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Mount Holyoke College is a liberal arts college for women in South Hadleymarker, Massachusettsmarker. It is a member of the Seven Sisters and one of the oldest women's colleges in the United States. Mount Holyoke is part of the Pioneer Valley's Five College Consortium, along with Amherst Collegemarker, Smith Collegemarker, Hampshire Collegemarker, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The school was originally founded by Mary Lyon as Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. It received its collegiate charter in 1888 as Mount Holyoke Seminary and College and became Mount Holyoke College in 1893. Mount Holyoke's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1905.

Mount Holyoke was designed and landscaped between 1896 and 1922 by the landscape architecture firm of Olmsted and Sons. It is also home to a Donald Ross-designed 18-hole golf course, The Orchards, which served as host to the U.S. Women's Open Championship in 2004.


Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1837
Mount Holyoke in 1887

Mount Holyoke's founder, Mary Lyon, is considered by many scholars to be an educational innovator in the area of women's education. Her establishment of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was part of a larger movement to create institutions of higher education for young women during the early half of the 19th century. Lyon's contemporaries include Sarah Pierce (Litchfield Female Academy, 1792); Catharine Beecher (Hartford Female Seminary, 1823); Zilpah P. Grant Banister (Ipswich Female Seminary, 1828). Prior to founding Mount Holyoke, Lyon contributed to the development of both Hartford Female Seminary and Ipswich Female Seminary. She was also involved in the creation of Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College, Massachusettsmarker) in 1834.Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was originally chartered as a teaching seminary in 1836 and opened its doors to students on 8 November 1837. Both Vassar Collegemarker and Wellesley Collegemarker were patterned after Mount Holyoke.

From its founding in 1837, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary "had no religious affiliation". However, "students were required to attend church services, chapel talks, prayer meetings, and Bible study groups. Twice a day teachers and students spent time in private devotions. Every dorm room had two large lighted closets to give roommates privacy during their devotions". Mount Holyoke Female Seminary was the sister school to Andover Seminarymarker. Some Andover graduates looked to marry students from the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before becoming missionaries because the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) required its missionaries to be married before starting their missions. By 1859, there were more than 60 missionary alumnae; by 1887, the school's alumnae comprised one fifth of all female American missionaries for the ABCFM; and by the end of the century, 248 of its alumnae had entered the mission field.

Mount Holyoke Female Seminary received its collegiate charter in 1888, becoming Mount Holyoke Seminary and College. In 1893, it became Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1905. It has been a sister school to Women's Christian College in Chennaimarker, Tamil Nadumarker, Indiamarker since 1920. In the early 1970s, Mount Holyoke had a long debate under the presidency of David Truman over the issue of coeducation. On 6 November 1971, the board of trustees voted to remain a women's college.

On February 28, 1987, the United States Postal Service's Great Americans Series issued a postage stamp featuring Mary Lyon in honor of Mount Holyoke's Sesquicentennial (Mount Holyoke's 150th anniversary).


Majors, minors, and degrees

Mount Holyoke offers 49 departmental and interdepartmental majors, including the option to design a special major. The primary degree conferred is the bachelor of arts (A.B.) degree, for which students complete 128 semester credits (one standard course equals 4 credits). At least 68 credits must be earned from course work outside the major department, across the three curricular divisions: humanities, science and mathematics, and social sciences. Study of a foreign language and completion of a multicultural perspectives course are also required.

In addition to the A.B., Mount Holyoke offers a master’s degree in psychology. Other programs include dual-degree programs in engineering with the California Institute of Technologymarker, the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth Collegemarker, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst; the Frances Perkins Program, for women over the age of 24 who wish to complete the requirements for a bachelor of arts degree; and the Postbaccalaureate Studies Program, for students who have already earned an undergraduate degree and wish to complete additional course work in preparation for graduate work in medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, dentistry, or physical therapy science.

Mount Holyoke’s membership in the Five College Consortium allows students to enroll in courses at Amherst Collegemarker, Smith Collegemarker, Hampshire Collegemarker, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They may also complete one of 12 Five College Certificates—among them African studies, Buddhist studies, coastal and marine sciences, cognitive neuroscience, international relations, and Middle Eastern studies—in lieu of a minor.

Academic centers

Four academic centers—the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, the Center for the Environment, and the Science Center —support the academic program through public lectures by visiting scholars, conferences on issues of pressing concern, mentoring and internship opportunities, and hands-on learning experiences. The Weissman Center’s Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program provides opportunities for developing leadership and communication skills, including the ability to effectively frame, articulate, and advocate positions. The Community-Based Learning Program links students with community-based organizations in courses that combine analysis and action.

