Mary Maples Dunn was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and earned her PhD in history at Bryn Mawr College. Over a span of 20 years, she advanced from instructor to professor to undergraduate dean at Bryn Mawr. Before becoming acting president of Radcliffe, she served as the president of Smith College for 10 years and as the director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America for 5 years, from 1995 to 1999. Following her service to Radcliffe College, she became co–executive officer of the American Philosophical Society, a post she held until her retirement in 2007.
An authority on William Penn, colonial American history, and the history of women in America, Dunn is the coeditor of The World of William Penn (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986) and the author of Women of America: A Teacher’s Guide (Continental Press, 1976) and William Penn: Politics and Conscience (Princeton University Press, 1967). A former Fulbright scholar, Dunn was awarded the Radcliffe Medal in 2001. She was also awarded fellowships by the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.
In September 1999, Dunn welcomed Drew Gilpin Faust—whom she had known when she was undergraduate dean at Bryn Mawr—to the Radcliffe Institute as its founding dean. Dunn was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute in 2000–2001.
- Elizabeth Cary Agassiz (Radcliffe College President from 1882 to 1903)