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M. Carey Thomas

A leading advocate and pioneer of higher education for women, M. Carey Thomas was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The eldest of ten children in a prosperous Quaker family, she went to college at Cornell University and was admitted to graduate school at Johns Hopkins University. When university officials there refused to allow her to attend classes with males, she went to Europe to continue her education and received a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. In 1884 she was named Dean of the newly established college for women, Bryn Mawr, where she remained for the rest of her career, becoming President in 1894. For three decades she worked to make Bryn Mawr the model and leading edge of higher education for women, always insisting on the highest standards and expectations of academic excellence for women. Under her direction, Bryn Mawr expanded considerably. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Thomas was also an open supporter of suffrage for women. She lived for many years with Mamie Gwinn in what was then known as a “romantic friendship,” and later with Mary Garrett. Retiring after she turned 65, Thomas died on December 2, 1935.