Manchester New Hampshire’s Philosopher and Educator: Professor Emeritus Isabel Scribner Stearns (1910-1987)

Isabel Scribner Stearns, 1935, taken at the time of her receiving the Mary Garrett Graduate European Scholarship

Isabel Scribner Stearns, 1935. Taken at the time of her receiving the Mary Garrett Graduate European Scholarship

Isabel Scribner Stearns is not well known in her native state, except perhaps among those in philosophy or educational circles.  She was born in Manchester, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in 1910 to a privileged family–her father was an attorney, and her maternal grandfather was a physician. If she was still alive, she would be 104 today.

Daughter of Hiram Austin-9 & Elizabeth Scribner (Brown) Stearns, Isabel grew up in the large house at 681 Union Street.  Even into the 1950’s she is shown in the city directory as residing here.  She graduated from Straw School (in the 1923 graduating class), and probably also from the Manchester High School.  She was a cousin to Henry H. Stearns, Mayor of Manchester from 1885-1886.

She went on to become what Alfred North Whitehead called “the most talented female philosopher in America.

Isabel graduated from Smith College in 1931 (B.A.) and then received graduate degrees in

Photograph of Smith College in 1932

Photograph of Smith College in 1932

philosophy from Bryn Mawr–M.A. in 1933 and PhD. in 1938. The Nature of the Individual  was her doctoral dissertation.

In March of 1935, several U.S. newspapers announced: “Isabel Scribner Stearns, Bryn Mawr philosophy student, has won the Mary Garrett Graduate European Scholarship of $1,000.   On Sunday, April 23, 1939 the Times-Picayune (New Orleans) newspaper announced: “Miss Isabel Scribner Stearns assistant professor in philosophy in Smith college, Northampton, Mass, $1500 to develop a new system of metaphysics based on a study of individuality.”

She began her teaching career and soon became an Assistant Professor at Smith College.  She

Bryn Mawr's Pembroke Arch taken in 1906, from the College Yearbook

Bryn Mawr’s Pembroke Arch taken in 1906, from the College Yearbook

joined the Bryn Mawr faculty as an Associate Professor in 1944, was promoted to Professor in 1952.  She remained at Bryn Mawr until her retirement in May of 1979 (after 35 years of teaching there).

An authority on American Philosophy, she was a member of the American Philosophical society, and was President of the Charles S. Peirce Society from 1952-1953.

=====GENEALOGY OF Isabel Scribner Stearns=====

Isaac-1 Stearns & Mary Baker
Isaac-2 Stearns & Sarah Beers
John-3 Stearns & Mercy Davis
Zachariah-4 Stearns & Sarah —
John-5 Stearns & Rachel Codman
Nathan-6 Stearns & Miriam Blaisdell
Henry Blaisdell-7 Stearns & Phoebe Russell
Stephen Blaisdell-8 Stearns & Isabella A. Austin

Hiram Austin-9 Stearns, son of Stephen B. & Isabella A. (Austin) Stearns, b. 7 Dec 1875 in Manchester NH. He m. 20 Apr 1909 to Elizabeth Scribner Brown of Manchester NH. She was b. 1881, dau of Dr. James F. and Abbie (Scribner) Brown. He was a graduate of Brown University and was a lawyer in Manchester NH.
Children of Hiram A. & Elizabeth S. (Brown) Stearns:
1. Isabel Scribner Stearns, b. 23 June 1910 in Manchester NH; died on April 26, 1987, in the Unitarian University House in Germantown, Pennsylvania [the subject of the blog post]
2. Mary Langford Stearns, b. 6 Feb 1912 in Manchester NH; 1933 graduate of Smith College (A.B. Zoology); Member of Phi Beta Kappa; She published “Studies on the development of connective tissue in transparent chambers in the rabbit’s ear. 1, as her thesis, University of Pennsylvania, in 1940.
3. Stephen Russell Stearns, b. 28 Feb 1915 in Manchester NH; and died 28 November 1997 in Hanover, NH; married 1 Jan 1939 to Eulalie M. Holmes, daughter of Ulysses U. & Marjorie (Moody) Holmes, and had issue; graduate of Dartmouth College and Thayer School of Engineering.

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