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Ada Comstock Notestein 1876-1973


AMERICAN EDUCATION, especially the education of American women, lost a champion when Ada Comstock Notestein died last week. Born, as she liked to point out, the first white child in the Red River valley, in Moorhead, Minnesota, she grew up loving the wide prairies and wheat fields of the West. She was encouraged by her father, to whom she always felt close, to go east to college. She graduated from Smith College in 1897, took graduate work in English at Columbia and from there went to the University of Minnesota as a teacher of English and the first dean of women. After a few years there, she returned to Smith as its first dean. In 1923 she left Smith to become president of Radcliffe College, a post she filled with distinction for twenty years. Under Ada Comstock coordinate education between Harvard and Radcliffe became coeducation. Upon her retirement in 1943 she married Wallace Notestein, a professor of history at Yale, and made her permanent home in New Haven.

Ada Comstock took a life-long interest in the three institutions where she had worked and she is remembered in them all for her wisdom, leadership, courage and strength.

Comstock was often asked to speak because of her unusually rich and persuasive voice. This gift was a great asset when she became the first president of the American Association of University Women. She served also as a member of the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement and as a delegate to the Peking meeting of the Institute of Pacific Relations. All who were fortunate enough to work with her will remember her as the essence of integrity, devoted to truth and justice, a beloved companion with rare gifts of head and heart.

This obituary was written by Bernice B. Cronkhite, who served as Dean of Radcliffe College during the Comstock presidency.

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