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Brown Papers, 1848-1920 (Bulk: 1848-1854)
1 box (2.5 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0637 (LD 7092.8 Brown)

Brown, Mary Quincy, 1828-1920; Educator. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1849. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary faculty member, 1849-1852. Papers contain correspondence, compositions, information sheet from 1915, clippings and notes. Mainly consisting of correspondence to parents regarding her experience at Mount Holyoke with special note of deaths, including the death of Mary Lyon. Letters written by Susan Brown, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1851 and her parents are included in the collection.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Mary Quincy Brown was born on April 29, 1828, and was a member of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary Class of 1849. After graduating, she taught at the Seminary from 1849-1852. Her sister Susan Brown (Class of 1851) also taught from 1851-1852. Brown was originally from Newburyport, Massachusetts but during her lifetime lived in New York State, Indiana and Ohio. Brown also took care of her aged parents and worked to help immigrants and the poor. She died in 1920.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mary Quincy Brown Papers include correspondence (March 9, 1848- January 13, 1912), a composition entitled "Mary Lyon as Missionary Educator", an information sheet from 1915, an Alumnae Quarterly clipping from 1920, and a note regarding Brown and life at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Most letters are written by Brown and her sister Susan Brown (Class of 1851) and are addressed to their parents, regarding health, deaths (including the death of Mary Lyon), and general news of the Seminary. Other letters are from their parents addressed to them, and one is from their father to Mary Lyon regarding Susan's admission.

This collection is organized into three series:

  • Correspondence (1848-1854)
  • Other Writings (circa 1885-1912)
  • General Material (1849-1852)

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
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Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

The Mary Quincy Brown Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence

This collection includes 23 letters dating over a period of two and a half years from March 9, 1848 until October 10, 1850, all written to or from Mount Holyoke Seminary. Mary Quincy Brown was a member of the Class of 1849 and taught at the Seminary from 1849 - 1852. Her younger sister, Susan, was a member of the Class of 1851 and taught from 1851 - 1852, The family resided in Newburyport and there are letters from the parents to their daughters, but most of the letters are written by Mary or Susan, or the two together, while they were at Mount Holyoke.

Both Mary and Susan were at Mount Holyoke at the time of Mary Lyon's death. The health of both students and teachers was clearly a matter of ongoing concern. The letters reveal little of personal reactions to the Seminary experience and perhaps it is worth noting that many years later Mary reported that she had been dreadfully homesick but carefully concealed this when writing home. Susan also commented a number of times that she had made few acquaintances. The family appeared to be friends of the Condits and the girls were frequent callers on Mrs. Condit and Helen.

There is one additional letter written in 1854 by Father Brown to his wife about a trip to Philadelphia.

Of special note:

Mar. 9Father to Mary Lyon about Susan's admission; 16 years old and "disciplined in reading, studying and thinking from early childhood." Math, Virgil.
Apr. 11Missionary subscription. Friends leaving on account of health.
Oct. 4List of needs including sewing materials and food.
Oct. 18Wants Polyglot Bible. Miss Whitman is unwell and leaving.
Nov. 14Mary is making up "minus time in domestic work." Susan describes daily schedule; wipes dishes and scours knives. Recites Latin, grammar, history. Likes the teachers. Model of Jerusalem in Northampton. Mary reports Senior and Middle Classes all mixed up but now separated and Senior Class has 21. Wants parents to visit and go up Mount Holyoke.
Dec. 1Thanksgiving.
Feb. 13Lots of colds. Miss Lyon lectures on bringing eatables or having them sent. Copelands wants missionary teachers for Choctaws. Miss Hosmer and Miss Preble to go.
Feb. 22Student (Wingate) ill with erysipelas.
Feb. 28Death of student. Dr. Brooks very well acquainted with disease "having been where it was very prevalent a few years ago." Stayed with her night and day. But Miss Lyon, worn out by care and anxiety, and having a little of the influensa bef ore, "sunk under it and has been quite sick ever since." Doctor stayed with her two nights. Teachers worn down. Miss Fiske had influensa but "as a general thing the health of the school is very good." Mary Quincy brown, 1849 1849 coast Deacon Porter tried to visit Miss Lyon. Burden on Miss Hazen. Miss Lyon told us "it was best frankly to state the case to our parents."
Mar. 7Death of Miss Lyon. Might have recovered but "suffered so much from nervous excitement that she could not rest at all." Loves Miss Hazen. Miss Scott has whole care of domestic work. Miss Hazen very retiring, shrinks from public notice but "talks so beautifully."
Mar. 14All in love with Miss Hazen. Students say they never knew her before. Funeral; teachers wore black crepe on their bonnets. Mr. Laurie at burial.
Mar. 21Wind causing rooms to smoke.
Mar. 27Mary's religious beliefs.
May 7Mother urges rhubarb and chamomile flowers for health.
May 10Mary describes return trip to South Hadley. Miss Curtis died two weeks after leaving. Miss Whitman advises that Susan should spend two more years.
June 14Miss Whitman wishes to know if students want a school, when and where. If only Mary had courage she would "like to go far out in the west among the destitute." Longs to earn her own living so she can give to missionary subscription "as much as I pleased;" wishes she had "some of Miss Lyon's benevolence and self-denial." Miss Lyon said night before fast day to lay aside all studies and worldly pursuits. Miss Fiske to be married. Cholera in Boston. Dr. Brooks will not permit rhubarb pie, though all were made. Five deaths since beginning of winter term. Miss Tolman's sea journal.
Jul. 27Wants to stay for anniversary to hear Dr. Hitchcock's eulogy. Four seniors coming back to teach. Miss Fiske delighted with wedding gift of girls.
Nov. 23What does mother think about Mary going as teacher to Creek Indians, near Arkansas River. Expenses for travel paid, plus board, fuel, washing, lights and $100. Suicide by drowning of young lady here - lots of excitement in quiet village.
Dec. 10Father writes he will keep girls "in funds." Hopes for teaching place near home. Sends clipping of Dr. Parkman's "supposed murder."
Mar. 8Susan wrote to her father that she was tired of study and "staying here." Miss Hazen felt there was a great tendency to want to go before the close of the term but she thought it best to stay, although she herself would be away until the last week of the term. Miss Whitman was sick (very weak that morning) and unable to see anyone, so only Miss Chapin was left. Susan would like her mother to visit but she wanted her to see Miss Hazen.
(spring)Miss Chapin seems "rather cold." New wing. Beds in drying room.
Oct. 10Mary writes she is at Seminary long enough - "tired of it." New principal from west. Mary wants to leave - "my health will never hold out" Duties of teachers "constant wear and tear" - very homesick.
Nov. 11The first part of this joint ..:letter addressed to their mother was written by Susan and concerned items which Mrs. Brown was to bring on a visit to the Seminary: crotched cuffs, linen collars, a yard "of that patch." In the second part Mary asks fo r silk for aprons, her night caps (only two are at the Seminary) and olives if she can get them.

CR Ludwig

April 1991, November 2001

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

Email Reference Form:
Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Brown, Mary Quincy
  • Lyon, Mary, 1797-1849 Death.
  • Mount Holyoke College - Domestic work
  • Mount Holyoke College - Schedules
  • Mount Holyoke College - Student life
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Faculty.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - History - Sources.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Regulations.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Students.
  • Women - Health and hygiene - United States - History - Sources.

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