Bertha Mary Terrill

Bertha Terrill
Bertha Terrill

Time Period


Notable Facts

Pioneer in the home economics movement, studying with other leaders in the field throughout her college years. First female faculty member at UVM in 1909, as well as the first Dean of Women at UVM in 1911. Co-founder of the Burlington Community Center, now known as the Sara Holbrook Community Center.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence




Historical Significance

Born in 1870 in Morrisville, Vermont, Bertha Mary Terrill was a pioneer in home economics education becoming the first woman faculty member at the University of Vermont. In 1909, University President Buckham asked her to start a home economics program at the school. It was a new and innovative field, based in science and led by women.

As a teenager, in order to attend high school at St. Johnsbury Academy, Terrill worked for room and board at the school. She went to Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1896. Terrill taught Greek and Latin at a private high school in Massachusetts for four years bfore she began teaching home economics at the School of Religious Pedagogy in Hartford, Connecticut in 1901. The School of Religous Pedagogy was a college affiliated with the Hartford Theological Seminary and specialized in educating teachers and missionaries. When Terrill began teaching at the university level, she did not have graduate education in home economics, however, it was a new field. Throughout the eight years that she taught in Hartford, she pursued a rigorous course of study in home economics to master her subject area. Between 1901 and 1909, she studied social sciences at Yale, chemistry at Harvard, spent a year at the School of Housekeeping in Boston to study with Ellen Richards and was awarded a fellowship to attend the University of Chicago where she received her Master's Degree in Home Economics. Through this complicated course of study, Terrill studied with many leaders of the Home Economics movement. Ellen Richards, the first woman to graduate and teach at MIT, became a mentor to Terrill. At the University of Chicago, Terrill worked with notables such as Marion Talbot and Sophonisba Breckenridge. All of these women provided recommendations for Terrill when she arrived at the University of Vermont soon after receiving her master's degree.

Soon after arriving at UVM in 1909, Terrill began to piece together the home economics department at a time when the introduction of practical education was controversial among universities. Later in her life, she noted that if she had known she would face so much prejudice, she might not have come to Vermont. However, throughout the years, because of her determination and love of science and learning, Terrill built the home economics department at UVM into a successful academic program.

Along with her academic accomplishments, which were many, Terrill also pursued many other endeavors in her life. With her colleague and lifelong friend, Sara Holbrook, an education professor at the University of Vermont, they established the Burlington Community Center in 1937. The goal of the center was to help settle immigrants into the city of Burlington. Terrill and Holbrook implemented Americanization classes, the first preschool in Burlington, as well as many other beneficial community programs. The community center still functions today as the Sara Holbrook Community Center.

By the time she retired in 1940, the University of Vermont awarded Terrill an honorary doctorate. Immediately after her retirement, Terrill learned how to weave from an expert in Montreal. In her Burlington apartment, she devoted herself to weaving and selling her work to earn money for the UVM scholarship in her name. In 1952, the University of Vermont constructed the Bertha M. Terrill Home Economics Building and commissioned a painting of Terrill that hung for many years in the building. It is now located in the Memorial Lounge of the Waterman Building on campus. Terrill died in December 1968 at 98 years of age.

Organizations or Movements

  • Movement towards the professionalization of homemaking and motherhood


  • Professor of Home Economics and Dean of Women at the University of Vermont


  • Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts (1896)
  • MA in Home Economics, University of Chicago.
  • Completed studies in social sciences and chemistry at Yale and Harvard.

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Bertha Terrill: First Female Faculty Member, University of Vermont Department of Home Economics Link

  • Bertha M. Terrill Faculty File

  • Sara M. Holbrook Faculty File

  • Sara Holbrook Community Center Link