Mary Hunt was a noted American Temperance Reformer and Educator. She lived both in the town of Hyde Park and near Upham's Corner in Dorchester and was recognized during her lifetime for her contributions to the awareness of alcohol temperance and education in the public schools.
Mary Hannah Hanchett Hunt (1830-1906) was born in South Canaan, Litchfield County, Connecticut as was the daughter of Ephriam and Nancy Swift Hanchett. Her father was an ardent abolitionist, and operated an ironworks in Salisbury, Connecticut. Hanchett was the vice president of the first temperance society in the United States. Educated in the local schools, Mary Hanchett taught at a country school for a year after her graduation before entering in 1847 Amenia Seminary in New York; a year later she entered the Patapsco Female Institute, an elegant finishing school in Baltimore, Maryland. Following her graduation, she became a professor of natural sciences at Patapsco, during which time she began her lifetime study of the physiological effects of alcohol on the body and mind.
In 1852 she married widower Leander B. Hunt, a salesman and steel agent, and they moved to the new town of Hyde Park, Massachusetts that had been incorporated in 1868 from sections of the towns of Dorchester, Milton and Dedham. The Hunts built a large, imposing house on Central Avenue, just north of Everett Square and here they raised their family. During this time, the Hunts belonged to the First Congregational Church in Hyde Park, and through the persuasion of her minister Mary Hunt became active in the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union (the WCTU) where she applied her long held belief that the "real nature and effects of alcohol upon the mind and body needed to be taught to children.... [and] that instruction in the negative effects of alcohol to children should not be optional, but mandatory."
During the last decades of the ninteenth century Mary Hunt oversaw a new public school carriculum on hygene in which there was a section on the evils of alcohol. Her quest was to educate but to also make the evils of alcohol aware even to children. She said that her goal was to produce "from the schoolhouses all over the land... trained haters of alcohol to pour a whole Niagra of ballots upon the saloon."
The Eighteenth Amendment is often traced back to the influence that Mary Hunt had on schoolchildren. Though Mary Hunt died before its enactment in 1920, her life work helped bring into law the prohibition of the manufacturing, sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States which lasted from 1920 to 1933.