Beatrice Beulah Russell

Quick Info

22 October 1878
Boxville, Union County, Kentucky, USA
22 February 1940
Newport News, Virginia, USA

Beulah Russell taught mathematics at several colleges in the United States including William and Mary. She attended the Edinburgh Mathematical Society Colloquium held in St Andrews, Scotland, in 1930 becoming the first female professor to attend the St Andrews Colloquium.


Beulah Russell was christened Beatrice Beulah Russell and Beatrice appears on the record of her birth. All later documents give her name as Beulah Russell (or Bulah Russell) and she does not appear to have used the name Beatrice.

Beulah Russell was the daughter of the farmers James Russell (1824-1895) and Havana Victoria Roberts (1842-1924). James Russell was born on 5 March 1824 in Tennessee and he married Sarah Ann Higginson on 16 November 1846 in Union County, Kentucky. Sarah had been born in 1828 in Kentucky. They had four children: Pamela E Russell (born 1847); Eliza E Russell (born 1848); George W Russell (born 1850); and Mary A Russell (born 1853). Sarah Ann Russell died on 6 September 1855. James Russell married Havana Victoria Roberts in Hopkins, Kentucky on 2 April 1872. Havana, whose name sometimes appears as Havannah or Havanah, had been born on 25 November 1842 in Granville, North Carolina. James and Havana Russell had five children: Edgar Roberts Russell (1872-1949); Beatrice Beulah Russell (1878-1940), the subject of this biography; Vera Russell (1881-1953); Dora Russell (born 1884); and Marion Russell (1885-1966).

It was in Boxville that Beulah Russell received her school education, after which she became a school teacher before beginning her College education. At the time of the 1900 census, Beulah is 21 years old and is living with her two brothers and two sisters. Her mother Havana gives her occupation as 'farmer' while her two brothers, Edgar and Marion, are 'farm labourers'. Beulah is a school teacher while both her sisters are attending school. Her father had died five years earlier and, presumably her mother was continuing to run the farm with the help of her two sons.

In 1900 Beulah Russell entered Randolph-Macon Woman's College. This College, with strong Methodist connections, had been founded in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1891 by William Waugh Smith who was the president of the College when Russell studied there. The College, which had opened in 1893, aimed to provide Virginia women with "an education equal to that given in our best colleges for young men." The academic standards were high and Russell majored in mathematics and graduated in 1903 with a B.A. She was then appointed as an Instructor in Mathematics at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. This College dated back to 1832 when classes in mathematics and the classics began in a rented farmhouse on the south bank of the Lehigh River and the College buildings that Russell taught in began construction on College Hill in 1834. It had grown to have over 300 students when Russell taught mathematics there from 1903 to 1905.

Russell left Lafayette College after two years when, in 1905, she was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Grenada College. This College, founded in 1850 as the Yalobusha Female Institute, became the Emma Mercer Institute in 1867, then the Grenada Female College in 1875. Sold to the highest bidder in 1882 it had been purchased by the Methodist Church and was renamed Grenada College in 1884. It remained a women's college and closed in 1936. Russell taught mathematics there from 1905 to 1909.

In 1909 Russell returned to Randolph-Macon Woman's College, where she had herself been a student, as an Instructor in Mathematics. The Head of Mathematics was Nathan Allen Pattillo (1867-1936) who had been awarded a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1897, then served on the faculty of Southern University, Millsaps College, and Alabama Normal College before being appointed Professor of Mathematics at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1899. He had been appointed Dean of the College in 1907, two years before Russell's appointment. Also in the Mathematics department was Gillie Aldah Larew who had been an Instructor in Mathematics at Randolph-Macon Woman's College from 1903, and was promoted to Adjunct-Professor of Mathematics in 1909, the year Russell was appointed. Annie Christine Whiteside joined the Mathematics Department in 1912 when she was appointed as an Instructor in Mathematics and Psychology.

You can see the Syllabus for the Mathematics Courses taught by the four members of staff at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1913-14 at THIS LINK.

