Mary F. Haskin

Name: Mary F. Haskin (Geer)
Birth Date: April 13, 1826
Birth Place: Oswego County, NY
Death Date: November 25, 1895
Death Location: Wilmette IL
Burial Place: Rosehill Cemetery


Mary F. Haskin was an early Evanston resident and leader in the fight for women’s education. Active in a variety of causes, she is best remembered for leading a group of prominent women who founded the Evanston College for Ladies, one of the earliest educational institutions in the United States run entirely by women, and for serving as the first president of its Board of Trustees. A devout member of the Methodist Church, Haskin was also a charter member and vice president of the Women’s Educational Aid Association, and a trustee of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls.


A pioneer in women’s education, it was Mary Haskin’s vision that led to the establishment of the Evanston College for Ladies, placing women’s leadership at the forefront of the movement for female education in Evanston. Her work as an organizer, fundraiser, and leader in previous projects, including the establishment of the Heck Hall dormitory at Northwestern University, encouraged her peers to support her efforts to secure a charter for the Evanston College for Ladies, and her work on the board of trustees for that institution set the stage for the coeducation movement that would transform women’s opportunities and access to higher education. In her work with the College as well as the Women’s Educational Aid Society and the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, Haskin inspired a younger generation of women to work for her causes, many of whom wrote tributes to her in the wake of her death in 1895.

Quotes: Frances Willard wrote about Mary Haskin that she "believed that women should be a felt force in the higher education, not only as students, but as professors and trustees. She believed that to have men only in these positions was to shut up one of humanity's eyes, and that in the effort to see all around the mighty subject of education with the other, a squint had been contracted that was doing irreparable damage to the physiognomy of the body politic."
Children: Six: Lucy, Franklin, Charles G., Walter E., Ellen (later Ellen Valentine)
Years in Evanston: 30: 1857-1887

Sources: Willard, Frances. Glimpses of Fifty Years. Indianapolis: Women's Temperance Publishing Association, 1889. Mary F. Haskin obituary. 1895. Chicago Tribune, December 1, pg. 3. Mary F. Haskin obituary, 1895. The Evanston Index, November 30, 1895, pg. 4. Andreas, Alfred Theodore. History of Chicago: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. 3 vols. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1975.