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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Mary Lyon

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Miss Lyon's friends discouraged her going to Byfield, because they thought she knew enough already. "Why," said they, "you will never be a minister, and what is the need of going to school?" She improved her time here. One of her classmates wrote home, "Mary sends love to all; but time with her is too precious to spend it in writing letters. She is gaining knowledge by handfuls."

The next year, an assistant was wanted in the Sanderson Academy. The principal thought a man must be engaged. "Try Mary Lyon," said one of her friends, "and see if she is not sufficient," and he employed her, and found her a host. But she could not long be retained, for she was wanted in a larger field, at Derry, N.H. Miss Grant, one of the teachers at Mr. Emerson's school, had sent for her former bright pupil. Mary was glad to be associated with Miss Grant, for she was very fond of her; but before going, she must attend some lectures in chemistry and natural history by Professor Eaton at Amherst. Had she been a young man, how easily could she have secured a scholarship, and thus worked her way through college; but for a young woman, neither Amherst, nor Dartmouth, nor Williams, nor Harvard, nor Yale, with all their wealth, had an open door. Very fond of chemistry, she could only learn in the spare time which a busy professor could give.

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Was the cheerful girl never despondent in these hard working years? Yes; because naturally she was easily discouraged, and would have long fits of weeping; but she came to the conclusion that such seasons of depression were wrong, and that "there was too much to be done, for her to spend her time in that manner." She used to tell her pupils that "if they were unhappy, it was probably because they had so many thoughts about themselves, and so few about the happiness of others." The friend who had recommended her for the Sanderson Academy now became surety for her for forty dollars' worth of clothing, and the earnest young woman started for Derry. The school there numbered ninety pupils, and Mary Lyon was happy. She wrote her mother, "I do not number it among the least of my blessings that I am permitted to do something. Surely I ought to be thankful for an active life."

But the Derry school was held only in the summers, so Miss Lyon came back to teach at Ashfield and Buckland, her birthplace, for the winters. The first season she had twenty-five scholars; the last, one hundred. The families in the neighborhood took the students into their homes to board, charging them one dollar or one dollar and twenty-five cents per week, while the tuition was twenty-five cents a week. No one would grow very rich on such an income. So popular was Miss Lyon's teaching that a suitable building was erected for her school, and the Ministerial Association passed a resolution of praise, urging her to remain permanently in the western part of Massachusetts.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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