North American Scholar
WYATT, Natalie Murray Gifford
A.B. Radcliffe, 1918; A.M., 1927; Ph.D., 1928; Ed.M. Harvard, 1921; Norton Fellow at ASCSA, 1922-3.
- Professional Experience:
Lat., Fr., plane geom. tchr. Wrentham (MA) HS, 1918-19; spec. asst. in hygiene & geography Thomas Hart Sch. (South Boston, MA), 1919-20; Lat. & Fr. tchr. Wayland (MA) HS, 1921-2, 1923-4; instr. Gk. Smith, 1924-6; lctr. Gk. Bryn Mawr, 1928-9; asst. prof, to asso. prof. Wheaton Coll., 1929-32; housewife & mother, 1932-48; tchr. Windsor Sch. (Boston), 1949-52; lctr. to prof. Gk. Tufts Coll., 1952-68; indexer AJA, 1951-65.
"The Palmette Design in Greek Art" (Radcliffe, 1928).
Natalie Murray Gifford's father, denied higher education himself, saw to it that his children received an education at the Boston Latin School and then at Harvard and Radcliffe. Two of them received Ph.D.s, Natalie and her eldest brother, George Hussey Gifford, professor of romance languages at Tufts. Young women in 1918 had few career opportunities, and Natalie entered the ranks of high school teachers. She was one of the first women to receive a Harvard degree and was Norton Fellow at the American School, where her uncle, Augustus Taber Murray, was that year Annual Professor. Her letters home were saved by her mother and sister and are available at the American School. These letters not only constitute a detailed, though personal, account of people and events at the School, but also contain some marvelous descriptions of Greece and its antiquities.Her college teaching career began, as it did for most women, at a woman's college, Wheaton. Following her marriage and the birth of her first child in 1932, she was until 1948 a housewife and mother with interests in Scouts, Radcliffe, Grace Church (Episcopal), as well as Tufts activities. She was named Woman of the Week in Medford at one point, and was one of the Boston Herald's "Gracious Ladies" (4 Mar. 1948). Engrossing as all this may have been, she returned to teaching, rising to the rank of professor at Tufts and serving for several years at the Tufts program in Italy. Her career was one of enthusiasm for antiquity and a love of teaching. Had the times been different, she probably would have contrived to remain at Wheaton, where she could have pursued her career. As it was, she was away from teaching for 16 years, though she kept up her interests both through her husband and through the Classical Association of Greater Boston, of which both were faithful members. She was more determined and luckier than most in being able to return to teaching after her absence. The resolution of the Tufts Faculty adopted upon her retirement catches her spirit well, as it recalls her experience with the Tufts Program in Italy: "numerous students and colleagues will always recall with deep affection the strength, the good humor, and the knowledge which Mrs. Wyatt demonstrated on the archaeological trips. On these trips no one could fail to appreciate the adventurous spirit, the tireless energy, the impatience with nonsense, the indifference to impediments, and the insatiable curiosity which marked the leadership of Mrs. Wyatt on such occasions. Memories will evoke an image of this indefatigable lady leading her disciples through the ancient ruins, several paces ahead of everyone and sometimes a league or two in advance of the last drooping members of an exhausted retinue. ... In several emergencies on the faculty and administrative level, Mrs. Wyatt was a pillar of strength and a monument of good sense."
Letters from Greece in library of American School in Athens, some of which are published in Three Americans in Greece: the Early Years of the School, ed. Murray C. McClennan (Athens, 1981); CANE Bulletin 67 (1981) 29-30; personal knowledge.
- Author: William F. Wyatt, Jr.