University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries
University of Georgia Libraries

Finding Aid for Mary Ethel Creswell Papers 1900-1960 (UGA 97-105:152)

.5 linear feet : one ms. box

Introduction to the Collection:

In 1919, Mary Ethel Creswell (1879-1960) became the first woman to receive a baccalaureate degree from the University of Georgia. Even before this accomplishment, Creswell had an impressive history. She had graduated from and worked at the Georgia State Normal School, attended the University of Chicago during summer quarters, and taught for a while in Walton County public schools. Creswell eventually moved to Washington D.C. where she was a Field Agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and became the Department’s first female supervisor. It was during this time that she is credited with coining the term “home demonstration”.

Andrew Soule who was president of the State College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia appointed Creswell director of the newly created Home Economics division in 1918. With the reorganization of the University of Georgia in 1933, Creswell became the first dean of the School of Home Economics, a position that she held until her retirement in 1945. After retiring as dean, Mary Creswell taught classes at the School of Home Economics from 1945 through 1949.

In 1949, University Chancellor Harmon Caldwell presented Mary Creswell with the first Alumni Service award given to a woman and in 1949/1950 she served as President of the University of Georgia chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi. In 1963 the newly constructed Creswell Dormitory was named in her honor.

Mary Creswell’s younger sister, Edith Vaughn Creswell, was one of the first four female students who enrolled for classes at UGA in September 1918. She received her B.S. degree in Home Economics from the University of Georgia in 1920 and went on to become the first dean of women at Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton.

Scope and Contents

This collection documents Mary Creswell’s life before and after becoming the first woman to receive an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and the first dean of the School of Home Economics. In addition, there is some material pertaining to Mary’s sister, Edith Vaughn Creswell, in the collection.

Of particular interest are folders 1 through 5. These folders contain correspondence and artifacts that help provide invaluable insight into Mary Creswell’s life and work from the late 19th century up through her death in 1960.

Also of special interest is the handwritten poem penned by UGA Chancellor David C. “Uncle Dave” Barrow upon the admission of female students in September 1918 which is found in folder 13. In addition, there is a copy of the 1905 State Normal School Yearbook that has a photograph of Mary Creswell as a faculty member and lists her sister, Edith, as a junior.

Additional Sources

  1. Home Economics Heritage. Ga Room LXC 121.A4 1953.
  2. The History of Home Economics at the University of Georgia. Edited by Jessie J. Mize. Athens, Ga. : Agee Publishers Inc., 1985. Ga Room LD 1983.H570 1985.

Contents Inventory


  1. Biographical, Certificates, Passports, Etc. Includes two passports from the 1920s, teacher’s contracts and licenses, identification card, a resume, and Mary Creswell’s obituary from a local Athens newspaper. There also is copy of the Georgia Alumni Record from October 1943 containing an article written by Creswell entitled “Celebration of Admission of Women to University Planned”
  2. Letters, 189-1918. Includes correspondence with Mary Creswell’s parents, the State Normal School, Walton County School System, and the Georgia State Department of Education. Also includes correspondence relating to Mary’s sister, Edith Creswell.
  3. Letters, 1932-1949. Includes correspondence with Who’s Who in America, former students, UGA’s Dean of Women Edith Stallings, and the UGA Alumni Society.
  4. Letters, 1950-1959. Includes correspondence about home demonstrations and an appearance on the National Farm and Home radio show.
  5. Letters, 1960 & Undated. Includes correspondence about National Home Demonstration Week and a reference letter regarding Edith Creswell’s performance as a student at the State Normal School.
  6. Photographs.
  7. Printed Material I. Includes the Epsilon Sigma Phi 1936 Yearbook and The Candle of Phi Upsilon Omicron from spring 1950, both of which contain articles about Mary Creswell. Also found are two issues of the Phi Kappa Phi Journal that note her presidency of the University of Georgia chapter of Phi Kappa Phi during 1949/1950.
  8. Printed Material II. Includes World War I era bulletins from the U.S. Food Administration and copies of The Georgia Agriculturist from November 1924 and October 1930. Also found is the Handbook of the YWCA 1926-1927 and UGA commencement programs from 1920 and 1940.
  9. Newpaper Clippings. Includes newspaper clippings c. World War I to 1980. Also biographical information to be included in Who’s Who vol. 25 and a bookplate From the Books of Andrew MacNairn Soule.
  10. Speeches. Includes index cards with notes, copies of speeches, writings on Martha Atalanta Lumpkin Compton’s Spinning Wheel and Lumpkin Hall. Also found are notes from the National Farm and Home Hour radio show where Ronny Stephens interviewed Creswell.
  11. Programs. Includes programs for ceremonies, commencements, and conferences dating from 1900 to 1955.
  12. Miscellaneous. Includes assorted notes, an autographed napkin, articles, and a schedule listing Mary Creswell’s appearance on the National Farm and Home Hour.
  13. Verse by Chancellor David C. Barrow on the First Registration of Women at UGA, Sept. 1918. Consists of a handwritten poem penned by David C. Barrow on the first day of registration for women in September 1918. Mary Creswell notes in the Georgia Alumni Record for October 1943 that “the Chancellor was inspired to write one of his occasional verses. Selecting one young woman whose name was Edith he scanned the dictionary, noted the Saxon derivation of her name and wrote…” (19). Since Mary Creswell’s sister, Edith, was one of those original female students, its possible that she may be the Edith mentioned in the poem.
  14. “Levana”, v.1, 1905-Yearbook of State Normal School, Athens. Contains the 1905 yearbook for the State Normal School in which Mary Creswell is shown as a faculty member and Edith Creswell is a listed as a junior.
  15. Myers, Jennie Belle-Memorial. Includes correspondence dated 1950.

Processed by Carol Bishop