While Russell was on the faculty of Randolph-Macon Woman's College, she also studied for a Master's degree at the University of Chicago. She submitted the dissertation Relation between the definite integral and summation of series to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Science of the University of Chicago in August 1919. The Outline of the dissertation is as follows [6]:-
1) Definite integral evaluated by process of summation
  a) Integrand, a rational, integral function of x.
  b) Integrand, a rational fraction of type 1xcm\large\frac{1}{x-c}\normalsize m
2) Condition for existence of the definite integral of the sum of a series.
3) Definite integral as sum of a series.
  a) Series derived through expansion of functions by Maclaurin's formula.
  b) Series summed by inverse process.
  c) Sums of certain series expressed by the definite integral.
In 1925 Russell left the Randolph-Macon Woman's College and was appointed Associate Professor of Mathematics at the College of William and Mary. This College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Planning began in 1618, decades before Harvard University, and William & Mary was officially chartered in 1693. Women were admitted to the College in 1918 and the dissertation [7] contains much fascinating information about the first women faculty, including Beulah Russell.

At the College of William and Mary, Russell taught five classes of mathematics, three freshman classes and two upper level courses. This was a normal workload for both men and women, but women tended to teach mostly in the lower level courses [2]:-
She taught Freshman Mathematics, General Mathematics for students in Social Sciences, Calculus, and the History of Mathematics. ... Miss Russell was noted for the amount of time she spent in giving students extra help in Mathematics. She was very conscientious and interested in the individual. Her generous nature found her giving up evenings coaching those students who were behind in their courses.
Carolyn Lamb Sparks Whittenburg notes [7]:-
Beulah Russell served on the Scholarships Committee [and] on the Student Activities Committee. Women faculty served on committees that focused almost exclusively on students rather than policy where more men served.
In 1930 Russell attended the Edinburgh Mathematical Society Colloquium held in St Andrews, Scotland, held from 19 to 30 July. During the period of the Colloquium, five formal courses of lectures were given, beginning on Monday, 21 July. Three lectures were given by H W Richmond on Arithmetical Properties of Curves and Surfaces; four by C G Darwin on The Wave Mechanics; three by H W Turnbull on Elementary Mathematics from the Higher Standpoint; three by H F Baker on Rational Curves and Surfaces; and three by A C Aitken on Recent Developments in Symmetric Functions, Determinants, and Algebraic Equations. Among the other lectures and discussions, Charles Noble, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, led a discussion on Teaching of Mathematics at Home and Abroad. Russell took part in this discussion relating the experiences of teachers in the United States, America, Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland. By taking part in this Colloquium, Russell became the first female professor to attend the St Andrews Colloquium. Russell spent another month in the UK before leaving on the Holland-American Line ship the Statendam from Southampton on 30 August. The Statendam arrived in New York on 6 September allowing her time to return to the College of William and Mary to begin her teaching for session 1930-31.

Beulah Russell died of a tumour on the spine on Thursday 22 February 1940 at the Riverside Hospital in Newport News [2]:-
Miss Beulah Russell, Associate Professor of Mathematics at the College of William and Mary, died in Newport News last Thursday. Many faculty members and friends were present at the funeral services which were held on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the home of Mrs P W Hiden in Newport News.

Miss Russell had been ill since last summer and became a patient in the Riverside Hospital in Newport News in August. Not many students have had the occasion to know Miss Russell this year, as she has been on leave of absence since September 1939.
We note that Mrs P W Hiden, mentioned in this quote, was the widow of Philip Wallace Hiden (1872-1936), a businessman who had served as mayor of Newport News.

Russell was buried in McClure Cemetery, Boxville, Union County, Kentucky in a simple grave marked with a flat stone engraved
1878 - 1940.
Beulah Russell Hall at the College of William and Mary has been named in her honour.

References (show)

  1. Beulah Russell, James Russell, Havannah Victoria Roberts, Sarah Ann Higginson,
  2. Beulah Russell Death Mourned By College, The Flat Hat. College of William and Mary (27 February 1940).
  3. Beulah Russell, Bulletin. The College of William and Mary in Virginia. Catalogue 1925-26 20 (1) (1926), 17.
  4. Bulletin of The College of William and Mary 22 (1) (1928).
  5. Catalogue of Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg, Virginia. Twenty-first Session 1913-14 (J P Bell Company, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1914).
  6. B Russell, Relation between the definite integral and summation of series, ProQuest Dissertations.
  7. C L S Whittenburg, President J A C Chandler and the first women faculty at the College of William and Mary, D.Ed. Thesis (College of William and Mary, May 2004).

Additional Resources (show)

Other pages about Beulah Russell:

  1. Randolph-Macon Woman's College: Mathematics

Cross-references (show)

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update December 2021