Euphemia Haynes, Mathematician & Education Equity Advocate
Euphemia Haynes was a driven sociopolitical activist, educator, and mathematician. With her personal accomplishments in mathematics and the constant pursuit of betterment and equality for African American teachers and students alike, she became an influential figure in the recent history of America’s education sector. Not only did she help countless students pursue their educational goals, but she, herself, was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in the field of mathematics in 1943. While she studied for and constructed her thesis, she was also heavily involved as a professor of mathematics.
Euphemia Haynes was born in Washington D.C. on September 11, 1890, to parents Dr. William Lofton, a prominent dentist, and Mrs. Lavinia Day Lofton, who was an active member of the Catholic Church. This influence from the Catholic Church carried on throughout her life, providing her a platform to extend her influence and improve the quality of life for countless students through education. She attended the Miner Normal School and passed with distinction in 1909, then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1914, majoring in mathematics and minoring in psychology. Later on, in 1930, she earned her Master’s degree in education from the University of Chicago. She married a close childhood friend, Harold Appo Haynes, in 1917, and he later went on to become a principal and deputy superintendent of colored schools in Washington D.C. When she was 53, Euphemia Haynes received her PhD in mathematics from the Catholic University of America, with her doctoral thesis being titled: Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondence. It explored the field of complex algebraic geometry. Her thesis showcased her dedication and passion for mathematics and education, and this achievement was made all the more impressive considering she was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in mathematics and the second African American woman ever to receive a PhD.
Euphemia Haynes held many teaching posts across various schools in Washington D.C. She taught at all levels of education, from elementary school, up through high school, and finally to the college level. Her 47-year-long career in the public school system of Washington saw her instated as a professor of mathematics at Armstrong High School and the chair of the department of mathematics at Dunbar High School. Her influence in the sphere of education extended far beyond these positions. In 1930, Haynes founded the Department of Mathematics at Miner Teachers College, which focused specifically on the training of African American teachers. Throughout her career, she used her position to advocate for low-income students and push for better schools. Haynes also continued to denounce the public school systems policies, which were tainted by segregationist ideals, securing her legacy and helping thousands of students progress through their education. After retiring from the public school sector, Euphemia Haynes served as president of the Washington D.C Board of Education from 1960 to 1968. There, she championed another ‘first’ as a woman of color had never before held this prestigious position. During her presidency, she laid the groundwork for the bargaining rights of teachers, as the procedures put in place allowed teachers to begin regulating their working conditions in conjunction with their employers. Her contributions to education were immense and continued even after she passed away, with a generous $700,000 donation from her estate to the Catholic University of America.
by Laura Jewsbury
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