Early Donors

Abigail “Abby” Adams Eliot
Abigail “Abby” Eliot


From its earliest years, Washington University's buildings, programs, and endowments have been richly sustained by women's donations.  Highlighted in this exhibit are just a few representative women, showing the great variety and depth of this support.

The University's first women donors were Mary Tileston Hemenway, of Boston, and Abigail Adams Eliot, the wife of University co-founder Reverend William Greenleaf Eliot.  The two families were close friends, and they kept in contact after the Eliots moved from Boston to St. Louis.

Mrs. Hemenway gave $25,000 in 1864 for the Tileston Professorship in Political Economy, honoring her father.  Her support continued, as she sent $5,000 for Mary Institute in 1877, and by 1885 gave a $20,000 endowment to endow a faculty member in U.S. History, thus laying the foundation for the University's history department.  Her support continued in 1877 when she sent $5,000 for Mary Institute.  By 1885 she had contributed $20,000 to endow a faculty member in U.S. History, which laid the foundation for the University's history department.  In 1891, Mrs. Eliot gave $100,000 after the death of her husband to support the hiring of a new chancellor. 


Sarah Glasgow Wilson

Sarah Glasgow Wilson, an 1876 graduate of Mary Institute and daughter of early W.U. trustee William Glasgow Jr., gave $125,000 to build the first swimming pool on campus, which opened in 1922.  Her support continued with a $250,000 donation to build Wilson Hall, honoring her husband's work in the mining industry. 

When she saw students selling hotdogs at a 1925 football game to raise money for a Women's Building, she joined the cause and pledged $25,000.  In her will, Mrs. Wilson left the University a $500,000 bequest creating endowments for faculty salaries in Arts & Sciences and in Engineering.

Further information on the lives and contributions of many campus donors:

Names That Live by William Glasgow Bowling, available at LD5794.6 B68 (Olin Library Level A),
and Endowed Professorships: A Distinguished Tradition, available at Olin Library Reference LD5792.2 .E52.