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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Mary Lyon

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Finally, in the autumn of 1837, the seminary was ready for pupils. The main building, four stories high, had been erected. An admirable course of study had been provided. For the forty weeks of the school year, the charges for board and tuition were sixty dollars,--only one dollar and twenty-five cents per week. Miss Lyon's own salary was but two hundred a year and she never would receive anything higher. The accommodations were only for eighty pupils, but one hundred and sixteen came the first year.

While Miss Lyon was heartily loved by her scholars, they yet respected her good discipline. It was against the rules for any one to absent herself from meals without permission to do so. One of the young ladies, not feeling quite as fresh as usual, concluded not to go down stairs at tea time, and to remain silent on the subject. Miss Lyon's quick eye detected her absence. Calling the girl's room-mate to her, she asked, "Is Miss ---- ill?"

"Oh, no," was the reply, "only a little indisposed, and she commissioned me to carry her a cup of tea and cracker."

"Very well, I will see to it."

After supper, the young lady ascended to her room, in the fourth story, found her companion enjoying a glorious sunset, and seating herself beside her, they began an animated conversation. Presently there was a knock. "Come in!" both shouted gleefully, when lo! in walked Mary Lyon, with the tea and cracker. She had come up four flights of stairs; but she said every one was tired at night, and she could as well bring up the supper as anybody. She inquired with great kindness about the young lady's health, who, greatly abashed, had nothing to say. She was ever after present at meal time, unless sick in bed.

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The students never forgot Miss Lyon's plain, earnest words. When they entered, they were told that they were expected to do right without formal commands; if not, they better go to some smaller school, where they could receive the peculiar training needed by little girls. She urged loose clothing and thick shoes. "If you will persist in killing yourselves by reckless exposure," she would say, "we are not willing to take the responsibility of the act. We think, by all means, you better go home and die, in the arms of your dear mothers."

Miss Lyon had come to her fiftieth birthday. Her seminary had prospered beyond her fondest hopes. She had raised nearly seventy thousand dollars for her beloved school, and it was out of debt. Nearly two thousand pupils had been at South Hadley, of whom a large number had become missionaries and teachers. Not a single year had passed without a revival, and rarely did a girl leave the institution without professing Christianity.

She said to a friend shortly after this fiftieth birthday: "It was the most solemn day of my life. I devoted it to reflection and prayer. Of my active toils I then took leave. I was certain that before another fifty years should have elapsed, I should wake up amid far different scenes, and far other thoughts would fill my mind, and other employments would engage my attention. I felt it. There seemed to be no ladder between me and the world above. The gates were opened, and I seemed to stand on the threshold. I felt that the evening of my days had come, and that I needed repose."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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