Anna Adelaide Stafford Henriques

Quick Info

20 August 1905
Chicago, Illinois, USA
28 November 2004
Baileys Crossroads, Virginia, USA

Anna Stafford Henriques was an American mathematician who became one of the first two women to undertake research at the Institute for Advanced Study. She worked at several universities concentrating on teaching.


Anna Adelaide Stafford Henriques is now usually known by her married name of Anna Henriques but her maiden name was Anna Stafford. Her parents were Richard Walter II Stafford (1881-1919), the manager of a pickle factory, and Caroline Augusta Fleuchaus (1883-1919?). Richard's father was Irish, his mother American, while both Caroline's parents were born in Germany. Caroline and Richard were married in Chicago in 1904. Anna had two younger brothers (a third died in infancy) and two younger sisters. These were her brother Richard Walter III Stafford (born 1907 in Barnum, Minnesota), sister Mabel Stafford (born 1910 in Chicago, Illinois), sister Marcia Frances Stafford (born 1912 in Marshfield, Wisconsin) and brother Wirt Stafford (born 1915 in Barnum, Minnesota). After the five children were orphaned in 1919, they went to live with their father's sister in St Louis, Missouri. This sister, Price Stafford, had married Wirt Wright who was the president of a bank. At the time of the 1920 census, the children were all in St Louis, Missouri. Anna, as the eldest in the family, was much involved in helping to bring up her younger siblings. Katherine Wright, the daughter of Wirt and Price Wright, was one year younger than Anna and was also living with the family. At the time of the 1920 census the family had two servants Bertha Mahon and Corrine Mahon.

Anna began her schooling in Chicago but the family moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin, where she continued to attend school. Then, after the family moved again, she was at a school in Barnum, Minnesota. She soon realised that mathematics meant a lot to her ([7] or [8]):-
Anna shared her mother's love of mathematics, and knew by the time she was fourteen that her future would include a career either in the field itself or in something closely related to it. Perhaps, she thought then, she might become an astronomer.
In 1981, when Anna was asked why she had become a mathematician replied (see [1]):-
Well, I guess it was my mother's fault. ... She didn't mind that I couldn't do arithmetic. But ... when I only got 92% in algebra she was heartbroken. When I got to geometry I knew that was it. So I always told people I was going to be an architect because that was acceptable. I really intended to be an astronomer but that wasn't much of a field. So I stayed in mathematics.
After the death of her parents, she went to live in St Louis, Missouri where she attended the Frank Louis Soldan High School. This school, which opened in 1909, was in Union Boulevard and Anna graduated from the school in 1922. She was awarded a four year scholarship and also a scholarship from the St Louis branch of the American Association of University Women which allowed her to enter the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio in 1922. An advertisement for the College from a few years earlier reads:
Western College for Women
Ranks with Leading Eastern Colleges.
A Center of stimulating life for thoughtful students. Definite religious influence. Comprehensive Curriculum. Music, Art, Domestic Science. 350 acres in campus, farm and gardens. New Gymnasium and Swimming Pool.
At this College, Stafford's [5]:-
... majors were mathematics and Greek and her minor was French. She was in the Classical Club, the French Club, and the Mathematics Club; she participated in theatre; and she was on the baseball, hockey, basketball, and swimming teams.
After graduating from the Western College for Women in 1926 she became a teacher of mathematics and science. She taught at a number of different schools over the next few years. For two years she taught at the St John Baptist School in New York. In session 1928-29 she taught at the Darlington Seminary in West Chester, Pennsylvania and in 1929-31 at the St John Baptist School for Girls in Mendham, New Jersey. However, Stafford was keen to continue her mathematical education in addition to her job as a high school teacher so, every summer between 1927 and 1931 she attended graduate school at the University of Chicago. She was awarded a Master's Degree from Chicago in December 1931 but at this stage she wanted to continue her studies for a doctorate which required residence in Chicago. Her thesis advisor at Chicago was Mayme Irwin Logsdon (1881-1967). Logsdon had been advised by L E Dickson and awarded a Ph.D. from Chicago in 1921 for her thesis Equivalence and Reduction of Pairs of Hermitian Forms. While studying for her Master's Degree Stafford had attended a topology lecture given by Raymond Wilder and realised that this was the topic that interested her. Mayme Logsdon knew little about topology but she had agreed to advise Stafford so the two studied topology together using a handwritten Italian topology text. Stafford was not unhappy to see that the notes were in Italian since her ability with languages was high and she simply learnt Italian before reading the notes. She graduated with a Ph.D. in 1933 with her 29-page thesis Knotted Varieties. The first few chapters in her thesis are:

1. Definitions and Transformations
2. Dimensionality and Linking in S3S^{3} and S4S^{4}
3. The Knotted Variety
4. Dimension of KnK_{n}
5. Existence of the Knotted Variety
6. The group of KnK_{n} in S2n+1S^{2n+1}
7. Construction of KnK_{n} by Empirical Methods
8. Alexander's Polynomial Invariants
Before completing her doctoral studies, Stafford decided that she wanted to study topology further and the only American experts in topology that she had heard of were James Alexander and Oswald Veblen. She had read Veblen's famous 1922 book Analysis Situs. Both Alexander and Veblen were at Princeton University so she wrote to Princeton University explaining that she wanted to continue her study of topology. She simply received a postcard in reply which stated "We don't take girls."

