Biography of Edith Hamilton (1868-1963)
Edith Hamilton was a pioneering female educator and writer on mythology. Born in Germany and raised in Indiana, she excelled in academia from a very early age. As a young child, Hamilton learned Latin, Greek, French, and German. She attended Miss Porter's school in Connecticut until her father's business went bankrupt. At that point, she and her sisters taught themselves.
Edith proceeded to college at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. In 1895, she became the first woman to study at the University of Munich in Germany. With this strong education, Hamilton became the headmistress of Bryn Mawr Preparatory School for Girls in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1896. She was only twenty-nine years old.
After a remarkable twenty-six-year career, Hamilton retired from education in 1922. But she did not stop working. She moved to New York City with her life partner, Doris Fielding Reid, and began a career writing scholarly articles on Greek drama and myths. Between 1930 and 1957, Hamilton published books and articles that to this day are considered defining analyses of ancient literature, culture, and life.
Her writing took off with The Greek Way, written in 1930, which compared life in ancient Greece to that in modern Greece. Hamilton followed up by writing The Roman Way, which explored similar themes in Roman life. The Prophets of Israel, Three Greek Plays, Mythology, and The Golden Age of Greek Literature all marked the significant success of her prolific career.
In her elder years, people around the world praised Hamilton for her groundbreaking role as a female academic. President John F. Kennedy invited her to his inauguration. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. But most significant to Hamilton, at the age of 90, she traveled to Greece for the first time, where the city of Athens made her an honorary citizen.
Hamilton died in 1963 at the age of 95 in Washington, DC. Her rich life and her impressive body of written work still inspire students and academics alike.