Study abroad

Mount Holyoke has study abroad programs and exchanges for full-year or semester study in France, Senegal, Costa Rica, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Germany, Spain, and the UK, as well as a summer program in China and January Term programs in the Republic of Georgia and South Africa. Each year more than 200 Mount Holyoke students, representing approximately 40 percent of the junior class, study for a semester or academic year at universities and programs abroad.


Mount Holyoke’s library includes more than 740,000 print volumes, 1,600 periodicals, and more than 140,000 electronic resources. Through the Five College Consortium, students have access to more than 8 million volumes. A help desk and diagnostic center provide computer support. The MEWS (Mediated Educational Work Space) supports collaborative multimedia learning with group project rooms, wall-mounted plasma displays, a digitization center, and a faculty development area.


The campus was designed and landscaped between 1896 and 1922 by the landscape architecture firm of Olmsted and Sons. In addition to the Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden, the campus includes two lakes, several waterfalls, tennis courts, stables and woodland riding trails. The campus is also home to the Mount Holyoke College Art Museummarker which is part of the Five College Museums/Historic Deerfield and the Museums10. An independent bookstore, The Odyssey Bookshop, is located directly across from the campus in the college-owned Village Commons. Mount Holyoke has instituted “The Big Turn Off” energy conservation campaign. It also focuses on "green" building with five LEED certified buildings on campus. It has reduced its environmental impact by recycling 40% of waste and composting as well as utilizing produce grown in the student-run organic garden within dining halls.

The home of Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge, known as "The Sycamores", served as a dormitory for the college from 1915-1970. The mansion, built in 1788 by Colonel Woodbridge, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mount Holyoke is also close to the cities of Amherstmarker and Northamptonmarker as well as to two malls: Hampshire Mallmarker and Holyoke Mall. The Mount Holyoke Range State Parkmarker is also close to the campus.


Named after nearby Mount Holyokemarker, it is a member of the Pioneer Valley's Five College Consortium, the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges, the Annapolis Group, and the Oberlin Group. It was a part of the The New College Plan. It is currently a part of The Consortium on Financing Higher Education and The Knowledge Corridor.

WMHCmarker (91.5 FM) is a radio station licensed to serve South Hadley, Massachusettsmarker. The station is owned by Mount Holyoke College and licensed to the Trustees of Mount Holyoke.


Mount Holyoke has a student population of 2,200. Students come from "48 states and nearly 70 countries. One in three students is an international citizen or African American, Asian American, Latina, Native American, or multiracial. Thirty-six percent of incoming first-year students were in the top five percent of their high school classes". Mount Holyoke also attracts a large international population. Although Mount Holyoke only considers female applicants for admission, it will award diplomas to transgendered students who become male or identify themselves as male by the time they complete their studies. To reflect this fact, in 2005 Mount Holyoke's Student Government Association amended its constitution so that the word "she" was replaced with "student." Additionally, male students may enroll in classes through the Five College Consortium.

Student groups

Mount Holyoke offers a number of student groups and organizations. Themes include Art, Academics, Club Sports, Entertainment & the Performing Arts, Politics & Activism, Governing Organizations and Religious organizations.

It also has a student run group, True Colors for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. The Princeton Review rates Mount Holyoke fifth among its "Top 20 Gay Friendly Colleges". However, some students and alumnae feel that acceptance of transgender students at Mount Holyoke violates the women’s college charter.


The Kathryn Irene Glascock Awards, grants The Glascock Prize to the winner of this annual event (which has been held at Mount Holyoke since 1924).

The Faculty Show takes place once every four years, around 1 April faculty members create a show which parodies themselves and their students.

The Junior Show (also known as J-Show) refers to a show created by Juniors (and a few professors) who parody life at Mount Holyoke. A common feature is a sketch mocking the president and dean of the college, along with well-known professors.

Mountain Day begins with the sound of ringing bells from Abbey Chapel on a beautiful autumn morning secretly chosen by the President of the College and all classes are canceled for the day and many students hike to the summit of nearby Mount Holyokemarker.

M&C's, originally called Milk & Crackers, is now referred to as Milk & Cookies. M&Cs are a nightly snack provided by dormitory dining halls, but also refer to a popular student a cappella group, M&Cs (Milk and Cookies)

The following traditions are organized by the Class Boards of each year.

Big/Little Sister is a reference to the pairing of juniors and firsties (or first-years) who are paired up to take part in organized—and unorganized—events together. Coordinated by the Junior Class board

Disorientation or "Dis-O," is a closely guarded secret. This event is organized by the Senior Class Board.

Elfing is a secret tradition, organized annually by the sophomore class.

