Braithwaite Lecture

Minnie Braithwaite and the College of William and Mary 

The Annual Minnie Braithwaite Lecture, usually given in the spring semester, commemorates Minnie Braithwaite's courage in attempting to attend classes at the College of William and Mary, and celebrates the admission of women to the College. Past lecturers have included Carla Freeman, Maureen Fitzgerald, Lisa Duggan, and Regina Barreca.

The first co-educational class in the fall of 1918. (Colonial Echo, 1919, p. 48).On October 2 1896, Braithwaite, a resident of Williamsburg, petitioned the faculty of the college to allow her to attend chemistry lectures. The faculty assembly voted 4-3 to deny her request. Members of the faculty voting in favor were President Lyon G. Tyler; the Professor of Natural Science, Van Franklin Garrett; and the Professor of Methods and Pedagogics, Hugh Stockdell Bird. Members of the faculty voting in the majority were Professor of English and History, John Lesslie Hall; the Professor of Latin, Lyman Brown Wharton; the Professor of Mathematics, Thomas Jefferson Stubbs; and the Professor of Greek, French, and German, Charles Edward Bishop. Six days later, after much discussion about Braithwaite's appeal of their decision, the group rejected a more sweeping resolution that would have allowed women into the science lectures. They did, however, approve a policy of allowing "ladies of the town and College" to attend "certain lectures on Shakespeare." It was another twenty-two years before {{http://scrc.swem.wm.edu/wiki/index.php/Women_at_the_College_of_William_and_Mary,women were admitted to the college in 1918}}. Minnie Braithwaite went on to become a teacher for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and then ran her own crystallized fruit business. She tells her own story in Girl from Williamsburg (Dietz, 1951).

The lecture series was inaugurated in 1996-7, with much help from Nancy Gray and Terry Meyers, a professor of English at the College who has a distant relationship to Minnie Braithwaite: Terry Meyers and Minnie Braithwaite both come from the family that donated the original land on which the College was built in 1693. The GSWS Program is very grateful to Mrs Dorothy Ross, Minnie Braithwaite's daughter, for her generous support of the series, and also to William and Anne Gove, whose gift in memory of their daughter, Margaret Gove, makes possible much of what we do in the GSWS Program today.