About the Collector
Louise Bulkley Dillingham (A.B. 1916, M.A. 1924, Ph.D. 1926) (1896-1965)
Louise Bulkley Dillingham was born in Summit, New Jersey, on November 1, 1896, the eldest of six children. After being educated at home she attended the Short Hills School in New Jersey before entering Bryn Mawr College as an undergraduate in 1912, one of the youngest girls to do so at the time. She graduated magna cum laude with a major in French and German and went on to do graduate work in French and Spanish at Colombia University.
Beginning in 1917, Dillingham spent five years in Puerto Rico working as a secretary to the vice president and general manager of the South Puerto Rico Sugar company. It was here that her love of Latin American culture and history first began, which continued throughout her life. In 1922 she returned to Bryn Mawr for four years, receiving a master’s degree in French and psychology in 1924 and also studying on a graduate fellowship at the University of Paris. Dillingham received her Ph.D in French literature from Bryn Mawr in 1926, with a dissertation entitled, The Creative Imagination of Theophile Gautier.
After completing her degree, Dillingham taught at Wellesley College for one year and then returned to France as Assistant Director of the University of Delaware’s Junior Year Abroad. She left her position to join the faculty of the Westover School in 1931, becoming its Headmistress the following year, a position she held for 32 years until her retirement in June of 1964. Throughout her career, she traveled to Central and South America, filling her home with books and souvenirs.
Dillingham was the author of several psychological monographs and many articles on French literature and education, her collection at Bryn Mawr further demonstrates her passion for Latin American history. In a letter dated December 11, 1963, and addressed to Bryn Mawr President Katharine E. McBride, Dillingham writes:
“During the last twenty-five years I have had a great deal of interest in making a collection of books which deal primarily with the West Indies and Latin America, including the American South-West…The books which I wish to give the college in 1963…represent phases of my studies of the discovery, explorations, voyages, colonization and development of the Western Hemisphere.”
In 1963 Dillingham began donating portions of her collection of books to Bryn Mawr College, eventually giving over one thousand volumes on the colonization of Latin America, including over two hundred rare books. Louise Bulkley Dillingham died in January 1965, only a year after her retirement from the Westover School. Dillingham had served for many years on the Friends of the Library Board, a group started in 1950 to support the library’s work and development, and her gift of these important texts continues to enrich Bryn Mawr’s collection to the present day.