First biography of a prominent figure in women's higher education

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Alice Freeman Palmer (1855-1902) was one of the most influential figures in expanding academic horizons for women in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But her importance extends beyond her role in higher education. As a woman who chose both marriage and a professional career, she confronted obstacles that challenged the new path she and other women were forging, earning herself the title "New Woman."

In this first biography of Palmer, Ruth Bordin draws from a variety of rich and hitherto untapped sources, thoroughly illuminating not only Palmer's extraordinary life, but also a fundamental period of transition in the history of educated, middle-class women during the turn of the century.

Palmer blazed trails traditionally unavailable to women. She graduated from the University of Michigan, the first major coeducational university, and became president of Wellesley College before the age of thirty. Following that tenure, Palmer temporarily held volunteer positions, influencing women's education as a trustee of Wellesley College, an adviser to Radcliffe, Barnard, and Pembroke, and a popular lecturer on women and higher education.

She formally returned to academia in the early 1890s with her appointment as the first dean of the newly founded University of Chicago, and continued her struggle to ensure women's acceptance in education as students, faculty, and staff.

Bordin's biography of Palmer not only provides a compelling story of this unique woman's life, but vividly illustrates early attempts to solve problems that have occupied women down to the present day.

". . . adds to historical knowledge in important ways. It spotlights the nineteenth-century network of women graduates of the University of Michigan and their careers in eastern women's colleges. In closely examining the formative years of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago, it illuminates important elements of the politics and dynamics of higher education. . . . [A] solid contribution to biography and the history of higher education."
Journal of American History

- Journal of American History