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Clare De Graffenreid And The Art Of Controversy: A Prizewinning Woman Economist In The First Decade Of The American Economic Association




The outspoken social reformer Mary Clare de Graffenreid (born 1849, died 1921) stood out among the handful of early women members of the American Economic Association (founded 1885) as the winner of two essay competitions. In 1889, Clare de Graffrenreid’s essay shared the $100 first prize in an AEA essay competition on child labor, and appeared the following year in the Publications of the American Economic Association (1 Forum 15, March 1893, pp. 68–82) won the $300 first prize in an AEA essay competition on women workers (the $200 second prize went to Helen Campbell’s “Women Wage Earners,” 1893). Her valedictory address at Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Georgia, in 1865 provided her first taste of public controversy, as the general commanding Union troops in the area responded by placing the college under guard and threatening to close it, but by far the most controversial of her twenty-seven publications was “The Georgia Cracker in the Cotton Mill” ( Century Magazine , February 1891). This paper examines de Graffenreid’s career and contributions, and what her career reveals about the paths for women to participate in the AEA and the American economics profession in the late nineteenth century. After teaching Latin, literature, and mathematics for a decade at Georgetown Female Seminary, de Graffenreid had a non-academic career as an investigator with the Bureau of Labor (from 1888, Department of Labor) from 1886 until she retired in 1906. Despite her AEA prizes, her published lectures to other conferences (YWCA, National Conference of Charities and Correction), and her published testimony to the Industrial Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labor, she was never on the program of an AEA meeting. Like other women economists of her time, de Graffenreid crossed boundaries between scholarly research and social reform, and between different scholarly disciplines (e.g., publishing “Some Social Economic Problems” in American Journal of Sociology , 1896). The paper examines how essay competitions provided women such as de Graffenreid and Campbell (and Julie-Victoire Daubié and Clémence Royer in France) with a voice in the predominately male economics profession of the late nineteenth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Dimand, Robert W. & Black, Geoffrey, 2012. "Clare De Graffenreid And The Art Of Controversy: A Prizewinning Woman Economist In The First Decade Of The American Economic Association," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(03), pages 339-353, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jhisec:v:34:y:2012:i:03:p:339-353_00

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