The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton was founded in 1930 when building began. The first school at the Institute was the School of Mathematics, created in the autumn of 1932. An article in 'The New York Times' about the Institute for Advanced Study on 11 October 1932 announced that Einstein and Veblen had been appointed to the Institute. The first founding principle of the Institute was that:-
... individuals who work at the Institute should be selected on the basis of their abilities alone and with no regard to race, creed, or gender.
Stafford wrote to Veblen on 6 March 1933 ([7] or [8]):-
I feel that my mathematical career is still too near its beginnings for me to begin work that is not done under competent direction such as I hope to find at the Institute for Advanced Study ... I think I have laid good foundations for the sort of work which in Combinatorial Topology can scarcely be carried out anywhere so well as at Princeton, and which I believe is just the sort of training the Institute plans to furnish. I hope that by some means I shall be able to continue my work there in the not too distant future. I am eagerly anticipating your visit to Chicago in April, when I hope plans for next year will be more complete.
She was able to talk to Veblen when he visited Chicago and she was accepted by the Institute for Advanced Study on condition that she obtained her Ph.D. Soon she arranged a morning teaching position at the St John Baptist School in Princeton so she would be able to attend seminars in the Institute in the afternoons. After the award of her Ph.D. in August 1933, Stafford was formally accepted by the Institute for Advanced Study and spent two years there.

In 1935 she decided that she would prefer to teach mathematics rather than undertake research and she was appointed as an instructor in mathematics at the University of Nebraska. She attended the International Congress of Mathematicians in Oslo, Norway, from 13 to 18 July 1936. There, in addition to a talk by Veblen on Spinors and Projective Geometry, there was also a talk by Jakob Nielsen on Topologie der Flächenabbildungen .

After two years at Nebraska, she moved to Salt Lake City when appointed as an instructor in mathematics at the University of Utah in 1937. She was always keen to help young people so she became a Girl Scout troop leader and she also helped young people at the Episcopal mission in Bluff, Utah.

While singing in a local choir in Salt Lake City, she met Douglas Emmanuel Henriques. Douglas, the son of Hoyt Emanuel and Charlotte Henriques, was born on 10 May 1910, in Battle Mountain, Lander, Nevada, USA. Previously he had married Magdalene Marwedel in 1929 and they had one son who was born in 1930. Douglas, who was an administrative law judge for the US Department of the Interior, married Anna on 9 December 1942. At the time of her marriage, Douglas's son was twelve years old. The family adopted a girl from the Navajo Nation whom Henriques had got to know at the Episcopal mission in Bluff, and they helped to raise another young Navajo girl who attended the mission. They had no children of their own.

Tom Apostol was a student at the University of Utah in the early 1940s. He said in an interview in 1997 [2]:-
I attended [the University of Utah] for two years. My best mathematics teacher was Anna Henriques, who taught me college algebra and analytic geometry. She's in her nineties now and lives in a retirement complex in Virginia. I telephoned her recently, and she remembers me very well.
In 1941, before her marriage, Stafford had been promoted to assistant professor. The Mathematics Club at the University of Utah had ceased to function so, in 1946, Henriques brought the club back to life. In the following year she was promoted to associate professor and she continued in this position until 1956. While in Utah she had undertaken several different roles in the American Association of University Women, the organisation that had supported her through university with a scholarship. She also gave much time to the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics, serving as editor of their bulletin, their programme director and, for a while, as their president.

Douglas Henriques had worked in Utah for around twenty years but, in 1956, his work for the US Department of the Interior meant that he had to move to New Mexico. Anna Henriques resigned her position at the University of Utah and moved with the family to New Mexico. Once there she accepted a position as a lecturer in mathematics at St Michael's College, Santa Fe. This College, founded in 1859 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, had received its charter for higher education in 1874. In 1958, in addition to her position at St Michael's College, Henriques took on a second position as a lecturer in mathematics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. In 1962 Henriques was promoted to professor at St Michael's College and, at that time, resigned from her second position at the University of New Mexico. Four years later, in 1966, the Christian Brothers changed the name of St Michael's College to the College of Santa Fe (since 2010 it has been the Santa Fe University). Henriques taught there until she retired in 1971.

The Henriques family did not remain in New Mexico but moved to Falls Church, Virginia. Douglas and Anna Henriques, both being retired, now had the freedom to travel widely around every continent and they made full use of the opportunity. Douglas died in November 1987. When in her 90s, Henriques was living in the Goodwin House retirement home in Bailey's Crossroads in Virginia. She continued to give talks on mathematics to other residents of Goodwin House when in her middle nineties. She loved bowling which she did three times a week up to the age of 93. She died of congestive heart failure only a few months short of her 100th birthday.

In addition to her love of mathematics and astronomy, and for bowling and travelling which we have already mentioned, Henriques loved to climb mountains and go hiking. She was also fond of music, particularly opera, and the theatre was another of the pleasures in her life. She was a strong supporter of the Mathematical Association of America and was generous in giving to the Institute for Advanced Study.

References (show)

  1. A Green and J LaDuke, Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD's (American Mathematical Society, Providence RI, 2009).
  2. D J Albers and T Apostol, An Interview with Tom Apostol, The College Mathematics Journal 28 (4) (1997), 250-270.
  3. Anna Adelaide Stafford Henriques, University of Chicago Magazine 97 (4) (2005).
  4. Anna Adelaide Stafford Henriques, University of Utah, Alumni Association e-Newsletter (January 2005).
  5. A Green and J LaDuke, Henriques, Anna (Stafford), Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD's (American Mathematical Society, Providence RI, 2009), 199-200.
  6. P Sullivan, Mathematics Pioneer Anna Henriques Dies, Washington Post (Thursday, 2 December 2004).
  7. G Whidden, Anna Stafford Henriques, Attributions. A Newsletter from the Development Office, Institute for Advanced Study No.1 (2001), 6-7.
  8. G Whidden, Anna Stafford Henriques, Biographies of Women Mathematicians, Agnes Scott College (2 June, 2016).

Additional Resources (show)

Other websites about Anna Adelaide Stafford Henriques:

  1. Agnes Scott College
  2. Mathematical Genealogy Project

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update February 2017