Cushman, Esther Cowles

The class of 1905 boasted the first women–two of them–to complete the four-year course and graduate with bachelor of science degrees.

Esther Cowles Cushman, class of 1905, was born in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1883 and later moved to Northampton, Mass., where she attended the local high school. During college she lived at home. A biology major, she was a member of the Zoological Journal Club and recipient of the Hills Botanical Prize, and wrote her thesis on “Some Entomological Pests.” She was elected to the honor society Phi Kappa Phi and was one of six in her class to receive commencement appointments from the faculty, making them “eligible to speak at commencement.” If she did give an address, her remarks do not survive.

For several years Cushman taught school–which she did not enjoy–before becoming a librarian, first at the Providence (R.I.) Public Library, and ultimately at Brown University where she managed the newly acquired McLellan Lincoln Collection donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Her work involved cataloging and augmenting the collection. She also published articles and pamphlets on it, traveled to consult other Lincoln collections, and corresponded extensively with researchers. In a letter written to Frank Waugh in anticipation of 1905’s 25th reunion, she indicates that her father was living with her just outside of Providence, and that she still maintained something of the agricultural spirit: “My father and I have been very busy getting the new gardens started this spring.”


  • Class of 1905 Records (RG 50/6), Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
  • Index of 1903
  • Index of 1905
  • Index of 1906
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