Agnes Scott College

Emilie Norton Martin

Emilie Martin Photo

December 30, 1869 - February 8, 1936

Emilie Martin was born in 1869 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1890 she entered Bryn Mawr College, selecting, as her major studies, mathematics and Latin. She received her B.A. degree from Bryn Mawr in 1894 and then entered the graduate program in mathematics and physics at Bryn Mawr. In 1897-98 she used a Mary E. Garrett Fellowship from Bryn Mawr to study at the University of Gottingen where she attended the lectures of Professors Felix Klein and David Hilbert. She received her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr in 1899 with a thesis entitled "On the Imprimitive Substitution Groups of Degree Fifteen and the Primitive Substitution Groups of Degree Eighteen" [Abstract] under the direction of Charlotte Scott. During her time at Bryn Mawr, Emilie helped to support herself by doing private tutoring in mathematics and Latin.

In 1903 Martin joined the mathematics faculty at Mount Holyoke College as an instructor. She was promoted to associate professor in 1911 and to professor and chair of the mathematics department in 1925.

In the October 1917 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, Martin argued for "required mathematics for women students" and stated her belief that "the student needs some college mathematics if she is to have an education that will send her out into life with the best general equipment," particularly for those students who wished to work in science. Her discussion is as valid today as it was at the beginning of the last century. She concludes her article with the following admonishment:

With the two apparently contradictory tendencies at present noticeable—one, to minimize for women even in the science courses in college the necessity of any mathematical training beyond that of the high school course; the other, to encourage these same students to place more and more emphasis upon their work in science, especially in the line of laboratory research,—it is evident that the majority of women workers in science will soon be forced to limit themselves to those fields in science that can be cultivated by means of the very simplest mathematical tools. These fields may be wide and they may be fertile, but by permitting this limitation women are denying to themselves the equality of opportunity with men that has been won for them at such a cost by the pioneers in the struggle for the right of women to share in the higher education.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Martin was a resident faculty member of Pearsons Hall at Mount Holyoke, where she lived during the greater part of her teaching career. Her summers were often spent with her sister in Montreat, North Carolina. In 1935 she retired from Mount Holyoke because of ill health. Upon her death in 1936, an editorial in the Mount Holyoke News reported

"In losing Miss Martin, the students and faculty of the college have lost a stimulating and delightful friend...As an influential member of the faculty, Miss Martin was vigorous and wise in her judgment, never passive, and never satisfied with the second-rate. The college has reason to give thanks for Miss Martin's long and valuable service as teacher, as head of an important department, as member of many student and faculty groups. Those who knew at first hand her friendship will never forget their gratitude."


  1. Obituary, Holyoke Transcript, February 8, 1936.
  2. Mount Holyoke College Archive materials
  3. Bailey, Martha J. American Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary, ABC-CLIO, 1994.
  4. Woman's Who's Who of America: A biographical dictionary of contemporary women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. John William Leonard, Editor, American Commonwealth Co., 1914.
  5. Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, April 1936, p31.
  6. Biographical Note, Ph.D. Thesis, Bryn Mawr College.
  7. Mathematics Genealogy Project

Photo Credit: Photograph used with the permission of Mount Holyoke College