Margaret Byrd Rawson

(1899 - 2001)


Education researcher, sociologist, psychologist, writer, pre-eminent scholar, holder of two honorary doctorates, Grand Dane of Dyslexia. These are just some of the words used to portray Margaret Byrd Rawson.

Margaret Byrd Rawson was born in 1899 in Georgia, but was brought up a Philadelphia Quaker.  Margaret attended Swarthmore College, receiving her B.A. in 1923, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.  She earned Honors in the social sciences and was the first person to complete the honors program at Swarthmore College.

In 1929, she founded, with her husband Arthur, The School in Rose Valley, in Moylau, Pennsylvania.  From 1930-1947, Margaret served on the school's staff as librarian, teacher, and psychologist.  She received a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940, and an M.A. in Elementary Education and Psychology in 1946, with special interest in educational testing and psychology. She was awarded two honorary degrees, from Swarthmore College in 1983 and from Hood College in 1989.  From 1947-1964, Margaret Rawson was Assistant Professor of Sociology at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.  During those years, she also served from 1950-1957 as a psychologist for the Frederick County Health Department.  She was President of the Council for Literacy and, in the 1970s, she was a member of the Presidents' Commission on Public Health.  She also served on the Maryland Governor's Commission on Dyslexia.

Following her retirement from Hood College at age 65, Margaret Byrd Rawson began her third career in the area of dyslexia and became a world renowned expert on the subject. She played the role of educator, researcher, sociologist, mother, activist, co-founder of the Jemcey School in Baltimore, advisor to the Frederick County project (first of its type in a Maryland public school system), and former President of the Orton Dyslexia Society.

Margaret Rawson disseminated the best of scholarly information on dyslexia.  She started a revolution in this country; brought a public awareness of a condition that "stifles the growth and talent of the most talented among us..." Her work included helping to establish centers for the education of teachers, schools for children with dyslexia, and the highest professional standards for practitioners and educators in the field.  Her desire was to function as a bridge between the scientific resources, the educators, and the individuals with dyslexia, so that information could be passed on in order to "teach the language as the language is, to the individual brain as the brain is."

On state, national and international levels, Margaret Byrd Rawson influenced the world and its understanding of dyslexic people and their learning style, needs, and gifts.  She did this as a model of "spirit, conviction, courage, optimism." Her legacy is in the differences made in the life stories of countless people.

Margaret Byrd Rawson died on November 25, 2001, at the age of 102.


The differences are personal.
The Diagnosis is clinical.
The treatment is educational.
The understanding is scientific.

Margaret Byrd Rawson and Roger Saunders -1988

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2004.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2004