Ada Louise Notestein

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Ada Louise Notestein (Comstock)

Birthdate: (97)
Death: 1973 (97)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Solomon Gilman Comstock, US Congress and Sarah Ann Comstock
Wife of Wallace Notestein
Sister of Jessie May Comstock and George Madison Comstock

Managed by: Private User
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About Ada Louise Notestein

Ada Comstock (December 11, 1876-December 12, 1973) was an American women's education pioneer. She served as the first dean of women at the University of Minnesota and later as the first full-time president of Radcliffe College.

Early life and education

Ada Louise Comstock was born on December 11, 1876 in Moorhead, Minnesota to Solomon Gilman Comstock, an attorney, and Sarah Ball Comstock. The oldest of three children, she graduated from Moorhead High School at age 15. Comstock began her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota in 1892, transferring to Smith College after two years. After graduating from Smith in 1897, she returned to Minnesota to complete a graduate course in teaching at Moorhead Normal School (now Minnesota State University, Moorhead), then went to Columbia University where she earned a master's degree in 1899.


Comstock began her career at the University of Minnesota as an assistant in the rhetoric department under Maria L. Sanford. She was promoted to the position of instructor in 1900 and assistant professor in 1904. She was appointed the school's first dean of women in 1907 and a full professor in 1909. In 1912 Comstock accepted an invitation to become the dean of Smith College, where she served as acting president for a period in 1917-1918. From 1921 to 1923, she served as president of American Association of University Women. On October 20, 1923, Comstock was inaugurated as president of Radcliffe College. She spent twenty years leading the school, strengthening its academic programs and, in 1943, persuaded Harvard to accept classroom coeducation.

In addition to her academic career, Comstock was appointed to the National Committee on Law Observation and Enforcement, known as the Wickersham Commission, in 1929.

After her retirement from Radcliffe, Comstock remained active in academia, serving on the Smith board of trustees, working on a graduate center for Radcliffe, and traveling extensively in support of her husband's research.


A week after her retirement from Radcliffe, Comstock married Yale professor emeritus Wallace Notestein. The couple had no children together. He died in 1969.

[edit] Death and afterward

Ada Comstock Notestein died of congestive heart failure at her home in New Haven, Connecticut on December 12, 1973.

The largest collection of her papers, the Ada Louise Comstock Papers, 1897-1950, are housed at the Smith College Archives.

Comstock's name has been honored with buildings on college and university campuses, including Comstock Hall at the University of Minnesota and Comstock Hall in the Radcliffe Quad, a program for non-traditional students at Smith College, and a lecture series.

Awards and honors

1958: Jane Addams Medal, Rockford College
1966: Founder's Award, Radcliffe College
1967: Hollins Medal 
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Ada Louise Notestein's Timeline

Age 97