Women Mathematicians and NMAH Collections
Honoring American Women in Mathematics: Pre-World War II PhD’s

Image of Eighteen Women with PhD’s in Mathematics at the NMAH in 1981
Eighteen Women with PhD’s in Mathematics at the NMAH in 1981. (SI Neg #81-11284-13)

On August 31, 1981, the Division of Mathematics of NMAH sponsored an all-day meeting honoring American women who received PhD’s in mathematics prior to World War II. Fifteen women, all of whom had received their doctorates in the period 1929 through 1940, attended the meeting. The meeting was presided over by the division’s curator, Uta C. Merzbach, who was assisted by two honorary research associates in the division, Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke. All three organizers also held PhD’s in mathematics, which were awarded several decades after World War II.

The meeting was recorded and questionnaires were prepared to collect and verify biographical and bibliographical information about the women invited to the meeting as well as any husband or other relative who was also a mathematician. The corrected versions of these questionnaires and related photographs are preserved in the collections along with reel-to-reel tapes documenting the proceedings of the meeting and questionnaires collected from other women mathematicians. There are questionnaires in the collection for five mathematical couples and two father/daughter pairs of mathematicians. Although there are no questionnaires for them in the collection, there were several mother/child pairs of mathematicians among the American women with pre-World War II PhD’s in mathematics.

Image of Jeanne LaDuke in August 1981 with the youngest and oldest honorees: Marion Greenebaum Epstein (b. 1915) and Nola Anderson Haynes (1897-1996).
Jeanne LaDuke in August 1981 with the youngest and oldest honorees: Marion Greenebaum Epstein (b. 1915) and Nola Anderson Haynes (1897-1996). (SI Neg#81-11284-26)