Born in poverty, Horace lived in hardship on the family farm in
Franklin, Massachusetts. His schooling was limited to about three
months a year. He had mastered the tenets of his family's Calvinistic
faith by the age of ten, but when their minister condemned his
dear drowned brother Stephen to eternal damnation, Horace rebelled
and later became a Unitarian.
After receiving some private tutoring, he graduated from Brown,
studied law, and began his career first as a State Representative
and then as a Massachusetts Senator. He was active in the establishment
of a state mental hospital in Worcester. Nevertheless, Senator
Mann abandoned his highly promising political career and, in 1837,
accepted the position of his state's first Secretary of the Board
of Education. He encouraged the first Normal School for teachers.
He advocated the establishment of free public libraries. State
and local support to education soon doubled. In Mann's famous
twelve annual reports, he insisted that it is necessary for the
state to assume the responsibility to educate each child as a
natural right. Compulsory school attendance began. Schools must
receive non-sectarian support though taxation.
In 1853 Horace Mann became the President of Antioch College in
Ohio, implementing the ideal of coeducational nonsectarian higher
education. Raising funds weakened his health, but Antioch students
heard the words shortly before his death: "Be ashamed to
die before you have won some battle for humanity."