Mary Carpenter Emerson, class of 1927


In this interview, Mary Carpenter Emerson tells of her family’s tradition of attending Brown University, which included her mother, her maternal uncles and her maternal grandfather. Like her mother, Emerson became a science teacher, teaching biology, geometry, general science, chemistry and physics. She speaks of her early life: losing her father at age 11 while living in Louisiana, then moving with her mother to Rhode Island to be close to her mother’s family.

At age 15, she started at Pembroke, stating that’s when she “discovered men.” She tells of campus social life and fraternity dances, the effects of Prohibition, and the deep influence of Dean Margaret Shove Morriss. She speaks of her misgivings with Brown’s open curriculum, her extensive teaching career—in which she taught in Panama, China, and the Philippines—and her experience as a “Navy wife.” She concludes her interview by expressing her great appreciation for the educational opportunities she had and her dismay that many others were not given the same chances at education.


Recorded on May 6, 1988 in Warwick, RI
Interviewed by Ashley Wilbur

Suggested Chicago style citation: Emerson, Mary Carpenter. Interview. By Ashley Wilbur. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. May 6, 1988.


Mary Carpenter Emerson was born in Louisiana where she lived until the age of eleven. She moved to Rhode Island with her mother after her father passed away. After graduating from Pembroke College in 1927, she received a Bachelor of Education degree from the Rhode Island College of Education. She travelled extensively with her husband, an officer in the Navy, and taught in various schools throughout the world. She had two children, born in the Philippines and Hawaii. Emerson passed away in May of 2004.