Sanford, Maria (Louise)(1836–1920) educator, lecturer; born in Saybrook, Conn. Raised in a humble home but taught to respect education, literature, and service, she graduated from the New Britain (Conn.) Normal School (1855) and taught in Connecticut secondary schools for 12 years. She suffered from "deep depression" from the loss of her father and a broken engagement but read more widely under the supervision of a Yale professor. In 1867 she went to Pennsylvania where by 1869 she had become a school principal; she also began to be more widely known for her ideas about introducing "moral training" while engaging the students' interest. She became one of the early female professors in the U.S.A. when she joined the newly opened Swarthmore College as professor of history and rhetoric (1869–79); she also lectured outside the college on such topics as "Honesty in Public and Private Life" and gave slide shows on art. She went on to the University of Minnesota (1880–1909) where in addition to teaching art appreciation and poetry she also lectured to farm wives. In the late 1880s she borrowed heavily to invest in real estate, and after the boom collapsed, she spent much of the rest of her life paying off every last cent of debt. She engaged in various activities until near her end—traveling to Europe to view the art, lecturing nationally, supporting women's suffrage, clearing land in Florida for a retirement home for her missionary niece. Often in trouble because of her unorthodox ways, she was beloved by her many students and eventually given various honors, as when Minnesota placed her statue in the U.S. Capitol.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.