Martha Ellicott Tyson (September 13, 1795 - March 5, 1873)

Martha Tyson was a driving force in the establishment of Swarthmore College. She persuaded Friends in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings to join together to raise money, purchase land and secure a charter from the State of Pennsylvania to establish the educational institution in 1864.

Born to Quaker parents in Ellicott City, Maryland, Martha Tyson was educated in a school established by her parents to educate their own children, together with the children of the overseers and superintendents of the mills owned by the family. Martha Ellicott Tyson developed a life-long interest in quality education, for developing intellect and character of Quaker children. After her marriage to Nathan Tyson, son of well known Quaker abolitionist and philanthropist Elisha Tyson, and she moved to Baltimore, Maryland and was active in the Baltimore Yearly Meeting (Hicksite). In 1850, with her support, Baltimore Yearly Meeting appointed a committee on education. This committee discussed the founding of an institution of higher learning for the education of Quaker children and the preparation of teachers. Martha Tyson's work within Baltimore Yearly Meeting in the 1850's and later expanded to include Friends in Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings was an essential part in the development of what would become Swarthmore College.Upon her death in 1873, Baltimore Yearly Meeting published a memorial of her life that included the following tribute:"The improvement and development of all our faculties, and a higher standard of education in our Society, was a subject which for many years deeply interested her mind. Recognizing our responsibility to our Heavenly Father for the right use of all His gifts, and believing the cultivation of our intellectual powers renders us more useful to each other, 'in bearing one another's burdens,' and this 'fulfilling the law of Christ;' she earnestly advocated this view on all suitable occasions. . . The interest awakened by her and a few concerned Friends in this particular, originated the movement which culminated in the establishment of Swarthmore College."

Text prepared by Beth Bartle
Last update: 6/9/02