Maria Louise Sanford (December 19, 1836 – April 21, 1920) was an American educator.
Maria Sanford was born in Saybrook, Connecticut. Her love for education began early; at the age of 16 she was already teaching in county day schools. She graduated from Connecticut Normal School (now Central Connecticut State University), using her dowry funds for tuition. She rose in the ranks of local and national educators, becoming principal and superintendent of schools in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and serving as professor of history at Swarthmore College from 1871 to 1880. She was one of the first women named to a college professorship. When the University of Minnesota asked her to join its faculty, she did so enthusiastically.
During her tenure at the university (1880–1909) Sanford was a professor of rhetoric and elocution, and she lectured on literature and art history. She was a champion of women's rights, supported the education of blacks, pioneered the concept of adult education, and became a founder of parent-teacher organizations. Notably, however, she resisted universal suffrage until late in life. Sanford was also a leader in the conservation and beautification program of her new state. She traveled throughout the United States delivering more than 1000 patriotic speeches, the most famous being the powerful address An Apostrophe to the Flag, that she delivered at a national Daughters of the American Revolution convention.
In 1910, the University of Minnesota constructed Sanford Hall in honor of Maria. In 1964 they expanded the building by adding on a "Tower" in 1964 to house more students. It was originally built to house the women of the campus. In the 1970s, the hall became coeducational, and housed 502 residents.
She died on April 21, 1920, at the age of 83. In June of that year the University of Minnesota held a memorial convocation in her honor. A school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was named Maria Sanford Junior High (now called Sanford Middle School) in memory of her. An elementary school in Montevideo, Minnesota, too, was named Maria L. Sanford Elementary School. She was called "the best loved woman of the North Star State." Additionally, an academic hall, Maria Sanford Hall, at Central Connecticut State University is named after her.
Sanford was the namesake of a World War II Liberty ship, the SS Maria Sanford, launched in 1943. In 1958, the state of Minnesota donated a bronze statue of Sanford to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.
- Architect of the Capitol at www.aoc.gov