OF THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY of College founder Mary Lyon's birth (on February
28, 1797), MHC has created a new World Wide Web site devoted to her life,
times, and achievements. The multifaceted site will eventually include links
to the College's vast collection of archival materials about Mary Lyon and
her era and the early days of higher education for women. The first segment
of this evolving Web site is already online. It was designed especially for
middle-school students, but has material to interest all ages.
For example, one unit paints a picture of daily life in Mount Holyoke's early years. Students' rooms were heated by Franklin stoves (fueled with wood that students carried from the basement) and lit with oil and gas lamps; the school day lasted seventeen hours and was punctuated by bells every fifteen minutes; and students combined rigorous academic courses with daily devotions, exercise, and domestic work. Another unit recounts Mary Lyon's influence on science education for women. She required an unprecedented seven courses in science and math for graduation, and introduced the method of teaching science by having students perform lab experiments themselves.
"The Web site is a wonderfully engaging resource," says Martha Ackmann, assistant professor of women's studies. "Although Mary Lyon certainly is recognized around Mount Holyoke, outside the Pioneer Valley her life and accomplishments are woefully unrecognized. I welcome this use of new technology because it brings to life the stunning breadth of Mary Lyon's achievement and it demonstrates the College's commitment to reaching outside its gates in support of women's education."
According to Cheri Cross, director of communications, Mary Lyon's story is one that resonates far beyond the College community. "Lyon is in every way a visionary, an American hero who single-handedly changed the course of education for women. We believe it's a fitting tribute to Lyon to make her story as accessible as possible to young people looking for role models," she says. "The fact that more and more schools are connecting to the Internet was one of the reasons we chose this vehicle; but we also like the idea of Mary Lyon--who was a pioneer in her own time--taking a leap into the newest communications medium."
During February, the site was promoted on the Web, in publications for teachers, and by mailings to middle school educators. The College is also working with alumnae club presidents to spread the word nationwide about the site. Lu Stone '60 wrote the text for the site, which was developed by the Office of Communications. Many others helped create the site, including local educators and Peter Carini and Patricia Albright, College archivists.