Question of the Week
Martha Carey Thomas served as president of which local college?
Answer: Bryn Mawr College
At age 27, Martha Carey Thomas applied to be president of a newly formed women’s college outside Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr. She didn’t get the job, but she was hired as dean and as an English professor in 1884. After 10 years at Bryn Mawr College, she was elected its president in 1894.
Martha Carey Thomas (she preferred to go by M. Carey or just Carey) was born in 1857 in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up with a strong determination to attain a higher education, despite her father’s wishes otherwise. She was educated at Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University. Though she did not complete her studies at Johns Hopkins, she did become the first woman to be admitted into its graduate school.
Carey became known for her work in women’s education and one of her major accomplishments was a fundraising effort to help admit women to Johns Hopkins Medical School in the 1890s. She was also a feminist and a suffragist and spent time studying in Germany and France. While in Europe, she became aware of a venture by Dr. Joseph Taylor, a New Jersey physician and Quaker, to form a women’s college outside Philadelphia. As president, Thomas’ 28-year administration was a period of growth for the college in terms of the campus, the student body, and the faculty. Thomas retired from the college in 1922 and died in Philadelphia in 1935.
HSP's library contains several works on Thomas's life including The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (UPA LD 7062.7 1894.H67 1994) and The Making of a Feminist; Early Journals and Letters of M. Carey Thomas (Gt.43974 D632). HSP also has many collections covering women's rights, education, and suffrage.
Image: Photograph of Martha Carey Thomas, 1922
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.