Uncommon Women

From Emily D. to MTV

Emily Dickinson, class of 1848, revolutionized American poetry; Gabrielle Gregg, class of 2008, explores the frontiers of social media as MTV’s first Twitter jockey. Yesterday and today, Mount Holyoke alumnae blaze new trails.

Our alumnae are groundbreaking doctors, history-making cabinet members, and distinguished college presidents. We have graduated scientists, bankers, CEOs, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights, and even a director of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization. Throughout the decades, in nations all over the world, alumnae have—and continue to—demonstrate the remarkable power of a Mount Holyoke education.

Here are just some of the remarkable women who have called Mount Holyoke home:

  • Emily Dickinson 1848, American poet
  • Alice McLellan Birney 1875, cofounder, National Parent Teachers Association
  • Frances Perkins 1902, the first woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet
  • Dr. Virginia Apgar 1929, developer of the Apgar score, an internationally recognized test for evaluating the health of newborns
  • Virginia Hamilton Adair 1933, poet
  • Florence Schorske Wald 1938, nurse; dean of the Yale School of Nursing; founder of hospice movement in the U.S.
  • Ella Tambussi Grasso 1940, first woman governor elected in her own right; recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Gloria Johnson-Powell 1958, first African American woman to attain tenure at Harvard Medical School
  • Jean Picker Firstenberg 1958, president emerita, American Film Institute
  • Nita M. Lowey 1959, New York congresswoman
  • Julia Phillips 1964, first woman producer to win an Oscar
  • Nancy J. Vickers 1967, former president of Bryn Mawr College
  • Elaine Tuttle Hansen 1969, former president of Bates College
  • Wendy Wasserstein 1971, playwright; recipient of the Tony Award, the Dramatists Guild Award, and the Pulitzer Prize
  • Nancy Novograd 1971, editor-in-chief of Travel and Leisure magazine
  • Barbara J. Desoer 1974, president of Bank of America Home Loans; named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes (2009)
  • Pamela Maffei McCarthy 1974, New Yorker deputy editor
  • Robin Chemers Neustein 1975, chief of staff and second female partner, Goldman Sachs
  • Elaine Chao 1975, former secretary of labor
  • Nancy Gustafson 1978, opera star
  • Priscilla Painton 1980, editor-in-chief, Simon & Schuster; former executive editor, Time magazine
  • Lynn Pasquerella 1980, president, Mount Holyoke College; former provost and chief academic officer, University of Hartford
  • Holly Metcalf 1981, first American gold medallist in women's eight-oar boat
  • Barbara A. Cassani 1982, first female CEO of a British airline company (Go) and recipient of the Veuve Clicquot businesswoman of the year award
  • Janet V. Lustgarten 1982, cofounder and CEO of technology firm Kx Systems
  • Lan Cao 1983, novelist and law professor
  • Mary Mazzio 1983, award-winning documentary filmmaker, attorney, and Olympic rower
  • Suzan-Lori Parks 1985, playwright; Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship winner
  • Kavita Ramdas 1985, senior advisor and former CEO, Global Fund for Women
  • Mona Sutphen 1989, former deputy chief of staff, Obama administration
  • Heather Harde 1991, CEO (2007–2011), TechCrunch
  • Sonali Gulati 1996, documentary filmmaker and assistant professor, Department of Photography and Film, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Jade McCarthy 2002, first female sports reporter in the history of Philadelphia's major television networks
  • Gabrielle Gregg 2008, MTV's first-ever Twitter Jockey; uses social media to report on popular culture