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Agassiz, Elizabeth Cabot Cary (05 December 1822–27 June 1907), college president, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father, Thomas Graves Cary, was a businessman who became treasurer for the Hamilton and Appleton Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, and her mother, Mary Ann Perkins, was one of the daughters of ...

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Barrett, Janie Porter (09 August 1865–27 August 1948), educator and social welfare advocate, was born in Athens, Georgia, the daughter of Julia Porter. Various biographical accounts indicate that Janie’s parents were former slaves, while others speculate that her father was white. Little is known about either parent. During her early childhood, Janie resided in the home of the Skinners, a white family whom her mother served as housekeeper. After her mother’s marriage to a railway worker, Janie remained with the Skinners, who encouraged her to further her education....

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Blanding, Sarah Gibson (27 November 1898–03 March 1985), college administrator, was born on a farm near Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of William de Saussure Blanding, a lawyer and storekeeper-gauger (internal revenue officer), and Sarah Gibson Anderson. When she was twelve, her father died in an accident, and because the family had little money, she abandoned plans to become a physician. She subsequently borrowed sufficient funds to pay the tuition for a two-year course in physical education at the New Haven, Connecticut, Normal School of Gymnastics (1917–1919)....

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Blunt, Katharine (28 May 1876–29 July 1954), college administrator, educator, and nutritionist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Stanhope English Blunt, an army officer and technical writer, and Fanny Smyth. Little is know about her childhood except that she was first educated at a preparatory school before attending Miss Porter’s School in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1894 she enrolled at Vassar, where she studied chemistry. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in 1898, then returned home to her family and engaged in service to her church and community for four years....

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Bogle, Sarah Comly Norris (17 November 1870–11 January 1932), librarian, educator, and administrator, was born in White Deer Mills, Union County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Armstrong Bogle, a chemical engineer, and Emma Ridgway Norris. Bogle’s early years were typical of those expected of a young woman of her comfortable status. She and her brother John grew up in Milton, Pennsylvania. Bogle was privately tutored until age fourteen when she attended Miss Steven’s School in Germantown. Bogle attended the University College of the University of Chicago but did not finish her undergraduate degree. In 1904 she earned a certificate from the library school at Drexel Institute. According to Harrison Craver, “the pleasure of society was no longer sufficient,” and she decided to find “more satisfying employment” (Craver, p. 489). Bogle received an M.A. (field unknown) from Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania in 1917....

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Bradley, Amy Morris (12 September 1823–15 January 1904), educator, Civil War nurse, and school founder, was born in East Vassalboro, Kennebec County, Maine, the daughter of Abiud Bradley, a shoemaker, and Jane Baxter. As a child Bradley suffered from bronchial problems, a vulnerability that plagued her throughout her life. When she was six, her mother died. Her seven older siblings and elderly father cared for her until she was thirteen; her father then moved away, and her married brothers and sisters took turns boarding her in their homes. From this experience she developed self-reliance and disinclination to marriage....

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Branch, Mary Elizabeth (20 May 1881–06 July 1944), educator, was born in Farmville, Virginia, the daughter of Tazewell Branch, a former slave who served in the Virginia legislature and worked as a shoemaker and tax collector, and Harriett Lacey, a domestic worker. Although she learned to read at home, Branch’s quest for formal education began when she was thirteen. Because her mother did laundry for students and teachers at State College in Farmville, Branch often made trips to the school to pick up or deliver clothes; in time, she herself became a maid in the college library. Exposed for the first time to a wide variety of books and knowledge, she determined to obtain her own education. Within a few years she had earned a high school diploma from the normal school of Virginia State College, a land grant college for black students in Petersburg, where she also took teacher education classes....

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Carolyn Terry Bashaw

Brigham, Mary Ann (06 December 1829–29 June 1889), educator, was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, the daughter of Dexter Brigham, a teacher, and Mary Ann Gould. After attending Mount Holyoke Seminary, Brigham began her distinguished career as a teacher and administrator. Between 1855 and 1858 she worked as an instructor at Mount Holyoke. She assumed her first administrative post in 1859, serving for five years as principal of Ingham University in Leroy, New York. In 1863 Brigham became associate principal of Brooklyn Heights Seminary in Brooklyn, New York, a position she was to hold for twenty-five years. As one of the elite group of women who had attended seminaries and colleges, Brigham participated actively in the Mount Holyoke alumnae organization in the metropolitan New York area....

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Brodbeck, May (26 July 1917–01 August 1983), philosopher, teacher, and university administrator, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of Louis Brodbeck and Etta Bragar. In 1941 she took a B.A. in chemistry from New York University. Upon graduating she spent a few years teaching high school chemistry, working in industry, and participating as a physicist in the Manhattan Project....

