Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, was the first college in the world to begin granting degrees to women in the early 1800s. This was during a time when many thought that the education of women was frivolous and believed that the female mind was incapable of advanced studies. Thankfully, the Founders of the Philomathean Society were fortunate young women whose families believed in higher education.
Mary Elizabeth Myrick Daniel was born May 18, 1835, in Baldwin County, Georgia. Her father was General Stith Parham Myrick, a brigadier general of the Georgia Militia. During the Civil War he raised and equipped his own outfit known as the "Myrick Volunteers". Her mother, Frances Peebles, of Alabama, died when Mary Elizabeth was a child, and her father married E. L. Dawdell. Mary Elizabeth had two brothers.
Mary Elizabeth entered Wesleyan College as a junior and, at 16 years of age, was the oldest of the three Founders. She was graduated in 1853 and received the customary master of arts degree from the College ten years later. Mary Elizabeth was said to be timid and retiring. An original oil portrait now displayed in the Philomathean Room in the Cannon Ball House, Macon, Georgia, reveals her dark hair and eyes.
In 1857 she was married to Henry Keels Daniel, a Sumpter County, Georgia, planter and a major during the Civil War. For her wedding day she chose March 4, the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Philomathean Society's founding. There were six children in the Daniel family, two of whom died in childhood.
Her sadness was compounded when her husband of 13 years died in 1870, leaving her widowed at the age of 35. Her own health was frail for several years. For a short time before her death she lived at the home of her daughter Lila, who had married Dr. L. M. Jones and resided in Milledgeville, Georgia. Mary Elizabeth died on July 14, 1881, at the age of 46. She is buried beside her husband in the Oak Grove Cemetery at Americus. A monument in the shape of the Phi Mu badge marks her grave.
Considered to be the leader among the three Founders of the Philomathean Society, Mary Ann DuPont Lines was born in the small town of Quincy, Florida on May 28, 1836. Her father was Charles Henry of the Supreme Court of Florida. Her mother was Mary Ann De Graffenreid Hobson of Greensboro, Alabama.
Mary Ann and her seven brothers and sisters lived in a large and elegant colonial home in Quincy. She was described as a lovely young girl with long curly auburn hair and dark brown eyes.
A staunch Methodist, her father looked to Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Georgia, for Mary Ann's education. He was impressed with its reputation for close supervision and excellent training of its young women students. After attending a private school in Quincy, Mary Ann set out for Wesleyan in October 1851, at the age of 15. She enrolled as a junior and was graduated with an A.B. degree in 1853. A master of arts degree was conferred upon her in 1863, following the College's custom of awarding such degrees to distinguished students ten years after graduation.
On January 31, 1854, Mary Ann was married to Joseph Robinson Lines, who was her brother-in-law. Joseph had married Mary Ann's older sister Eliza in 1851, but Eliza was thrown from a horse and killed during the first six months of their marriage. Mary Ann and Joseph made their home in Jacksonville, Florida. Their family included four children. A daughter died at the age of 16 and a son was killed in a train accident as a young man. There were five grandchildren.
Joseph died suddenly at the age of 38, leaving Mary Ann a widow at age 32. She never remarried. She was 81 years of age when she died on January 4, 1918, exactly 66 years to the day after the secret founding of the Philomathean Society. She is the only one of the three founders who lived to see the Philomathean Society become Phi Mu Fraternity in 1904. A monument in the shape of the Phi Mu badge marks her grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville.
The original Philomathean badge was made in 1852 from a twenty dollar gold piece which Mary Ann received from her father when she left for Wesleyan. It is now in the archives of Phi Mu Fraternity.
Mary Ann's great great granddaughter is currently a Phi Mu in Florida.
Martha Bibb Hardaway Redding
The third and youngest of the Philomathean Society's Founders was Martha Bibb Hardaway Redding. She was born on October 9, 1836, in Columbus, Georgia. Her father, Robert Stanfield Hardaway, was a planter with several large plantations, a merchant and legislator. He also served as president of the Mobile and Girard Railroad. Her mother, Martha Bibb Jarrett of Elbert County, Georgia, came from a distinguished family whose various members served as governors of Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.
"Bibb", as Martha was called, grew up in a family of four children. Her father gave them the benefit of every educational and social advantage possible. For "Bibb", this included Slade's Academy in Columbus, then Wesleyan College. She was graduated in 1853 with a bachelor of arts degree and also received the customary master of arts degree awarded by the College ten years after graduation.
She was barely 15 years of age when she helped to found the Philomathean Society. She was described as studious and talented, with a spirited personality. The summer following her graduation, as a graduation present, she accompanied her father and mother on a six-month trip to Canada.
Her friends chided her about being "an old maid", for she was not married until she was 24. Her wedding to James T. Redding on March 12, 1861, followed a courtship of only six weeks. He was a widower with four children, the youngest only 15 months of age. They left immediately for the West by stage coach, where James had several large plantations in Louisiana and Texas.
Scarcely a month after her marriage, the War Between the States started, and her husband was required by the Confederate government to grow provisions for the army. At the close of the War, with no labor to work her many miles of land, the family lost its fortunes and returned to Georgia on $300 from the sale of a mahogany bedroom suite, a wedding gift from Martha's father. Martha died on October 15, 1893, at the age of 56. Her grave is in Riverside Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, marked with a white marble monument in the shape of the Phi Mu badge. Her husband and seven children survived.