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Building a Fortune


You, who men's fortunes In their faces read.

As a man at work for a living may aim to secure money, or more abundant life, or both, so in fortune building one may erect a memo rial either to Mammon regnant in the world about him, or to his eternal divinity regnant within him. Hence a man may make his for tune of things heaped up as great possessions, or of the power, liberated by true education, which persists in sending itself forward into the future as an ever-widening circle of ac tivity.

Young men and women intent upon secur ing the fortune that is spelled in the posses sion of things, rush to the cities in the hope that the abundance of wealth there will make it easier for them to attain a portion of it.

Somewhat over half a century ago, a sim ple, true-minded woman said : "The country town will always furnish the material out of which many leaders will be developed." This woman recognized that true leadership is dis tinctly a quality of the individuality back of mind, and body, and environment, that it is primarily a spiritual impulse.

The woman who wrote this sentence was a leader, a teacher, a human being ever impelled by the force of the spirit within herself. Her name was Mary Lyon. On a salary that never averaged over seventy cents a day she built a true and everlasting fortune. Her fortune was expressed in a form that remains a per petual reminder, not alone of Mary Lyon, for she thought nothing of herself, but of the prin ciple for which she labored. And that principle is this: True fortune-building comes not from the possession of things but from the fiat of creation spoken in the chaos of life.

This woman is known as the Queen of Teachers ; a title not bestowed upon her in the pomp and circumstance of a coronation, but one she won living and received after she died. She is a true queen, nevertheless.

What made Mary Lyon famous? To begin with, she had not much education. She was twenty-five years old before she could speak grammatically. She wrote no books. She earned little money. The largest salary she ever received was two hundred and sixty dollars per year, or five dollars per week, or a trifle over seventy cents per day.

Mary Lyon established the first endowed and equipped seminary for girls, particularly for poor girls, in the United Staates. This is Mount Holyoke Seminary, at South Hadley, Mass.

Despite her handicaps of fortune and edu cation, she made it possible for girls to get an education at the lowest possible cost, and she raised sixty thousand dollars for land, build ings and equipment.

Mary Lyon was born in Buckland, a town in western Massachusetts, February 28, 1797. Her father, a farmer, died when Mary was six years of age, and the care of raising the seven children fell to the mother. All the chil dren helped run the farm. Besides what they raised for sustenance, they had a wonderful flower garden. This means that they loved not only the crops of the earth but its beauty.

Mary went to a district school, a mile from home. At the age of ten she worked for her board in a family in the adjoining town of Ashfield, and earned her schooling. At six teen she began teaching school for seventy-five cents a week and her board. The school term was twenty weeks, hence her salary for the year was fifteen dollars, but she added to it by spinning and weaving, and at twenty she had saved enough to go to an academy. When her funds gave out she sold all the little property of bedding and table linen she owned in order to study a little longer. Often she slept only four hours, and devoted every other moment to study.

Thus she went on teaching and studying until the fact was clear to her that there should be available just as fine educational privileges for girls as for boys. This thought was never absent from her mind, and finally she succeed ed in raising, among comparatively poor people, the necessary money. She demanded that the teachers be first class and work for a small salary. She fixed her own salary at two hun dred dollars. This reduced her maximum wages to less than four dollars per week, or about sixty cents per day. Further, she re quired that the girls do the housework, so as to limit the year's expenses of each stu dent to sixty dollars. Though these conditions were made fun of and held to be impracticable, she succeeded in securing fine teachers. When the doors of the new school were opened more than three hundred young women from twenty states applied for admission. The building could accommodate but eighty-five. But Mary Lyon succeeded in housing one hundred and twenty-five of them; the others had to return home. In the first twelve years nearly two thousand four hundred young women were educated at the seminary.

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