Mildred McAfee attended Vassar College in New York, where she studied economics, sociology and English. She was also active in team sports (hockey and basketball), the Christian association, and student government. She earned an M.A. in sociology from the University of Chicago.
McAfee spent 14 years working in various collegiate administration positions (including Dean of College Women at Oberlin College) before being selected as President of Wellesley College in 1936. She beat out 100 other candidates for the job. She was just 36 years old.
She told Wellesley students:
I envision the function of this college, or any college, to prepare an oncoming generation of students to disseminate truth. It is my conviction that truth is more easily given a hearing if it’s presented by a healthy, well-adjusted, effective human being who see truth in the light of a word philosophy that gives it meaning.
McAfee wasn’t the first female president of Wellesley (that would be Ada Howard, who was also the first president of the school.)
This photograph shows Mildred McAfee (left) with Rear Admiral A. E. Watson and Margaret Disert in August of 1942. It comes from the Naval Historical Center.