Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, was founded by Mary Lyon in 1837, a time when higher education for women was a radical idea and teaching science to women was nearly unheard of. Not only does this liberal arts college flourish today with over 2000 undergraduates, but the chain of commitment by excellent faculty members to teach science to women has also continued unbroken to the present time.
One of these teachers was Lydia Shattuck, professor of botany from 1851-1889. Under her guidance the botanic garden was established in 1878, and the first head gardener was employed. Construction of the Talcott Greenhouse complex was completed in 1899 with the stated purpose of adding the needed opportunity for a broader range of botanical study.
Two goals stand out consistently in the horticultural history of Mount Holyoke College: to increase diversity of plants on campus in order to perpetuate and expand Mary Lyon's vision of the campus as an outdoor teaching laboratory, and to arrange plants on campus in a visually pleasing manner. These two missions remain valid today and are the core concepts for the current Mission Statement.
Plants are essential to life. Through its programs and collections the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden promotes an understanding and appreciation of the botanical world by serving as a plant-based resource for education, research, conservation, and inspiration.