Lucy Maynard Salmon

Lucy Maynard Salmon
Born July 27, 1853
Fulton, New York
Died February 14, 1927(1927-02-14) (aged 73)
Poughkeepsie, New York
Academic background
Alma mater University of Michigan

Lucy Maynard Salmon (July 27, 1853 – February 14, 1927) was an American historian. She was a professor of history at Vassar College from 1889 until her death.[1] She was the first woman to be a member of the executive committee of the American Historical Association.[2]

Education and early career

Salmon was born in Fulton, NY, to George and Maria Clara Maynard Salmon. Her mother, Maria Clara Maynard, was the first principal of the Fulton Female Seminary. Salmon attended Falley Seminary, in Fulton. She received her bachelors in history from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1876. Salmon served as assistant principal and later principal of McGregor High School in McGregor, Iowa, from 1876-1881. Salmon received her M.A. from the University of Michigan's School of Political Science in 1883. A version of her master's thesis, "History of the Appointing Power of the President," was published in the first volume of the Papers of the American Historical Association in 1886. In 1886 she attended Bryn Mawr where she studied with Woodrow Wilson. The following year, Vassar College hired Salmon to establish its history department and serve as Associate Professor of History. She was appointed a full professor at the end of her second year, in 1889.[3]

Professional service

Salmon was admitted to membership in the American Historical Association (AHA) in 1885. In 1897 the Executive Committee of the AHA asked Salmon to serve on the Association’s Committee of Seven, which largely defined the way history would be taught at the high school level. She was the only woman to serve on the committee.[4] As part of her work on the Committee, Salmon traveled to Germany to study the way history was taught in the secondary schools there. She delivered her findings to the AHA in an address in December 1897, and they were also published as an appendix to the Committee's report The Study of History in Schools.[5][6]

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Salmon was one of the few women historians to speak regularly at the annual meetings of the AHA.[7] In 1915 the Association’s members elected Salmon to serve on the Executive Council; she was the first woman to serve on the committee.[3]


Salmon was a member of the "new social history" of her time. She believed that political history had been overemphasized, at the expense of other topics.[3] She considered domestic documents, such as family cookbooks, as historical sources as valuable as the Constitution or Bill of Rights. Not only did she work with these sources herself, but she encouraged the undergraduate students she taught at Vassar College to consult primary sources themselves and to look at their home communities as historical subjects.[4] Rather than only teaching historical facts, she taught her students how to do the work of a historian.[3] In order to conduct seminars, despite having been denied permission by the College, she invited students to her rooms twice a week for informal discussions.[8] In 1912, Salmon received an honorary Doctor of Human Letters from Colgate University, and an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Michigan in 1926. In February 1926, a group of Vassar College alumnae and friends of Salmon established the Lucy Maynard Salmon Fund, which enabled her to continue her research. The Fund continues to endow Vassar faculty research.[3]

Adelaide Underhill, a Vassar graduate who returned in 1892 as head librarian for the college, worked closely with Salmon to improve the library. The two women were very close, exchanging frequent letters when apart and sharing a house in Poughkeepsie from 1901 until Salmon's death from a stroke in 1927.[9]



  1. "Guide to the Lucy Maynard Salmon Papers, 1818-1976". Vassar College.
  2. "Lucy Maynard Salmon". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Lucy Maynard Salmon". Vassar Encyclopedia. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  4. 1 2 Bohan, Chara Haeussler (2004). Go to the sources : Lucy Maynard Salmon and the teaching of history. New York: P. Lang. p. 27.
  5. "The Study of History in Schools: Preface". American Historical Association. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  6. "The Study of History in Schools: Appendix III: History in the German Gymnasia". American Historical Association. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  7. Des Jardins, Julie (2003). Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Memory, 1880-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  8. Graff Rosenberg, Vivian (June 1986). "How Lucy Maynard Salmon changed history". Christian Science Monitor.
  9. Lieb, Gretchen. "Light is Given to Discover Onward Things: Lucy Maynard Salmon and Adelaide Underhill". Hudson River Valley Heritage. Retrieved 8 January 2014.

Further reading

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