This Women’s History Month, we celebrate Emilie Grace Briggs, the first woman to graduate from Union Theological Seminary in 1897. Due to her high academic standing, she was the first person to walk across the stage at her commencement. There are no known photos of Briggs, however she is thought to be furthest or 2nd to the right in the drawing shown in this post.
While she helped pave the way for women students at Union, her time was not always welcoming. She was forbidden to be in the graduating class picture, and no official record of her having earned a degree from Union exists, save her alumna file. After graduating, she devoted her life to biblical exegesis and continued at Union as a Ph.D. student, focusing on the study of ‘women as deacons.’ She never received her doctorate due to a stipulation that she publish her dissertation as a book, for which she was never able to find a publisher.
She went on to teach New Testament, Greek, and Hebrew at the New York School for Deaconesses. Learn more about her life and work in the link in bio.