Mary Anne Bryant was born in Calhoun County on May 25, 1845 and married Perry Mayo, a Civil War veteran, on April 14, 1865. They had two children together, a son named Nelson and a daughter named Nellie. In 1884, the Mayos were founding members of a chapter of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange. Within the Grange, Mary advocated for girls and women to better themselves and to receive the same education as the men.
Even though women were admitted to MAC in 1870, the classes weren’t tailored to women; women were expected to work the land just like the men. Only a handful of women graduated from MAC during this time. In response, Mary was the main driving force for domestic science classes to be taught at MAC because she thought plowing and crop maintenance weren’t suitable for young women.
Her persistence paid off in 1896 when 42 women enrolled in the new Home Economics Program, which was an instant success. Dormitory space was created in Abbot Hall for the female students. The presence of women was seen as an antidote to the reputation for rowdiness in the men’s dorms. Two years later, the legislature funded a building specifically for the housing and teaching of women. The “Women’s Building,” nicknamed “The Coop,” opened in 1900 and was later renamed Morrill Hall (per professor Robert C. Kedzie’s original suggestion).
Mary continued her work on behalf of female students until she became ill in 1902; she died a year later on April 21, 1903. She is buried in the Austin Cemetery that is located in Convis Township, Calhoun County.
Jennie Russell, “Rumor Has It“, MSU Archives & Historical Collections Current Events Blog, October 19, 2016.
Fred Honhart, “A Dozen Milestones of MSU’s Sesquicentennial”, MSU Alumni Association Magazine, Winter 2005.
Historic women of Michigan : a sesquicentennial celebration / edited by Rosalie Riegle Troester. Lansing, Mich. : Michigan Women’s Studies Association, c1987.
“Home Economics: Progress of a Course, 1895–2005”, University Archives and Historical Collections.