A Tale of two Trailblazers

Sisters Lucy and Annette Braun, 1910.

Sisters Lucy (left) and Annette Braun, 1910.

Written by Susan Helmick, Graduate Assistant to the Graduate College

Every March, during Women's History Month, we honor the profound contributions and indomitable spirit of women throughout history. Originating from a commemoration called "Women's History Week," which was initially established in California in 1978 by the Education Task Force of Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women and designed to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8th, this observance evolved into National Women's History Week through a presidential proclamation in 1980. Seven years later, following a Congressional resolution, March was formally designated as Women's History Month on our nation’s calendar.

Today, Women's History Month serves as a reminder of the countless women who have shattered glass ceilings, defied expectations, and paved the way for progress and equality throughout history. Among these trailblazers are Annette and Emma (Lucy) Braun, sisters and University of Cincinnati graduate scholars, whose achievements during a time when post-secondary education was male dominated continue to inspire us.

In 1911, Annette Frances Braun became the first woman to earn a doctoral degree from the University of Cincinnati. Shortly thereafter, Emma Lucy Braun followed, becoming the second woman in the school’s history to achieve its highest academic honor by completing her PhD in botany in 1916 (and only the third woman at that time overall).

Following their graduation, both sisters carved out successful legacies of their own: Emma Lucy as a distinguished botanist and ecologist, whose groundbreaking work in plant ecology and conservation established her as a pioneer in her field; and Annette Frances as an entomologist and leading authority on the study of moths, who named more than three hundred species during her career.

The achievements of the Braun sisters in science and academia not only shattered glass ceilings but also paved the way for future generations of women scholars. Their remarkable journey serves as a testament to the countless women who have challenged the status quo, leaving behind an enduring legacy of progress and empowerment. This legacy is one that The Graduate College reaffirms in its commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where all aspiring scholars can thrive and excel as they seek to make their mark on the world.

As we commemorate Women's History Month this March, the triumphs of the Braun sisters not only underscore the potential that resides within each of us, irrespective of gender or background, but also embody the spirit of "Next Lives Here." While they may have been the first to forge new paths of discovery and innovation in their respective fields and time, you can be next. Let’s continue to pave the way for progress.