Rhoda Mabel White, “A builder of a college for women”

RMW portraitLeading up to the inauguration of Laurie L. Patton as the seventeenth president on Sunday, October 11, 2015, Special Collections & Archives will feature remarkable women from the College’s history in eight temporary exhibits spread across campus. Rhoda Mabel White can be found in Sunderland and Ross Fireplace Lounge, now through October 5th.

Rhoda Mabel White graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1906. As a doctoral fellow in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Rhoda Mabel White became Middlebury’s first Dean of Women and simultaneously its first woman faculty member in 1909. She served as Assistant Professor of Sociology and Dean of Women until 1911.

In her introductory letter to President John Martin Thomas

Introductory letter from Rhoda Mabel White to President Thomas (May, 1909)
Introductory letter from Rhoda Mabel White to President John Martin Thomas (May, 1909)

she writes, “I believe I could serve your College and its young women as a ‘builder of a College for women’.” This manifested both in her support of female students and in the physical makeup of our campus when, at the president’s invitation, White consulted with architect W. Nicholas Albertson to design the interior layout of Perasons Hall. Erected in 1911, Pearsons became the first building designed exclusively for women.


She demonstrated her self-proclaimed “unbounded enthusiasm for the higher education of women” in her contributions to the American Association of University Women, constantly striving for the advancement of women in higher education.

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