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Mary Low Carver: OVERVIEW

Biographical note and finding aid for Mary Low Carver


Mary LowMary Caffrey Low (later Carver), born on March 22, 1850, in Waterville, Maine, was the first woman to graduate from Colby College. In 1871, she enrolled as the college's first female student, to graduate four years later in 1875. She was one of the first women in New England to receive a regular A.B. degree. Low was the only female student at Colby until the fall of 1873, when she was joined by four other women, among them Louise Helen Coburn. In 1874, Low co-founded the Sigma Kappa Sorority. Low was the first woman to appear on the rolls of Sigma Kappa and the first to preside over an initiation. She was also the first woman to be invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Low also delivered the valedictory address to her class at graduation. In 1916, Colby awarded Low the degree of Litt.D.

Low is known as the "grandmother of coeducation at Colby." In 1890, the president of Colby College initiated a plan to divide women and men into separate classes at the college. Low, along with Louise Coburn and several other alumnae, wrote and sent a petition protesting the formation of a separate women's division at Colby. The division was soon approved, however, and Colby did not go back to being truly coeducational until 1969.

After graduation, Low married Leonard D. Carver, a graduate of Colby who became the Maine State Librarian. Low herself became a librarian and worked as a catalgoer in the Maine State Library for many years. Low had a daughter, Ruby Carver Emerson, and a son, Dwight, who died at the age of 5. Low later lived with her daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Low died on March 4, 1926, at the age of 76.

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