. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Address to the Christian Public. [Northampton, MA: Mary Lyons, 1835].
8vo.; single leaf, both sides printed; fragile paper, one small closed tear, carefully repaired with cellotape; edges lightly worn. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First and only edition of a scarce prospectus printed and distributed as a fundraising vehicle for Mount Holyoke Female Academy, later Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke, founded by feminist teacher Mary Lyons, opened its doors to students in 1837; it was the first permanently endowed, nonprofit boarding seminary offering young women the equivalent of a college education. (Vassar College, founded in 1864 by brewery owner Matthew Vassar, would become the first official all-women's college, attaining this status because Holyoke initially served as an "academy," or secondary school.) This prospectus is dated 1835 in an unknown hand; the content, referring always to a school in its planning stages, confirms that the flyer predates the school itself.
The prospectus, addressed to "Brethren and Friends," relies on the language of Christian charity to gain support for its ambitious, and then-revolutionary, agenda. In part:
...In the prosecution of her plans to save this nation, which at times seems to be rocking on its foundations, and to save the world from the dominion of sin and all its consequent darkness, the church has gladly availed herself of every means which the providence of God has offered....
Hitherto the church has taken no special pains to train the minds of her daughters and fit them by means of a Christian education, for great usefulness...While we have literally expended millions to rear up Institutions for the male sex, and while we have formed Education Societies and have called upon our sisters in the church to aid us even by the slow earnings of their needles, and while we have received most efficient and indispensable aid from them in carrying forward these plans, what have we done towards fitting the Female for the high and responsible influence which she may properly exert in behalf of a perishing world? We have had woman to gladden us in prosperity, to soften, refine, and adorn society, to soothe us in the hour of sorrow, and to be a ministering spirit when on the bed of sickness. But we have never yet erected a single public Institution, owned, watched over, and guarded by the religious community, at which she could fit her mind for great and decided usefulness. It seems to the Committee whose duty and privilege it is now to address you, that the church cannot longer do without such an auxiliary as the disciplined mind of the Christian female will afford, nor longer overlook it as a means of reaching and saving this country and the world...
Mary Lyons's concept for Mount Holyoke Female Academy was born in 1831. It grew out of her many years of frustration at the sub-standard educational opportunities then available for young women. She undertook a national tour of girl's schools in 1833, taking notes for her proposed project, and in 1835 she published a series of brief fundraising appeals for the planned school. This prospectus is certainly one of the earliest of these appeals; it may well be the earliest. By 1835, Lyons had raised several thousand dollars towards the establishment of Mount Holyoke. The school was chartered in 1836 in South Hadley, Massachusetts; the main building, a four-story Georgian structure, opened its doors to eighty students the following November.
An important women's history document on several counts: the prospectus preserves Lyon's initial vision of the earliest college-level educational institution for women; it also stands as lasting evidence of her considerable skills as a fundraiser.

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