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Mary Hall Leonard (1847-1921)
Winthrop's First Principal and Instructor (1886-1894)
Mary Hall Leonard was born to James Madison and Jane Thompson Leonard on December 4, 1847 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Her first paternal ancestor to arrive in America was Soloman Leonard who left Monmouthshire, England and settled in Duxbury, Massachusetts before 1637.
Miss Leonard graduated from Bridgewater Normal School in 1867 and completed some postgraduate work in Germany. Leonard taught one year of high school at Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts before becoming a teacher at Bridgewater Normal School in 1868. She remained at Bridgewater until 1885 when she was approached by Dr. David Bancroft Johnson to become the first principal and instructor at the fledgling Winthrop Training School For Teachers in Columbia, South Carolina. Johnson was in Boston, Massachusetts visiting Robert C. Winthrop in an attempt to secure funding for a teacher training school he hoped to open. Successful in receiving these funds from Mr. Winthrop, Dr. Johnson inquired about potential teachers to work at the school. Mary Hall Leonard’s name was well-known and respected in the area and her name was suggested to Dr. Johnson. He visited Miss Leonard and after she initially refused, she agreed to the undertaking.
Miss Leonard served as Principal and First Instructor at Winthrop throughout its early years. She would witness the schools’ growth from 19 students the inaugural year in 1886 to close to 100 by 1894. In 1892 her title was officially changed from Principal to First Instructor. Two years later in 1894, she left Winthrop and returned to Massachusetts. She remained in Massachusetts the rest of her days and taught at various institutes and summer schools until her retirement in 1909. She died on November 19, 1921 at her Rochester, Massachusetts home after an illness of three weeks.
Miss Leonard was also an accomplished author and historian. Her books include: Story of Portus and Songs of the Southland (1894); A Code of Honor (1897); A Discovered Country (1900); My Lady of the Searchlight (1905); Grammar and Its Reasons (1907); Mattapoisett and Old Rochester (1907); Moral Training in Public Schools (1908); When Youth Met Life (1911); and The Days of the Swamp-Angel (1914).