In the summer of 1907, Georgiana Rose Simpson left Washington, D.C., to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago. A 41-year-old high school teacher, she enrolled with the goal of furthering her interests in German language and literature.
As a pathbreaking figure, Simpson faced racism and discrimination throughout her academic career. Shortly after she arrived at the University, she was forced to live off-campus when white students objected to sharing a dorm with a Black woman.
Despite such challenges, Simpson would earn three degrees from the University of Chicago—an AB in 1911, AM in 1920, and a Ph.D. in 1921, when she was 55 years old. Simpson became the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States on June 14, 1921, followed within weeks by two scholars at other universities who also received their degrees that month.