Ada Comstock in the 1910s, photograph by E. Stahlberg
|Born||Ada Louise Comstock
December 11, 1876
|Died||December 12, 1973
New Haven, Connecticut
|Cause of death||Heart failure|
|Other names||Ada Comstock Notestein|
|Title||President of Radcliffe College|
|Predecessor||LeBaron Russell Briggs|
|Successor||Wilbur Kitchener Jordan|
Ada Comstock (December 11, 1876 – December 12, 1973) was an American women's education pioneer. She served as the first dean of women at the University of Minnesota and later as the first full-time president of Radcliffe College.
Early life and education
Ada Louise Comstock was born on December 11, 1876 in Moorhead, Minnesota to Solomon Gilman Comstock, an attorney, and Sarah Ball Comstock. The oldest of three children, she graduated from Moorhead High School at age 15. Comstock began her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota in 1892, where she was a member of Delta Gamma woman's fraternity. After two years, she transferred to Smith College, graduating in 1897. She returned to Minnesota to complete a graduate course in teaching at Moorhead Normal School (now Minnesota State University, Moorhead), then went to Columbia University where she earned a master's degree in 1899.
Comstock began her career at the University of Minnesota as an assistant in the rhetoric department under Maria L. Sanford. She was promoted to the position of instructor in 1900 and assistant professor in 1904. She was appointed the school's first dean of women in 1907 and a full professor in 1909. In 1912 Comstock accepted an invitation to become the dean of Smith College, where she served as acting president for a period in 1917-1918. From 1921 to 1923, she served as president of American Association of University Women. On October 20, 1923, Comstock was inaugurated as president of Radcliffe College. She spent twenty years leading the school, strengthening its academic programs and, in 1943, persuaded Harvard to accept classroom coeducation.
After her retirement from Radcliffe, Comstock remained active in academia, serving on the Smith board of trustees, working on a graduate center for Radcliffe, and traveling extensively in support of her husband's research.
Death and afterward
The largest collection of her papers, the Ada Louise Comstock Papers, 1897-1950, are housed at the Smith College Archives.
Comstock's name has been honored with buildings on college and university campuses, including Comstock Hall at the University of Minnesota, Comstock Hall in the Radcliffe Quad, and Comstock House residence hall at Smith College. Her full name has also been used for the title of Smith college's program for non-traditional students, as well as for a lecture series.
Awards and honors
- 1943: Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 1958: Jane Addams Medal, Rockford College
- 1966: Founder's Award, Radcliffe College
- 1967: Hollins Medal
- Smith, Susan Margot (1998) . "Ada Comstock Notestein". In Stuhler, Barbara; Kreuter, Gretchen V. Women of Minnesota (2nd ed.). Minnesota Historical Society Press. pp. 208–225. ISBN 978-0-87351-367-8.
- Leavitt, Judith A. (1985). American Women Managers and Administrators. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0-313-23748-5.
- Solomon, Barbara Miller (1980). "Comstock, Ada Louise". In Sicherman, Barbara; Green, Carol Hurd. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. 4 (6th ed.). Harvard University Press. pp. 157–159. ISBN 978-0-674-62733-8.
- "Woman Educator on Law Council". New York Times. 1929-05-26.
- Adams, Mildred (1933-04-30). "To the Woman in Politics Comes Also a New Deal". New York Times.
- "Wallace Notestein Dies; Famed Yale Professor". The Hartford Courant. 1969-02-03. p. 4.
- Brady, Tim (January–February 2006). "A Place for Women". Minnesota.
- "Education: Radcliffe's First". Time. 1958-11-24.
- "West Quad Comstock House".
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter C" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
- "The Jane Addams Medal - Rockford College".
- Freedberg, Sydney P. (1973-12-15). "Ada Comstock Dies at 97". The Harvard Crimson.
- "Hollins University Alumnae Hollins Medal Award".
- Ada Louise Comstock Papers, 1897-1950
- Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholar Award & Lecture
- Ada Comstock Scholars Program
- Records of the President of Radcliffe College, 1923-1943: A Finding Aid. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- Papers, 1818, 1887-1982: A Finding Aid. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.