Born in Wisconsin to a farming family, I was educated by private tutors, which included interacting with family friends such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell.
After obtaining a degree with honors from Wellesley, I taught at Mrs. Sylvanus Reed's Boarding and Day School in New York City.
With a strong interest in astronomy, I petitioned the Columbia University Board of Trustees to allow me to use their telescope, as women were not allowed to attend the school.
Not only did I win my petition, but I also took courses and wrote a thesis...becoming the first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.
Combining both mathematics and astronomy, my complex thesis focused on multiple integrals in different geometries: Cartesian, Trilinear, Triplanar, Tangentials, Quaternions, and Modern...then I never published any mathematics again!
I taught mathematics at multiple schools, but due to my pending marriage, declined an offer to be a mathematics professor at Wellesley.
My husband, a geologist, inherited a lot of money, and we entertained as part of high society in New York State (e.g. Booker T. Washington was a favorite guest)...but due to poor financial decisions, we went bankrupt...and my husband lost his job then divorced me.
In 1906, with no money, I founded the Oaksmere School for Girls, and later opened a branch of the school in Paris....but both had to close due to more bad financial decisions on my part.
In 1928, I moved to New York, and began both writing multiple journal articles on education and speaking at meetings about the importance of education with high standards (as well as anit-prohibition).
In the last phase of my life, I served as the librarian at the Barbizon Hotel, a 23-story structure designed to provide career-motivated women a safe haven.
Winifred Edgerton Merrill (1862 - 1951)