Dunbar, Louise Burnham (1894-1975) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Dunbar, Louise Burnham (1894-1975)

Historical Note:

Louise Burnham Dunbar (1894-1975) was instructor (1920-23); associate (1923-25); lecturer (1926-27); assistant professor (1927-62); and assistant professor emerita (1962-75) at the University of Illinois (UI) Department of History. She was a pioneering woman professor of history and was widely respected for her scholarship on the American colonial period.

Dunbar was born on August 11, 1894, in White River Junction, Vermont, to parents Belle Hanchett Dunbar and Joseph Henry Dunbar. She earned a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College (1916), and, encouraged by her mentor Professor Susan Reid Stifler (the first woman to earn a PhD in history from the UI), she went on to earn a master's degree (1917) and a PhD (1920) in history from UI. Her dissertation and major work, A Study of Monarchical Tendencies in the United States from 1776 to 1801 was published in 1922 and, again, in 1969. Over the course of her career, Dunbar continued to research British colonial administration and "monarchical tendencies" in colonial America in archives and libraries throughout the United States, Canada, and England. Additional publications include "The Royal Governors in the Middle and Southern Colonies on the Eve of the Revolution: A Study in Imperial Personnel," in The Era of the American Revolution; Studies Inscribed to Evarts Boutell Greene (1939) and articles for the Dictionary of American History and the Dictionary of American Biography.

A member of the History Department faculty at UI beginning in 1920, Dunbar ultimately advanced to the rank of assistant professor at a time when women professors were rare and seldom promoted like their male peers. The courses she taught at UI included Colonial Beginnings and the American Revolutionary Era to 1789; Great Britain Under the Tudors and Stuarts, 1485-1688; Foundations of American Society: The Colonies in the Eighteenth Century; Foundations of American Society: Transition to National Life and Organization; and Seminar in American History: The Revolutionary Period. During WWII, Dunbar served as an educator for the Army Specialized Training Program.

Dunbar retired in 1962 and died in 1975. Upon her death, she was remembered by the UI History Department for her "inexhaustible research" and her "lively" and "vivid" lectures (History at Illinois).


"Louise B. Dunbar," History at Illinois, (1974â??76), accessed May 27, 2020, https://history.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/inline-files/1974-76_20160310133139.pdf.

"Louise B. Dunbar [Box/Folder List]," UIUC University Archives, accessed May 27, 2020, https://files.archon.library.illinois.edu/uasfa/1513036.pdf.

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