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Wright, Mary Clabaugh (1917–1970) - Chinese History

professor china college arthur

Mary Clabaugh Wright was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Samuel Francis Clabaugh, a business executive, and Mary Bacon (Duncan) Clabaugh, a graduate of the University of Alabama. She was student body president and member of the National Honor Society at Ramsay High School in Birmingham, Alabama, before receiving a scholarship to Vassar College in 1934. While attending Vassar, Wright was president of the student Political Union and a member of Phi Beta Kappa; she graduated in 1938. She attended Radcliffe College for her postgraduate studies in European history but soon began concentrating on China; she received her master’s in 1939. In 1940 she married Arthur Wright, who was studying Chinese and Japanese at Harvard. Immediately after their wedding, the two left for Kyoto for a year of doctoral research financed by fellowships. In June 1941 the Wrights moved to Peking (then Peiping) and lived in what was once a part of a prince’s palace. They stayed on after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and were placed in an internment camp in 1943. They were evacuated from Wei-hsien on October 17, 1945, and returned to Peking and their research. The Wrights became the representatives for the Hoover Library, which had begun a new program to collect contemporary materials on the Chinese Revolution. They began a series of travels throughout China during 1946, meeting with Mao Tse-tung and Chu Te. Mary Wright managed to obtain 3,000 volumes from the Nationalist government offices. The collection grew until the two returned to the United States in April 1947. Arthur Wright completed his Ph.D. at Harvard and became a professor of history at Stanford. Mary became China curator at the Hoover Library and completed her Ph.D. in 1951. Her thesis was published in book form in 1957 as The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T’ung-Chih Restoration, 1862–1874; it immediately became the standard text on the subject.

Meanwhile, Wright had become an assistant professor of the Hoover Library in 1951 and associate professor in 1954. She completed several bibliographic studies of major Chinese topics. In 1959 the Wrights became members of the Yale faculty; Arthur became a professor and Mary became an associate professor and the first tenured woman in the faculty of arts and sciences. In 1955 Mary Wright presided over a research conference on the Chinese Revolution of 1911, which resulted in a book in 1968, China in Revolution: The First Phase, 1900–1913 . She also founded the Society for Ch’ing Studies and its journal, Ch’ing-Shih Wen-T’i . She was a member of the central developmental agency, the Joint Committee on Contemporary China. She received honorary degrees from Wheaton College, Western College, and Smith College and was also the first woman trustee of Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut. In late 1969 Mary Wright developed inoperable lung cancer; she died in Guilford, Connecticut, on June 18, 1970.

Wright, Muriel Hazel (1889–1975) - Local History [next] [back] Wright, Marcia (1935–) - African History

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