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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Mary Lyon

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There are two women whose memory the girls in this country should especially revere,--Mary Lyon and Catharine Beecher. When it was unfashionable for women to know more than to read, write, and cipher (the "three R's," as reading, writing, and arithmetic were called), these two had the courage to ask that women have an education equal to men, a thing which was laughed at as impracticable and impossible. To these two pioneers we are greatly indebted for the grand educational advantages for women to-day in America.

Amid the mountains of Western Massachusetts, at Buckland, Feb. 28, 1797, the fifth of seven children, Mary Lyon came into the world, in obscurity. The little farm-house was but one story high, in the midst of rocks and sturdy trees. The father, Aaron Lyon, was a godly man, beloved by all his neighbors,--"the peacemaker," he was called,--who died at forty-five, leaving his little family well-nigh helpless--no, not helpless, because the mother was of the same material of which Eliza Garfields are made.

Such women are above circumstances. She saw to it that the farm yielded its best. She worked early and late, always cheerful, always observing the Sabbath most devotedly, always keeping the children clean and tidy. In her little garden the May pinks were the sweetest and the peonies the reddest of any in the neighborhood. One person begged to set a plant in the corner of her garden, sure that if Mrs. Lyon tended it, it could never die. "How is it," said the hard-working wife of a farmer, "that the widow can do more for me than any one else?" She had her trials, but she saw no use in telling them to others, so with a brave heart she took up her daily tasks and performed them.

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Little Mary was an energetic, frank, warm-hearted child, full of desire to help others. Her mind was eager in grasping new things, and curious in its investigations. Once, when her mother had given her some work to do, she climbed upon a chair to look at the hour-glass, and said, as she studied it, "I know I have found a way to make more time."

At the village school she showed a remarkable memory and the power of committing lessons easily. She was especially good in mathematics and grammar. In four days she learned all of Alexander's Grammar, which scholars were accustomed to commit, and recited it accurately to the astonished teacher.

When Mary was thirteen, the mother married a second time, and soon after removed to Ohio. The girl remained at the old homestead, keeping house for the only brother, and so well did she do the work, that he gave her a dollar a week for her services. This she used in buying books and clothes for school. Besides, she found opportunities to spin and weave for some of the neighbors, and thus added a little more to her purse.

After five years, the brother married and sought a home in New York State. Mary, thus thrown upon herself, began to teach school for seventy-five cents a week and her board. This amount would not buy many silks or embroideries, but Mary did not care much for these. "She is all intellect," said a friend who knew her well; "she does not know that she has a body to care for."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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