Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theology & Religion > 137. Emily Grace Briggs

137.  Emily Grace Briggs (1867-1944).  The Deaconess in the Ancient and Medieval Church: A Study in the History of Christian Institutions. Autograph manuscript, written in partial fulfillment of the Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary, 1913-1925. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Archives, Emilie Grace Briggs Papers

In 1897, Emilie Grace Briggs became the first woman to earn a degree from Union Theological Seminary. Union was one of the first institutions of theological education to admit women students in great quantity and to hire and tenure women faculty. Briggs later enrolled in the Doctoral program at Union, and wrote this dissertation, now among her papers held by the Burke Library Archives. Between 1913 and 1925, as women elsewhere were marching for the right to vote, she revised her manuscript for publication as the final step toward receiving her Ph.D. degree. She was unable to find a publisher, and she and her work were largely forgotten.

Half a century later, with the re-emergence of the womens movement, large numbers of women entered seminaries, pursuing careers in theological education, positions of church leadership, and religious scholarship. In 1997, one hundred years after Briggs had received her first degree, she inspired the founding of the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship (AWTS) at Union. At that time, no institution had a program devoted to preserving the records of women theologians. The inaugural collection received by the Archives came from Phyllis Trible, formerly Union's Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature. The archive now houses 17 personal and institutional collections that document a diverse range of individuals and groups.

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