Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women’s Colleges and President of Smith, Dies at 85

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Mary Maples Dunn

Mary Maples Dunn, an educator who brought a scholar’s knowledge of the history of women to her long tenure as president of Smith College and who defended the role of women’s colleges in an increasingly diversifying society, died on Sunday in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 85.

Her daughter Cecilia Dunn said the cause was heart failure caused by pulmonary hypertension. Ms. Dunn, who had homes in Cambridge, Mass., and Philadelphia, died while visiting family in Winston-Salem.

Ms. Dunn spent most of her career at women’s colleges, which had been established long before women were admitted to many colleges and universities throughout the United States.

When she became Smith’s eighth president in 1985, the need for women’s colleges was being widely debated; in the previous 15 years or so, many all-male universities had opened their doors to women. But she maintained that all-female colleges remained essential.

“In women’s institutions, women experience autonomy and power,” she said in her inaugural address. “There are no choices they cannot make freely and without those subtle social obstacles which still suggest to women that there are things we shouldn’t do.” ...

Read entire article at NYT

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