Martha Ellicott Tyson

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Martha Ellicott Tyson
Born(1795-09-13)September 13, 1795
DiedMarch 5, 1873(1873-03-05) (aged 77)
Spouse(s)Nathan Tyson[1]
ChildrenElizabeth Brooke Tyson (Smith) (1818-1902), Martha Tyson (Hopkins)
Parent(s)George and Elizabeth (Brooke) Ellicott

Martha Ellicott Tyson (September 13, 1795[2] – March 5, 1873[3]) was an Elder of the Quaker Meeting in Baltimore, anti-slavery and women's rights advocate, author of the first biography of Benjamin Banneker, and a founder of Swarthmore College. She was the great-great grandmother of state senator James A. Clark Jr. (1918-2006).

Tyson was born in 1795 to George Ellicott and Elizabeth (Brooke) Ellicott, a well respected family of Maryland Quakers, the Ellicotts. Her grandfather, Andrew Ellicott, founded her birthplace, Ellicott's Mills, along with his brothers. She accounted in her books visiting with chief "Little Turtle" in 1807 at the age of twelve.[4] Although she never completed formal schooling past primary education, she was well educated at home and fluent in French. She married Nathan Tyson, whose family was a leading Quaker family in Baltimore, and they raised twelve children.[1]

At the age of 35, Tyson was chosen as an Elder of the Baltimore Quaker Meeting.[2] A strong supporter of Quaker and coeducation, Tyson was a key founder, along with Lucretia Mott, Edward Parrish, and Benjamin Hallowell, of Swarthmore College.[1] After a decade pushing for the founding of a coeducation Quaker college, Tyson and her husband hosted a meeting in their home of 30 Quaker leaders from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. This meeting propelled the movement to start the second coeducation college in the United States.[2]

Martha Tyson is also well known for her biographical accounts of the scientist, surveyor, and author Benjamin Banneker. As a free African-American, Banneker was a frequent visitor at Tyson's childhood home.[1] Tyson wrote two biographies of Banneker, Sketch in the Life of Benjamin Banneker, published in 1854,[2] and the more complete biography, Benjamin Banneker: The African-American Astronomer, published in 1884.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Swarthmore College: A Community of Purpose. Swarthmore, PA: Swarthmore College. 2014. ISBN 978-0-9748293-1-9.
  2. ^ a b c d "Maryland Women's Hall of Fame: Martha Ellicott Tyson". Maryland State Archive. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Martha Ellicott Tyson". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ James Clark Jr. Jim Clark Soldier Farmer Legislator. p. ix.