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Graduate Students

As dean of The Graduate School at Northwestern University and an alumna of graduate education (1989), I am delighted to see the names of women who obtained their advanced degree from this institution as early as 1869. Doctoral and master’s students are at the heart of the university and create the intellectual content that moves society forward. The stories of the earliest graduate school women have been lost to time and I am delighted that we are now featuring these towering intellects and leaders.

As you will learn by clicking through the site, the first woman to earn a master of letters degree was Fanny Gates (1895) a physicist working on the early chemical characteristics of radioactive material. She had a long career as a scientist and as a leader serving as head of the Physics Department at Goucher College, was then Professor of Physics and Dean of Women at Grinnell College and finally Dean of Women at the University of Illinois. Lost to the passage of time is whether Gates met Marie Curie when she visited Northwestern in 1921 and received an honorary degree, but one suspects she might be an unnamed face in the audience. Now her name and her accomplishments are ‘Hidden No More’.

The first female doctoral student was Alice Twight who graduated from Northwestern with a PhD in Romance Languages. Her dissertation is still available in a book titled “French Prose Compilation” but the remainder of her personal and professional life has receded into the closet of time. We are delighted to restore Dr. Twights name through the campus-wide celebration of the 150th year of undergraduate women at Northwestern.

I am delighted that the research for the graduate women portion of Hidden No More was done by a phenomenal recent alumna Stephanie Brehm (G’15). Dr. Brehm earned her PhD in Religious Studies and is currently the Assistant Director for Academic and Strategic Initiatives in The Graduate School. Our profiles are not complete and end in 1979. If you have a story about yourself or family member who received a PhD or master’s degree from Northwestern, please email us.

Through Hidden No More, our goal was to reveal the names, accomplishments and stories of female graduate students and faculty. What we have learned is there were women walking across Northwestern’s campus. They were unique but by aggregating them on this site, they are now not alone. They inspire us all with their presence.

Teresa Woodruff, PhD G’89
The Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Professor of Molecular Biosciences
Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Dean, The Graduate School
Associate Provost for Graduate Education
Co-chair, Hidden Figures Committee