The Legacy of the Drunken Duchess: Grace Harriet Macurdy, Barbara McManus and Classics at Vassar College, 1893–1946

  • Judith P. Hallett University of Maryland
Keywords: Grace Harriet Macurdy, Barbara McManus, Vassar College, Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Lily Ross Taylor, women’s history


This paper builds on a monumental biography published by the Ohio State Uni­versity Press in 2017: The Drunken Duchess of Vassar: Grace Harriet Macurdy, Pioneering Feminist Scholar, by the late Barbara McManus. Macurdy (1866–1946), who came from a family without social, economic and educational ad­vantages, joined the Classics faculty at the all-female Vassar College in 1893 after receiving BA and MA degrees from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Annex. Following a year studying in Berlin, she received her PhD from Columbia in 1903, and immediately established herself as an internationally renowned Greek scholar, ultimately publishing two groundbreaking books on ancient women’s history. I will contextualize Macurdy’s life and work by looking at evi­dence beyond the purview of McManus’ book about two of Macurdy’s equally illustrious classics colleagues, who taught with her at Vassar prior to her retirement in 1937 — Elizabeth Hazelton Haight (1872–1964) and Lily Ross Taylor (1886–1969).