'Champion for women's history,' William Penn historian, public scholar Mary Maples Dunn, dead at 85

Mary Maples Dunn, noted women's historian, William Penn historian, and public scholar, died on March 19, 2017.

It is with sadness during this Women’s History Month we share news with you the passing of Mary Maples Dunn, a former executive administrator at the American Philosophical Society, Bryn Mawr College, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and Smith College’s eighth president. She died on Sunday, March 19, 2017, while visiting family in North Carolina. She was 85.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, Dunn is most remembered for her tenure as undergraduate dean, then academic deputy to the president of Bryn Mawr College from 1978 to 1985, and as co-executive officer from 2002-2007 at the American Philosophical Society. She also was a noted historian of William Penn; with her husband, Richard S. Dunn, she co-edited several volumes of the Papers of William Penn and the book, The World of William Penn. Her solo-authored William Penn: Politics and Conscience, was originally published in 1967 and re-released by Princeton University Press in 2015. Additionally, Mary Maples Dunn was among the co-authors of Philadelphia: A 300 Year History and contributor to The Public Good: Knowledge as the Foundation for a Democratic Society, a publication of a 2007 conference between the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Smith College called Dunn “a champion for women–and for women’s history.” Following her retirement from Smith in 1995, Dunn served for five years as director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. The Mary Maples Dunn prize, which “honors the best article in early American women’s history by an untenured scholar published in the William and Mary Quarterly that uses gender as a primary analytical category,” was named for her.

Dunn was a former Fulbright scholar, and was awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. She was also a recipient of nine honorary doctorate degrees.

“In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts be made to the Sophia Smith Collection and College Archives at Smith College (attention of Marissa Hoechstetter, director of donor relations and development communications) or to the American Philosophical Society’s Research Grant Program in memory of Mary Dunn, 104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106,” per Smith College.