The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn

Mary Ingraham Bunting-Smith

Mary Ingraham Bunting-Smith Class of 1927

Mary Ingraham Bunting-Smith was a pioneer in the fields of science and university administration. She worked tirelessly to create opportunities for female academics at a time when their contributions were routinely underestimated.

Ingraham was born in Brooklyn in 1910. Her parents—Henry Ingraham, a lawyer, and Mary Shotwell Ingraham, president of the Young Women’s Christian Association—both encouraged her curiosity.

Ingraham graduated from The Packer Collegiate Institute in 1927 before enrolling at Vassar College. There, she excelled in the sciences. She went on to pursue a PhD in agricultural bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In 1937, she married Henry Bunting, with whom she had four children. While Bunting-Smith devoted herself to motherhood, she also managed to find some time for scientific research. This proved crucial when, in 1954, Henry Bunting died of a brain tumor, forcing her to return to full-time work. She quickly accepted a position as dean of Douglass College, the women’s branch of Rutgers University.

At Douglass College, she focused her energies on changing the educational experience of women. She created part-time and reentry programs so that women could pursue both family and education, and she provided financial support to female academics.

In 1960, Bunting was named president of Radcliffe College and founded the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study. The institute provided working space and financial support for female graduate students whose research interests might have otherwise been overlooked. She also helped oversee the transition to coeducation at Harvard University. Based in part on these successes, Bunting was appointed to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1961–1963) and to the Atomic Energy Commission (1964–1965).

In 1972, Bunting left Radcliffe for Princeton University, where she again helped to implement coeducation. She married Clement A. Smith, a Harvard Medical School professor, in 1975.

Mary Ingraham Bunting-Smith died in 1998.