Feast of Mary Lyon (February 29)   1 comment

Above:  Mary Lyon

Image in the Public Domain

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MARY MASON LYON (FEBRUARY 28, 1797-MARCH 5, 1849)

U.S. Congregationalist Feminist and Educator

Mary Lyon comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Ideas that have become mainstream used to be revolutionary.  Consider, O reader, gender roles, especially those proscribed for women in the United States of America.  Astute students of women’s history know of Republican Motherhood and Separate Spheres.

Republican Motherhood was the idea that women were supposed to be mothers of the republic.  Their job was supposedly to raise good citizens, not to seek and hold public office or have careers, much less to vote.  Women could respectably lobby office holders, but not exercise power.  Men and women moved in Separate Spheres.  Education reinforced the subordinate roles of women; the curricula for male and female students differed.

Mary Lyon challenged this.  She, raised a Baptist, debuted in Buckland, Massachusetts, on February 28, 1797.  She, the sixth of eight children, grew up in a poor family on a farm.  Our saint’s father died when she was five years old.  Lyon mastered the essential skills of daily survival on a farm.  She was also inquisitive beyond the knowledge of social norms dictated for women; Lyon found geology fascinating.  She made time for studies.  Lyon found a mentor, Congregationalist minister Joseph Emerson, one of her teachers.  He, unlike many other men of the time and place, treated women as intelligent people.  Under his influence, she became a Congregationalist.

Lyon, a teacher at various schools, affirmed the right of girls and women to equal formal education (including college) with boys and men.  She linked this cause to the Great Commission, for she argued that well-educated women were better evangelists than poorly-educated women were.  Our saint proved instrumental in founding Wheaton Female Seminary (now College), Wheaton, Massachusetts, in 1835.  That school was the first one in the United States to offer female students a curriculum equal to that for male students.  Lyon founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now College), South Hadley, Massachusetts, which opened on November 9, 1837.  She, having raised funds for the institution, served as its first principal for more than a decade.

Lyon, aged 52 years, died of natural causes in South Hadley, on March 5, 1849.

Her influence has continued.

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Living God, whose image all people bear, we thank you for the life and legacy of your servant Mary Mason Lyon,

who rejected social norms that mandated a curriculum that reinforced the subordinate roles of women in the United States of America.

May we, as a society and as individuals, cease to hold back segments of our society

from achieving their potential, and therefore, from holding our society back.

May we do this for your glory and for the common good.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 1:26-27

Psalm 100

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 10:38-42

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WHATELY, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY; ECONOMISTS

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One response to “Feast of Mary Lyon (February 29)

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  1. Good for her! What a woman!

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