Skip to main content
Select Source:

Sarah Gibson Blanding

Sarah Gibson Blanding

Sarah Gibson Blanding (1898-1985) enjoyed the distinction of becoming one of the first women to serve in important U.S. government administrative posts during World War II.

Sarah Gibson Blanding began her career as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Kentucky in 1937. Her credentials included a year of study at the London School of Economics (1928-1929). She remained at the University of Kentucky, later becoming the dean of women, until 1941, when she became director of the New York State College of Home Economics at Cornell University. During her tenure there wartime demands for home-economics services quadrupled. She expedited requests for help by promoting food and nutrition education, child-care techniques, conservation and preservation of war materials in short supply, mass feeding, and maintenance of equipment.

Dewey Calls

Blanding's efforts at Cornell did not go unnoticed. During the last years of World War II Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York appointed Blanding to several state government posts, including director of the Human Nutrition Division of the State Emergency Food Commission and consultant to the State Defense Council's Division of Volunteer Participation. But her work was not limited to the local or state levels. As the war progressed, she was selected as the only female member of several national committees, which enhanced her reputation as an administrator.

The Presidency of Vassar

In February 1946 Blanding sought and obtained the post of president of Vassar College, succeeding Henry MacCracken, who had been president since 1915. She was selected because she was "the best possible person, man or woman." The New York Herald Tribune noted that Blanding "was a fresh, vigorous, and resourceful person with a mind of proved capacity, and, most of all, balanced judgment." She believed that her main mission was to maintain Vassar's high quality of education for women; ironically, this came at a time when the college, to help alleviate the overcrowding of men's colleges, began accepting male war veterans on the GI Bill as students working toward Vassar degrees.

National Honors

Blanding received national recognition for her efforts on behalf of women's education at Vassar. She toured often, lecturing that the balance of good and evil was so precarious that the scales could be tipped in either direction, so democracy was in a perilous position. In the process she received honorary doctorates from several colleges, including the University of Kentucky. She was appointed by President Harry S Truman to the National Commission on Higher Education, whose aim was to reexamine the system of education in the United States; later Governor Dewey appointed her to a committee to study the need for a state university system in New York. At her inauguration to the National Commission on Higher Education in October 1946, Blanding was given the War Department's Civilian Service Award for her service to the secretary of war. Cited during the ceremony were her exceptional efforts in developing activities for the Women's Army Corps and her leadership as a member of the army and navy committees on welfare and recreation. She was then appointed to the War Department Civilian Advisory Council and to the Chief of Staff 's Advisory Committee for the Women's Army Corps.

Further Reading

Jean Nowell, "New President Greets 1,440 at Vassar Opening," New York Herald Tribune, 8 September 1946, p. 33. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sarah Gibson Blanding." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 23 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Sarah Gibson Blanding." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (January 23, 2019).

"Sarah Gibson Blanding." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.