Noteworthy Firsts: Irene Dillard Elliott and Anna Forbes Liddell

At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.

1924 was a big year for UNC-Chapel Hill: that year, the university awarded doctorates to women for the first time. The two recipients were Irene Dillard Elliott and Anna Forbes Liddell.

Irene Dillard Elliott
Elliott earned a BA from Randolph-Macon Women’s College; she went on to earn an MA from the University of South Carolina in 1921. Her next stop was UNC, where she earned a Ph.D. in English. Her dissertation was A History of Literature in South Carolina. After receiving her Ph.D., she made her return to University of South Carolina, becoming an English professor and the first dean of women in the school’s history. She retired in 1935, but then returned in 1946 as a professor of English at USC to compensate for teachers lost to World War II. She continued teaching until 1964.

In addition to her teaching and administrative duties, Elliott founded the South Carolina chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In the 1960s, Dr. Elliott gave funds to start a scholarship fund for students at the Tamassee DAR School and Children’s Home, located in upstate South Carolina. Through the Elliott Scholarship Fund, the chapter currently gives funds each year to the Tamassee DAR School for scholastic purposes.

The 1924 UNC commencement pamphlet listing the theses of Dillard and Liddell.

Anna Forbes Liddell in 1969. [From Florida Memory, photographed by Richard Parks].
Anna Forbes Liddell
Anna Liddell received her BA from UNC in 1918 and an MA from Cornell in 1922. She returned to UNC, earning a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1924. Her dissertation was titled, The Logical Relationship of  the Philosophy of Hegel to the Philosophies of Spinoza and Kant. 

Liddell was an active suffragette in addition to being an academic. In 1913, prior to joining the university, Liddell helped to form the North Carolina Equal Suffrage League in Charlotte. In a Life magazine contest to see who could produce the best original article on feminism, her entry was one of eight selected and purchased from among the 3,000 submitted.

From 1925 to 1926, Liddell was professor of social studies at Chowan College. In the fall of 1926 she joined the faculty of the Florida State College for Women (which became Florida State University in 1947), where she taught philosophy until her retirement in 1962. She served as head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion from 1932 to 1951.

In 1978, then 87 years old and using a wheelchair, she attended a rally in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida and rebuked lawmakers for not supporting the amendment. Liddell passed away in 1979.


Florida Memory

Lambert, Barbara Elizabeth. “Liddell, Anna Forbes.” Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 4, L-O. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Mack, Tom, editor. South Carolina Encyclopedia Guide to South Carolina Writers. Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2014.

South Carolina Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution

South Carolina Encyclopedia entry on Irene Elliott

129th UNC Commencement Pamphlet

Walter James Forbes Liddell Papers, 1831-1914
Finding Aid:


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