Bryn Mawr College Struggles With the Racist Legacy of Its Second President

Bryn Mawr College, the highly rated liberal arts educational institution for women in suburban Philadelphia, has taken steps to distance itself from its second president – M. Carey Thomas – due to her racist and anti-Semitic views and statements.

Dr. Thomas was a graduate of Cornell University and held a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Zürich. She joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr as chair of the English department in 1884. Later that year, she was elected president and remained in that role until 1922. During her tenure, she worked to keep Black students from attending the college. Addressing the 1916 incoming class, Dr. Thomas said, “If the present intellectual supremacy of the White races is maintained, as I hope that it will be for centuries to come, I believe that it will be because they are the only races that have seriously begun to educate their women.” An excellent biography of Thomas – The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas – was written in 1994 by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, professor emerita at Smith College.

In the wake of recent events at the University of Virginia, Bryn Mawr College said that in printed materials and on its website, it will no longer refer to the Thomas Library or the Thomas Great Hall in the library. A committee of faculty, students, and staff has been established to make recommendations on how the college should handle the legacy of Thomas and whether the name of the library should be changed.

Kim Cassidy, president of Bryn Mawr College, thought action should be taken immediately rather than to wait for the committee to complete its work. She stated that “while Thomas had a profound impact on opportunities for women in higher education, she also openly and vigorously advanced racism.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

In Memoriam: O. Jerome Green, 1954-2024

President of historically Black Shorter College O. Jerome Green passed way unexpectedly on April 8. Since he became president in 2012, the college has experienced record-breaking enrollment and graduation rates, created new academic programs, and established the STEM Center for Academic Excellence.

Federal Report Uncovers Lack of Faculty Diversity and Delay in Federal Discrimination Complaint Processing

In addition to a lack of diversity in higher education faculty, the report revealed a frequent delay by the Department of Education when referring discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Christopher Span Appointed Dean of Rutgers University Graduate School of Education

Dr. Span, professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at the University of Illinois, is a scholar of African American educational history. He has experience in both academic and administrative leadership positions.

Lingering Mistrust From Tuskegee Syphilis Study Connected to COVID-19 Vaccine Reluctance

African Americans who lived within 750 miles of Tuskegee, Alabama, were more reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine than their White neighbors, as well as Black Americans from other United States regions. The authors attribute this finding to lingering mistrust of public health services as a result of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study which ran from the 1930s to 1972.

Featured Jobs