Mary Maples Dunn

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Mary Maples Dunn
President of Smith College
In office
Preceded byJill Ker Conway
Succeeded byRuth Simmons
Personal details
Born(1931-04-06)April 6, 1931
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedMarch 19, 2017(2017-03-19) (aged 85)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Alma materBryn Mawr College
College of William and Mary

Mary Maples Dunn (April 6, 1931 – March 19, 2017) was an American historian. Born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Dunn graduated from The College of William & Mary in 1954 and received her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College in 1959, where she taught and served as dean from 1978 to 1985. She served as the eighth president of Smith College, for ten years beginning in 1985. Dunn was also the director of the Schlesinger Library from 1995 to 2000. She was acting president of Radcliffe College when it merged with Harvard University, and she became the acting dean of the newly created Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study after the merger.[1] Retired, Dunn became a Radcliffe Institute Fellow.[2] She was the co-executive officer of the American Philosophical Society from 2002 to 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Mary Maples was born on April 6, 1931, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to Eva Moore Maples and Frederic Maples who owned a clothing store. She was the second of four children and the only daughter.[3] While in Wisconsin she attended a two-room school house.[3] Her father joined the Army during World War II where he remained as an officer after the war, retiring as a Colonel[3] As a result the family was stationed in multiple bases around the United States and China.[4][5]

In 1960 she married Richard Slator Dunn, a scholar of American colonial history long associated with the University of Pennsylvania.[1] They had two daughters and three grandchildren from their 56 years together.[1] Dunn remained a great traveler for the rest of her life. She and her husband were in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 in Tahrir Square  “It was surreal,” describes Dunn “We could see it all. There we were on this elegant terrace, comfortably viewing it all… That’s the only word for it—surreal.” “We had wandered into a war,” she says. “It was very clear that this was historic. We had CNN on all the time, and had access to Al Jazeera."[6] "And so we witnessed history in the making. It was an unusual experience, and an amazing opportunity. We are glad to be at home, but are feeling the greatest sympathy for the Egyptians, and maybe a little optimistic about their chances for a better regime and a reduction in the misery so many of them experience every day."[7]

Professional life[edit]

While Dunn's scholarship primarily concerned William Penn, Pennsylvania, and the history of English-speaking colonies in the middle-Atlantic portion of what is now the United States, she was not guilty of the limited visions of those who understand "colonial America" to refer only to the "original" thirteen English coast on the Atlantic Coast of North America. As a history professor at Bryn Mawr College, Dunn taught an innovative interdisciplinary course in Latin American Studies in the mid-1970s. This early foray into interdisciplinary Latin American studies incorporated history, culture, and architecture. The Mary Maples Dunn Prize, established in 2008, honors "the best article in early American women’s history by an untenured scholar published in The William and Mary Quarterly that uses gender as a primary analytical category".[8]

Selected works[edit]


  • William Penn: Classical Republican (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1957)
  • William Penn: Politics and Conscience (Princeton University Press, 1967) ISBN 978-0-691-62331-3
  • Women of America: A Teacher’s Guide (Continental Press, 1976)
  • The World of William Penn (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), co-edited with Richard S. Dunn
  • The Papers of William Penn, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981–87) 5 volumes; co-edited with Richard S. Dunn ISBN 978-0-8122-7800-2 | ISBN 978-0-8122-7852-1 | ISBN 978-0-8122-8029-6 | ISBN 978-0-8122-8050-0
  • The Personality of William Penn(Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1983)
  • Recipes from the Inauguration of Mary Maples Dunn As the Eighth President of Smith College, September 1985, Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton, (Mass: Marilyn Nelson and the Committee for the Inauguration, 1985) Co-authored with Julia Child.


  • "Flawed Biographies," The Virginia Quarterly Review 51.3 (1975): 483–486
  • “Saints and Sisters: Congregational and Quaker Women in the Early Colonial Period,” American Quarterly Vol. 30, No. 5, Special Issue: Women and Religion (Winter, 1978): 582–601
  • "Who Is This William Penn Person, Anyway?" Today, the Inquirer Magazine (n.d.): 22–24. Co-authored with Katz, Barbara J, Richard S. Dunn
  • "Dialogue: Paradigm Shift Books: A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich," Journal of Women's History 14.3 (2002): 133–139

Book reviews[edit]

  • "Book Review: Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676–1703," The Journal of Southern History 27.2 (1961): 242–244
  • "Book Review: Religion in American Life," The William and Mary Quarterly 19.1 (1962): 123–127. Co-authored with Richard S. Dunn
  • "Book Review: the King & the Quaker: a Study of William Penn and James Ii," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 87.1 (1963): 89–90
  • "Book Review: William Penn the Politician: His Relations with the English Government," Quaker History 55.1 (1966): 56–57
  • "Book Review: Liberty and Authority: Early American Political Ideology, 1689–1763," The Journal of American History 56.4 (1970)
  • "Book Review: Benjamin Rush: Revolutionary Gadfly," The American Historical Review 78.1 (1973): 156–157
  • "Book Review: William Penn and Early Quakerism." The William and Mary Quarterly. 32.2 (1975): 344.
  • "Book Review: Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution." The Journal of Southern History. 42.3 (1976): 421–422

Notable students and protegees[edit]




Honorary degrees[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Slotnik, Daniel E. (March 22, 2017). "New York Times Obituary". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "The Mary Maples Dunn Prize". June 15, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "Mary Maples Dunn, former Smith College president who also led Radcliffe, dies at 85 – The Boston Globe". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  4. ^ "Mary Maples Dunn (1931–2017) | Perspectives on History | AHA". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  5. ^ "Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women's Colleges, Dies at 85". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  6. ^ "'We had wandered into a war' « – Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  7. ^ "Bird's-eye view of a revolution « – Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations Smith College Office of Alumnae Relations". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Mary Maples Dunn Prize". June 15, 2008.
  9. ^ "Remembering Mary Maples Dunn". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. April 4, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Mary Maples Dunn, 1931–2017". Historiann. March 22, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Mary Maples Dunn". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. March 16, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  12. ^ "Perspectives on History | AHA". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Mary Maples Dunn (1931–2017) | Perspectives on History | AHA". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  14. ^ "Mary Maples Dunn (1931–2017) | Perspectives on History | AHA". Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  15. ^ "Smith College President Emerita Mary Maples Dunn Dies at Age 85". Smith College. Retrieved March 21, 2017.

External links[edit]