From Ohio History Central
Helen Gray Edmonds was the first African-American woman to earn a doctoral degree from The Ohio State University.
Edmonds was born in Lawrenceville, Virginia. She received an A.B. degree from Morgan State College in 1933. She earned a M.A. degree in history from The Ohio State University in 1938, and she then completed her Ph.D. in history at this same institution in 1946. Edmonds's dissertation was titled "The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1895-1901."
Upon receiving her M.A., Edmonds embarked upon a teaching career. She spent one year at the Virginia Theological Seminary and College before joining the faculty at St. Paul's High School and Junior College. She remained at this second institution for five years, leaving to teach at North Carolina College, which is now known as North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Edmonds remained at this institution for the remainder of her academic career. She eventually became a full professor of history, chair of the Department of History, and Dean of the Graduate School. In this final position, Edmonds became the first African-American woman in the United States of America to serve as dean of a graduate school. Upon retiring, Edmonds also became a member of NCCU's board of trustees.
Beyond her educational activities, Edmonds also actively served in the public sector. In 1956, Edmonds became the first African-American woman to second the nomination for a candidate for President of the United States of America. During President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration, Edmonds, espousing American ideals, traveled throughout Europe and Africa for the U.S. State Department. She also served as an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1970, not to mention numerous other public positions.
Edmonds died on May 9, 1995. Her life illustrates the difficulties many African Americans and women faced during the twentieth century. It also symbolizes the increasing opportunities that occurred during this same time period for both women and racial minority groups.