Founder's Day is held on the Sunday closest to 8 November (the date of the opening of Mount Holyoke in 1837). It was begun by Elizabeth Storrs Mead in 1891. The current version of the tradition includes ice cream being served early in the morning near Mary Lyon's grave. The current President of the College and select faculty are invited to scoop ice cream for the Senior Class who dons their gowns.

Seniors dress in traditional cap and gown as well as accessories in their class color. Convocation marks the beginning of the academic year.

Canoe Sing is an event which takes place prior to commencement in which canoes are decorated with lanterns are paddled by seniors singing Mount Holyoke songs. They are joined by fellow graduating seniors on shore.

Baccalaureate is held in Abbey Chapel; the medieval German ode to Academe, "Gaudeamus Igitur" is sung by berobed Seniors and Faculty during the procession. Following convocation, Faculty line the path to Mary Lyon's grave. Seniors walk through this throng, to the grave (to place a wreath).

The Laurel Parade takes place the day before commencement. Graduating seniors wear white and carry laurel garlands, in a parade to Mary Lyon's grave. They are escorted by approximately 3,000 alumnae, also in white, who thereby welcome them into the Alumnae Association. Once at Mary Lyon's grave, the garland is wound around the cast-iron fence, and the Mimi Farina song "Bread and Roses" is sung by all in attendance. White is a tribute to those who fought for women's suffrage.


Mount Holyoke offers 14 varsity sports programs and seven competitive club sports teams. The College is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) as well as the NERC (the New England Rowing Conference) Facilities include a lighted synthetic multipurpose turf field surrounded by an eight-lane track with a nine-lane straightaway; Kendall Sports and Dance Complex housing a swimming pool and separate diving well; gymnasium with basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts; weight room; cardiovascular area; 1-acre field house with indoor track and tennis courts; squash courts; racquetball courts; and three studios for dance, aerobics, yoga, and other activities; The Orchards, an 18-hole golf course designed by Donald Ross (home to the 2004 U.S. Women's Open); and a 60-stall Equestrian Center with two indoor arenas (100' x 256' and 70' x 130'), an outdoor show ring, permanent fibar dressage arena, and outdoor cross-country courses.

Noted people

The main article provides a list of individuals associated with Mount Holyoke through attending as a student, or serving as a member of the faculty or staff.

In art and media

Mount Holyoke is referenced in works of theater, film, and popular culture. Wendy Wasserstein's 1977 play, Uncommon Women and Others, is based upon Wasserstein's experiences at Mount Holyoke of the early 1970s. The play explores the lives of the fictional characters Carter, Holly, Kate, Leilah, Rita, Muffet, Samantha, and Susie.

Two feature films reference Mount Holyoke of the 1960s. The first is the 1987 film Dirty Dancing which is set at a country club in the summer of 1963. The protagonist Frances "Baby" Houseman (named after Mount Holyoke graduate Frances Perkins) plans to attend Mount Holyoke in the fall to study economics and then to later enter the Peace Corps. The second is the 1978 film National Lampoon's Animal House which is set in 1962. It satirizes a common practice up until the mid-1970s, when women attending Seven Sister colleges were connected with or to students at Ivy League schools. In the film, fraternity brothers from Delta house of the fictional Faber College (based on Dartmouth Collegemarker) take a road trip to the fictional Emily Dickinson College (Mount Holyoke College).

Mount Holyoke also featured in I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can, an episode of The Simpsons: "The Seven Sisters were immortalized in popular culture in a 2003 episode of The Simpsons. Having won local and state spelling bees, Lisa Simpson advances to the national finals. However, the moderator, concerned about the contest’s low television ratings, offers Lisa free tuition ('and a hot plate') at the Seven Sisters college of her choice if she will allow a more popular contestant (who happens to be a boy) to win. Lisa refuses, but has a dream in which students from each of the Seven Sisters appear to her."

Additional characters in popular culture include "Emily" from the television series Empty Nest, "Donna," from the television series Judging Amy, "Judy Maxwell," from the film, What's Up, Doc?, "Brooke," from The L Word, Season 4, "Catherine," the serial bride in the film noir release, Black Widow and "Helen Bishop", the divorcee neighbor from Mad Men.

References to Mount Holyoke also occur in a few works. Mount Holyoke was mentioned in television series, House, in the second episode from Season 4, "The Right Stuff." In David Liss's 2006 novel, The Ethical Assassin, Chitra—the love interest of the protagonist Lem Altick—is saving money so that she may attend Mount Holyoke. Alan Arkin, the father of the bride in the 1979 film The In-Laws, mutters when he sees the squalor-filled office of Peter Falk (the father of the groom), "Four years at Mount Holyoke so she could marry into this." Finally, Mount Holyoke is mentioned frequently in Neil Simon's play, Broadway Bound.


Further reading

External links

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