Vermont Black History Month

Mary Anderson: first African-American woman Phi Beta Kappa

Mary Anderson

Mary Annette Anderson was born in Shoreham, Vermont, to William and Philomine Anderson. William, a farmer, was formerly enslaved in Virginia and Philomine was of French and Native American descent.

Mary graduated Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in Massachusetts and entered Middlebury College in 1895. She was valedictorian of the Middlebury class of 1899 and became the first African-American woman to be inducted into the national honors society, Phi Beta Kappa.

After college, Anderson moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she taught at Straight College for one year. She then went to Washington, D.C. as professor of English grammar and history at Howard University. Upon her marriage to Walter Louis Smith in 1907, Anderson stopped teaching, as was custom in society at that time. The couple eventually bought a home in Shoreham, Vermont, where Anderson died in 1922.
Northfield Seminary
Middlebury College (1899)
Professor, Straight College
Professor, Howard University

3 replies »

  1. Wonderful. Not only was she African-American, but that she was able to enroll in such prestigious schools, as it appears that she came from rather humble beginnings. I wish some of the “poor me” folks could read her story.