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Brown, Charlotte Eugenia Hawkins (11 June 1883–11 January 1961), educator, was born Lottie Hawkins in Henderson, North Carolina, the daughter of Edmund H. Hight, a brick mason, and Caroline Frances Hawkins. Accounts vary as to whether her father and mother separated before or after her birth, and it is also unclear as to whether her parents ever married. After her mother married Nelson Willis, Lottie (as she was called until she changed her name to Charlotte Eugenia in high school) relocated with nineteen members of her extended family to Massachusetts in 1888. By joining the widespread migration of African Americans, the family hoped to enjoy greater economic opportunities and a better life. After settling in Cambridge, her stepfather worked odd jobs to support the family while her mother boarded African-American Harvard students, operated a laundry, and baby-sat. Hawkins began her elementary education at the Allston School in Cambridge, where she befriended two of ...

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Bunting, Mary (10 July 1910–21 January 1998), college educator and microbiologist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest child of Henry Andrews Ingraham, a lawyer, and Mary Shotwell Ingraham, a community activist. Her well-educated parents were committed to bringing culture to their children, along with a love of the outdoors. Family life was close and satisfying for Polly (so called to avoid confusion with her mother), who appreciated her father’s interests in art and literature and her mother’s community commitments, including as a member of the New York City Board of Higher Education and the national president of the Young Women’s Christian Association....

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Nannie H. Burroughs. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99117).

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Nannie Burroughs. Far left, holding a banner reading, “Banner State Woman's National Baptist Convention.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106646).

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Burroughs, Nannie Helen (02 May 1879–20 May 1961), school founder, was born in Orange, Virginia, the daughter of John Burroughs, a farmer and itinerant Baptist preacher, and Jennie Poindexter, a cook. After moving to Washington, D.C., with her mother in 1883, Burroughs graduated in 1896 with honors in business and domestic science from the Colored High School on M Street. When racial discrimination barred her from obtaining a position either in the Washington, D.C., public schools or the federal civil service, Burroughs worked as a secretary, first for the Baptist ...

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Clapp, Margaret Antoinette (11 April 1910–03 May 1974), educator and diplomat, was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the daughter of Alfred Chapin, an insurance broker, and Anna Roth. Educated in public schools, she received an A.B. with honors from Wellesley College in 1930, having served as student government president her senior year. Moving back to New Jersey, she commuted to New York City where she attended graduate school part time and taught English literature first at the Todhunter School (1930–1939) and then following its merger, at the Dalton School (1939–1942). She received an A.M. from Columbia University in 1937....

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Cohn, Fannia (05 April 1885?–24 December 1962), labor educator and leader, was born Fannia Mary Cohn in Kletzk, Minsk, Russia, the daughter of Hyman Cohn, a manager of a family-owned flour mill, and Anna Rosofsky. Fannia received her formal education at a private school and her radical political views from her middle-class Jewish parents. She joined the outlawed Socialist Revolutionary party in 1901 and arrived in New York City three years later filled with the romantic idealism of socialism....

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Comstock, Ada Louise (11 December 1876–12 December 1973), college administrator, was born in Moorhead, Minnesota, the daughter of Solomon G. Comstock, a lawyer, and Sarah Ann Balls. In addition to acting as legal counsel for the Great Northern Railway, Solomon Comstock also served on the state legislature and on the board of regents of the University of Minnesota. The family was well-off, living in an eleven-room house with stables and servants. Both parents recognized the importance of education for all children. Ada was educated at home by her mother for eight years before attending a small private school and then graduating from the local high school at the age of fifteen....

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Cook, Vivian E. J. (06 October 1889–28 July 1977), educator, was born Vivian Elma Johnson in Colliersville, Tennessee, the daughter of Spencer Johnson, a farmer, and Caroline Alley, a teacher. One of eight children, she grew up under the enterprising spirit of her parents, both of whom were born in slavery. The fact that her mother was the first black schoolteacher in the Tennessee community of Fayette County set a special standard of achievement for her and her seven siblings. The family moved to Memphis when she was very young and the decision was made to favor the girls with a higher education. All four were to graduate from college, but Vivian, thanks to the financial assistance of a brother, inventor and railway postal clerk Thomas W. Johnson, was able to attend Howard University and later earn a master’s degree in English from Columbia University....

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Coppin, Fanny Jackson (1837–21 January 1913), educator, civic and religious leader, and feminist, was born a slave in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Lucy Jackson. Her father’s name and the details of her early childhood are unknown. However, by the time she was age ten, her aunt Sarah Orr Clark had purchased her freedom, and Jackson went to live with relatives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. By 1851 she and her relatives had moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where Jackson was employed as a domestic by ...

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Cronkhite, Bernice Brown (23 July 1893–03 August 1983), college dean and vice president, was born Bernice Veazey Brown in Calais, Maine, the daughter of James Edmund Brown, a physician, and Grace Veazey. After her mother’s death from appendicitis in 1898, the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where her father raised Bernice and her brother with the aid of relatives. She entered Radcliffe College in 1912, having spent two summers as a volunteer working with immigrants and one year as a teacher in a one-room rural school. She concentrated in government and twice won prizes for essays on municipal government. After receiving her A.B. (1916), she enrolled as a graduate student at Radcliffe, while working half time as a bibliographer in Harvard’s Bureau for Municipal Research. At the time she was appointed the first woman teaching assistant in the government department at Harvard on the understanding that “there was no male candidate available and that it was for one year only.”...