Horace Mann (May 4, 1796 – August 2, 1859) was an American Republican politician, a free thinker and one of the leading figures in the U.S. educational reformation. Making education accessible to every American citizen regardless of their ethnicity, social status, or color was Mann’s life mission.
Horace Mann was self-educated. As his parents were poor farmers from Massachusetts, they could not provide proper education to their son. However, Mann was an omnivorous reader from an early age and used to spend a lot of his time at the Franklin Public Library. It was there, at the library, that some of Horace Mann’s six principles of public education first took shape.
Two of them stipulate that education is best provided in schools that accept children from different backgrounds and that education should be based on the principles of a free society. If this information makes you want to learn more about Horace Mann, here are some more fun facts about him!
Horace Mann Facts
1. Mann used to take only six weeks of formal schooling a year
It is said that from the age of ten until he turned twenty, Horace Mann used to attend classes for only six weeks every school year. This means two things: either he was exceptionally smart and managed to cover all the taught material within that short period of time, or the material itself was relatively easy and he just made the best use of his time at school.
In either case, when Mann was about twenty, he was admitted to Brown University, which he managed to finish in just three years, an interesting Horace Mann fact. That’s quite of achievement, having in mind that Brown is an Ivy League university.
2. Charlotte Messer was the love of his life
Charlotte Messer, the daughter of Brown University’s President, was the big love of Horace Mann. They married in 1830, but their love was star-crossed. Charlotte suddenly passed away in 1832, leaving Mann emotionally-scarred for life.
It took Horace eleven long years to overcome the shocking and unexpected loss of his first wife. Eventually, in 1843 he married Mary Tyler Peabody with whom he shared extraordinary intellectual closeness. The two had three children and remained together until Mann’s death in 1859.
3. Horace Mann had a stint as a madhouse manager
In 1933, a year after the loss of his beloved Charlotte, Mann had a short stint as the director of a madhouse. It is unclear if he accepted the position in order to try to resolve his deep personal issues.
4. Horace Mann was the father of the teaching profession
In 1837, Horace Mann became the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education and launched a series of audacious reforms in the sector. An interesting fact about Horace Mann is that he suggested was that education should be provided by professional teachers, who have passed special training at a designated institution. By the way, all of his ideas were collected and adopted, to a greater or lesser extent, by all American states.
5. Mann tried to recreate the German schooling system in the U.S.
American thinkers had long been fascinated by the Prussian educational trends in the 1800s. In 1843, Horace Mann took a trip to Prussia to try to learn the secrets of their public education’s success. Upon returning from Prussia, Mann got down to business to create a network of the so-called Normal Schools across the United States.
These were institutions where individuals who’d just completed their secondary education were trained to become school teachers. Mann was convinced that women were more suitable for the teaching profession than men, an interesting Horace Mann fact. He also stipulated that in order to function well, a school needs to be financially-secure and well-resourced.
6. “Be ashamed to die, until you have won some victory for Humanity!”
This is probably Horace Mann’s most famous quote, and it clearly illustrates how devoted he was to the worthy cause of providing affordable and accessible secondary education to every man, woman, and child in the United States.
These powerful words have been engraved on Horace Mann’s monument in the yard of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and have become the institution’s official motto. And for a good reason: Horace Mann was Antioch College’s first president.
7. Horace Mann was a fierce abolitionist
During his continuous tours around the United States to promote education reforms, Horace Mann used to deliver ardent speeches against slavery, which he loathed from the bottom of his heart. Some of them were collected in his book Slavery: Letters and Speeches.
8. Horace Mann promoted equality of men and women
Horace Mann was clearly a daring free-thinker and a man ahead of his time. In his book Powers and Duties of Woman, which was published in 1853, Mann shared his observations on the position of women in American society and how they had been constantly denied the right to pursue intellectual development on a par with men.
He advocated that the position of women in the society was to be reviewed and urgent reforms were to be made so that women were granted a more respectable status. Last but not least, he suggested women should be granted broader political rights, including the right to vote, a fun Horace Mann fact.
9. Charlotte Messer and Horace Mann were reunited in death
When Horace Mann died on August 2nd, 1859, he was interred in Yellow Springs, Ohio in a grave beside the one of his beloved Charlotte. After her husband’s death, Mary Tyler Peabody Mann returned to Massachusetts with their three children.
She spent the following months writing her husband’s biography and editing his unpublished works. It was on Mary’s initiative that her husband was disinterred from his initial resting place and laid to rest next to his first love, Charlotte.
Horace Mann was one of the greatest sons of the state of Massachusetts. A lawyer by profession, he was a progressivist at heart. Mann was one of the first American politicians to foresee the importance of mass education to the prosperity of the nation.
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