Comstock, Ada Louise (1876–1973)

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Comstock, Ada Louise (1876–1973)

American educator. Born on December 11, 1876, in Moorhead, Minnesota; died on December 12, 1973, in New Haven, Connecticut; educated at University of Minnesota (1892–1894), Smith College (B.L., 1897), Columbia University (A.M. in English, history and education, 1899); married Wallace Notestein, in 1943.

Ada Comstock had a long and distinguished career as an American educator. Born in Minnesota in 1876, she was a student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from 1892 to 1894, before graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.L. from Smith College in 1897. She then attended Columbia University in New York City, from which she earned her A.M. in English, history, and education in 1899. Returning to Minneapolis, Comstock began teaching at the University of Minnesota; she remained there for 12 years, from 1900 to 1912, becoming full professor of rhetoric and dean of women (Comstock was the only woman in the university to serve as an administrator).

In 1912, she became the first woman dean of Smith College and would serve in that capacity for 11 years. When the Association of Collegiate Alumnae and the Southern Association of College merged to become the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Comstock was the first president of the new organization (1921), a position she would hold until 1923, the year she became president of Radcliffe College. Comstock is credited with developing a much closer working relationship between Radcliffe and Harvard University.

Herbert Hoover appointed Comstock as the only woman of the 11-member Wickersham Commission to study problems in law enforcement, particularly the problems resulting from Prohibition. Rather than vote in favor of repealing the 18th Amendment, she voted to modify it. As chair of the AAUW's International Relations Department, Comstock urged American intervention against totalitarian aggressors. She was also a member of the National Committee for Planned Parenthood, for which she led fundraising in 1941. Comstock died in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 12, 1973.

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