Lizzie Pitts Merrill Palmer

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Elizabeth Pitts Merrill Palmer (Oct. 8, 1838 – July 28, 1916), known as Lizzie, was an American philanthropist whose bequest founded the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit. She was also a founder of the Michigan Humane Society, active in the women's suffrage movement, and a benefactor of the Detroit Institute of Arts.[1] Lizzie Pitts Merrill Palmer was the only child of Charles Merrill a lumber owner and Frances (Pitts) Merrill. In 1855 she married Thomas W. Palmer who was a U.S. Senator from 1883–1889 and U.S. Minister to Spain in 1889–1890.[2]

In 1893 Lizzie and Thomas donated land to Detroit that became Palmer Park. After her husband's death in 1913 Mrs. Palmer devoted herself to founding, endowing and maintaining a school to be known as the Merrill-Palmer Motherhood and Home Training School.[3] The School was established in 1920 as the Freer House to serve Detroit’s children through formal academic programs in infant, toddler, child and adolescent development, and in family functioning. In 1980 the School was incorporated into Wayne State University. It is now known as the Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute.[4]


  1. ^ Mason, Philip P. Tracy W. McGregor: Humanitarian, Philanthropist, and Detroit Civic Leader. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008, pp.145--146.
  2. ^ Burton, M. Agnes. "Thomas W. Palmer." Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections 39 (1915): 208-17.
  3. ^ James, Edward T., Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer. Notable American Women, 1607–1950; A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. III, pp. 11-12. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
  4. ^ "Brief History of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute"