Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve Biography

Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve (October 3, 1877 – July 7, 1965) was an American academic, the long-time Dean of Barnard College, and the sole female US delegate to the April 1945 San Francisco United Nations Conference on International Organization, which negotiated the UN Charter and created the United Nations.

Gildersleeve was born in New York City, she attended the Brearley School and following her graduation in 1895 went on to attend Barnard College, a member of the Seven Sisters affiliated with Columbia University. She completed her studies in 1899 and received a fellowship to undertake research for her MA in medieval history at Columbia University. She taught English part-time at Barnard for several years. She declined a full-time position and took a leave of absence to undertake her Ph.D. in English and comparative literature at Columbia for three years. When she completed her studies in 1908 she was appointed a lecturer in English in 1908 by Barnard and Columbia; by 1910 she had become an assistant professor and in 1911 was made dean of Barnard College.

In 1918 Gildersleeve, Caroline Spurgeon and Rose Sedgwick met while the two English women were on an academic exchange to the United States. They discussed founding an international association of university women, and in 1919 founded the International Federation of University Women. She shared an "intimate" relationship with the British Spurgeon, with whom she annually shared a rental summer home.

Following World War I she became interested in international politics. She campaigned for Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt. During World War II she chaired the Advisory Council of the navy's women's unit, the WAVES and following the war she was appointed to the United Nations Charter Committee. She was involved in the reconstruction of higher education in Japan. For this work she received France's Legion of Honor.