Woman of the Century/Mary Emilie Holmes

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Mary Emilie Holmes ca 1893.jpgMARY EMILIE HOLMES. HOLMES, Miss Mary Emilie. educator and scientist, born in Chester. Ohio, 10th April, 1850. She is the only daughter and only surviving child of Rev. Mead and Mrs. Mary D. A. Holmes. On the paternal side of Scotch-Irish and Holland descent, and on the maternal of Huguenot and New England stock, she inherited a nature active, persistent, thorough, with a special bent toward original investigation in science, literature and religion. In addition to performing efficiently the duties of a Presbyterian clergyman's wife in a large parish, her mother was for many years principal of a seminary for young ladies and gentlemen. As a child, little Mary's associations were almost entirely with those greatly her senior in years. Never remembering the time when she could not read readily, she early picked up, by listening to recitations and also to her older and only brother studying aloud at home, many things far beyond her full comprehension at the time, but which, later, proved of great value. Thus at eight years of age she was perfectly familiar with Greek, Latin and French conjugations and declensions and could parse and translate quite well. At five years she had read the entire Bible through aloud to her mother, receiving therefor, from her father, a beautiful canary. A special delight of her life has ever been to have many pets about the home, not so much to train, though they must all live peaceably together, and generally in freedom, outdoors and in, hut for psychological study. Among these were several species of squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, guinea- pigs, coons, woodchucks, cats, dogs, a bear, foxes, robins, thrushes, mocking-birds, a parrot and an eagle, with some amphibians. All these, being nicely tamed, developed many characteristics which have formed the basis of her carefully prepared zoological articles. With her fifth birthday she began the regular study of music, ever since a delight, and commenced systematically to study natural history, and to prepare a herbarium, analyzing mainly by Gray's "How Plants Grow." This collection, still existing in part, was the nucleus of what is now one of the finest and largest private herbariums in Illinois. Always encouraged to take examinations with those much older, primarily to keep her pleasantly occupied, and to try for county school certificates, at thirteen years of age she was triumphant, having won one-hundred per cent in each of the eight subjects then required. This certificate is a much-prized trophy, it eleven years of age she became organist in Sunday-school, and soon after in church, a position almost continuously held from that date. A favorite pastime for several years, commencing with her eighth year, was regularly editing, alternately with an older friend, in single copy, a hand-written weekly paper, "The Planetary World," copiously hut neatly illustrated, with advertisements, the sanctum being movable, on the various planets and stars. Each gave everything she could imagine or learn pertaining to the orbs, and the objects supposably within sight or reach, including" news from earth." At the age of fourteen she was prepared for an advanced place in the junior year of Rockford Seminary, where she was graduated. She was also the first student to receive the full A. B. Teaching several years, holding the department of natural science in the seminary, after a thorough and exhaustive examination in Michigan University, she received the degree of A. M., and in 1888, on an original scientific thesis, with copious illustrations from nature, "The Morphology of the Carina; on the Septa of Rugose Corals," an acknowledged authority in England and Germany, she received the degree of Ph. D. from the University. Still later, on the score of "original investigation and discovery," she was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, a distinction as yet conferred upon no other woman. In her delightful home several rooms are devoted to natural history, ornithology, zoology, conchology, geology, mineralogy and botany, in many thousand specimens, chiefly of her own collecting or exchange, and all scientifically arranged. While delighting in literary or scientific pursuits, she imbibed the missionary spirit, home and foreign, of her mother. On this line of humanity and piety she exerts her noblest energies. From early girlhood she has presided over a thriving mission band. For seven years she has been president of the Presbyterian Home Missionary Society, Freeport Presbytery, and for five years has been chairman of the Synodical Committee on Freedmen, Synod of Illinois, since their organization. She is now engaged with the Freedmen's Board of the Presbyterian Church North, in planning a literary and industrial school for colored girls, the "Mary Holmes Seminary," in Jackson, Miss., to be a memorial of her mother and a power in uplifting an unfortunate race. A prompt and sprightly newspaper correspondent, chiefly scientific and missionary, her articles are always welcome, often passing from the editor's sanctum to the compositor without reading. Her home is in Rockford, Ill.