Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Society
Mary Elizabeth Post taught in Yuma for 41 years, beginning when Arizona was still a territory. She became a leader in woman’s club in Yuma and was founder and member of the board of the Carnegie Library in Yuma. Proficient in both English and Spanish, she served as interpreter for the Courts, the Reclamation Service, and the Spanish-speaking priests.
The oldest of nine children, Mary Elizabeth Post was born on June 17, 1841 in Elizabethtown, New York. She was privately tutored through the local district school, then completed her higher education at the Burlington Female Seminary in Vermont after finding the doors of the University of Vermont closed to women.
She moved with her family to Iowa in 1862 and took her first teaching position in a private normal school. She felt drawn further west however, and traveling alone, endured a blizzard, a five-week train trip, a stagecoach ride through 250 miles of open desert, and an additional 125-mile trip up the Colorado River.
Mary Elizabeth arrived at her teaching post in Arizona Territory in April 1872. There she discovered that her pupils spoke only Spanish; she spoke only English. But soon, with effort on both sides, teacher and students were communicating easily. Already proficient in French, Latin, and English, Mary Elizabeth adopted Spanish. She taught everyone who wanted an education from young children to adults. She was particularly devoted to the Mexican population and cared deeply about her students.
She became involved with women in politics and traveled the state. In 1903, she took the lead in organizing the first woman’s club in Yuma. Mary Elizabeth never missed a state teachers’ meeting, and was often in attendance at the annual convention of the Arizona Federation of Women’s Clubs. After working tirelessly to establish the Carnegie Library in Yuma, she became a member of its board on which she served for the remainder of her life.
Well past her seventieth birthday, Mary Elizabeth Post retired after teaching 41 years in Yuma. Even retirement did not slow her down. She studied French literature, acted as a tutor, and served as interpreter for the Courts, the Reclamation Service, and Spanish-speaking priests.
Mary Elizabeth Post died in Yuma at age 93 on September 15, 1934. Yuma’s Mary E. Post Elementary School is named for her as a memorial to the years she worked to improve education in that city.