Mary Emma Woolley : biography
Mary Emma Woolley (July 13, 1863 – September 5, 1947) was an American educator, peace activist and women's suffrage supporter. She was the first female student to attend Brown University and served as the 11th President of Mount Holyoke College from 1900-1937.
In 1895, Woolley began teaching biblical history and literature at Wellesley College. She was popular among her students and peers and in 1896 she was made an associate professor. By 1899, she had been promoted to a full professor. During her time at Wellesley, she made significant changes in the curriculum while gaining administrative experiences as the chair of her department. She also met Professor Jeannette Augustus Marks at Wellesley, and the two women lived in a lesbian relationship for fifty-five years.Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America, Penguin Books Ltd, 1991, page 53. ISBN 0-231-07488-3
In December, 1899, Brown offered her a job as the head of the newly founded Women's College. Simultaneously, Mount Holyoke College offered her its presidency. Woolley took Mount Holyoke's offer and on January 1, 1901, at the age of 38, became one of the youngest college presidents in the United States.
In addition to her masters thesis, she wrote Development of the Love of Romantic Scenery in America and many educational articles.
Woolley also managed to devote her time to a number of organizations during her presidency, advocating for social reform of all kinds, including suffrage, pacifism and church matters. She served as the vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and also worked on U.S. entry into the League of Nations. She also worked with President Herbert Hoover on women's rights and with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on pacifism. She gained international recognition after President Hoover appointed her as a delegate to the Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, which met in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1932.
She was on the board of electors of the Hall of Fame, the national board of the Y.W.C.A., the executive committee of the American School Peace League, the council of the National Institute for Moral Instruction, the Commission on Peace and Arbitration. She was a senator of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa and honorary vice president of the National Consumers' League.
Early life and education
Woolley was the daughter of Joseph Duah Woolley and his second wife, Mary Augusta Ferris. She was given the nickname May, and enjoyed a comfortable, nurturing childhood in New England. She was first raised in Meriden, Connecticut and starting in 1871, Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Her father was a Congregational minister and his efforts to incorporate social work into religion, heavily influenced his daughter.
Woolley attended Providence High School and a number of smaller schools run by women before finishing her secondary schooling in 1884 at the Wheaton Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts. Woolley returned to teach there from 1885 to 1891. After traveling through Europe for two months during the summer of 1890, she intended to attend Oxford University, but Elisha Benjamin Andrews, the president of Brown University, convinced Woolley to become the first female student at Brown. She began attending Brown in the Fall of 1890, while still teaching at Wheaton. In 1894, she received her B.A. and in 1895, her M.A. for her thesis titled, "The Early History of the Colonial Post Office."
Mount Holyoke Presidency
Immediately upon arrival at Mount Holyoke, Woolley outlined her views on female education. While in the past, the college had placed an emphasis on women's education in service to society, Woolley stressed that in the future, a women's education would not need to be justified by anything but intellectual grounds. Woolley believed education, roughly, was a preparation for life, and that an educated woman was able to achieve anything. She argued that if women had not succeeded in the past, it was because their education, or lack thereof, had held them back.
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