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 campus was designated a botanical garden in 1878, and the first head gardener was employed. Construction of the 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.
The primary mission of the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden is to maintain a diverse, well-documented and accurately labeled living plant collection that supports and enhances teaching and research for the faculty and students of Mount Holyoke College. The plant collection should be displayed in a well-designed, visually pleasing manner that promotes knowledge and interest in plants. The Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden should also promote conservation of the world's natural resources and a better understanding and appreciation of the relationship between humanity and the rest of the natural world.