Bingham, Millicent Todd, 1880-1968Alternative names
Millicent Todd Bingham, geographer, author, and editor of Emily Dickinson's poems and letters, was born February 5, 1880, in Washington, D.C. Her father, David Peck Todd, was a professor of astronomy at Amherst College from 1881 to 1917. Her mother, Mabel (Loomis) Todd, was a noted lecturer and author who, with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, first edited the poems and letters of her Amherst neighbor, Emily Dickinson. (Note: for biographical information about David Peck Todd and Mabel Loomis Todd, see the registers for their papers, MSS Groups 496B and 496C.)
Millicent Todd attended private schools in Amherst and Boston and in 1902 graduated from Vassar College. She was an instructor of French at Vassar (1902-1904) and at Wellesley College (1906-1907). In 1905-1906, she studied at the Sorbonne, University of Paris, and in 1909-1910 at the University of Berlin. Her interest in geography developed from travels to remote parts of the world, when she accompanied her father on astronomical expeditions to the Dutch East Indies (1901), Tripoli (1905), Chile and Peru (1907), and Kiev, Russia (1914). In 1916, she began graduate studies in geography and geology at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, receiving the M.A. degree in 1917 and the Ph.D. in 1923.
In 1918-1919 she worked at a YMCA canteen at a hospital in Angers, France, and lectured on geography to American soldiers at the University of Grenoble, under the U.S. Army Education Corps. At the same time, she studied geography under Raoul Blanchard at Grenoble. In 1928-1929, she returned to teaching at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. Her writings on geography include: Peru, a Land of Contrasts (1914); "An Investigation of Geographic Controls in Peru" (Ph.D. dissertation, 1923); "La Floride du Sud-est et la Ville de Miami" (1932), and "Miami, a Study in Urban Geography" (1948). In addition, she translated Raoul Blanchard's Geography of France (1919), and Vidal de la Blache's Principles of Human Geography (1926).
While in France during World War I, Millicent Todd became engaged to Joe C. Thomas, a soldier who later broke the engagement. On December 4, 1920, she married Walter VanDyke Bingham, a psychologist whom she had met several years earlier. Bingham was born October 20, 1880. He graduated from Beloit College in 1901, received the M.A. degree from Harvard in 1907 and the Ph.D from the University of Chicago in 1908. From 1915 to 1924, he was professor of psychology and head of the division of applied psychology at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Bingham directed the Personnel Research Federation from 1924 to 1934 and served with the Army's Committee on classification of personnel during both world wars. He wrote several books on psychology and industrial (employment) psychology.
After her return from an international geographical congress in Paris in 1931, Millicent Todd Bingham was asked by her mother to open a chest containing manuscript poems and letters written by Emily Dickinson. For over thirty years, Mabel Loomis Todd had been prevented from publishing these papers by legal controversies with Dickinson relatives. She urged Millicent to publish the remaining poems and letters. Soon after her mother's death in 1932, Mrs. Bingham reluctantly abandoned her career in geography to begin what became a personal crusade to publish Emily Dickinson's manuscripts and to bolster Mabel Loomis Todd's reputation as the person most responsible for bringing Emily Dickinson's poetry to public attention. In 1945, she edited Bolts of Melody, a collection of 600 previously unpublished poems, and published Ancestors' Brocades, a narrative describing the controversy between Mabel Loomis Todd and the Dickinson family over publication rights to the poems. In 1950, Mrs. Bingham herself became embroiled in legal battles when her publisher, Harper and Brothers, clashed with Harvard University over ownership of the Dickinson publication rights. This controversy delayed publication of Emily Dickinson's Home, a collection of family letters, until 1955. Meanwhile, by special agreement with Harvard, she published Emily Dickinson - A Revelation (1954), containing some of Dickinson's previously unpublished letters.
Despite her preoccupation with Emily Dickinson's work, Millicent Todd Bingham sustained her prevailing interest in geography, becoming involved in a number of conservation and natural history activities. In 1935, she established the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary in memory of her mother, with family property on Hog Island, Muscongus Bay, Maine. The sanctuary was administered by the National Audubon Society, which established on the island its first camp for the instruction of adults in principles of conservation. Mrs. Bingham officially donated the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary to the National Audubon Society in 1960, One year later she presented the Mabel Loomis Todd Forest, located on Mount Orient in Pelham, Massachusetts, to Amherst College. The forest was dedicated to her mother, who had purchased the eighty-seven acre tract in 1909 to preserve it from commercial exploitation.
In addition to her writings on geography, Emily Dickinson, and conservation, Millicent Todd Bingham wrote numerous articles on travel, solar eclipses, family and friends. Her books include The Life of Mary S. Stearns (1909), Eben Jenks Loomis (1913), and Mabel Loomis Todd, Her Contributions to the Town of Amherst (1935). She received honorary degrees from Dickinson College in 1952, and from Amherst College in 1957.
After her husband's death on July 7, 1952, Mrs. Bingham established the Walter VanDyke Bingham Memorial Lectures in psychology, given at various universities in the United States and England. She spent much of her remaining years seeking to ensure the historical reputations of her family, including Eben Jenks Loomis, Mahlon Loomis, John Wilder, David Peck Todd, Mabel Loomis Todd, and herself. Millicent Todd Bingham died December 1, 1968, in Washington, D.C., at the age of eighty-eight.
From the guide to the Millicent Todd Bingham papers, 1865-1968, (Manuscripts and Archives)
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