In Cornell circles, Helen Magill is known for marrying, in 1890, Andrew Dickson White, the university’s first president. But years before they met, Magill made history in her own right, becoming the first woman to receive a PhD in America – from Boston University in 1877. Her dissertation in Classics was found in 2018 in the Cornell Library Rare and Manuscript Collections.
“The manuscript is relatively brief, which is not at all unusual for dissertations of that period, in America or elsewhere,” said Constanze Güthenke, professor of Greek literature in the Classics faculty of the University of Oxford. “But the question raises the related issue of how much material is visible or invisible in the archives of American classical scholarship in general.”
In the 2022 Townsend Lectures Sept. 7, 9, and 12, Güthenke will bring to light untold stories of the Classics field during three talks on the theme “American Classical Scholarship: Histories of Disorientation.” Hosted by the Department of Classics in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Townsend Lectures all begin at 4:30 p.m. in Kaufmann Auditorium, G64 Goldwin Smith Hall. All are open to the public, with receptions following.