Alice Birmingham Robinson ’46


A black-and-white photo portrait shows a smiling Alice Birmingham Robinson ’46,.

Alice Birmingham Robinson ’46, a much-beloved member of the Department of History for some 46 years, died peacefully at the age of 95 on July 8, 2020, at the Linda Manor Extended Care Facility in Leeds, Mass. She was the daughter of Anna Aungst Birmingham and Carl Prescott Birmingham, and is survived by her four children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Upon graduating from Newton High School, Alice applied for admission to Wellesley College and was accepted for the class of 1946. She had originally planned to major in economics, but soon found herself fascinated by modern European history, especially history after 1688. In the end, it was the Victorian era that really excited her interest, and her scholarly work focused on the paradoxes of mid-Victorian liberalism. In 1947, she completed a master’s degree at Radcliffe College, and in 1957, she received her doctorate from Harvard University. Already in 1947, she had become a member of the Wellesley history department as a part-time instructor, a position which soon became a full-time instructorship. Thus while still in her 20s, Alice was beginning her career as a college professor while raising a family and trying to complete her Ph.D. at Harvard. After 1955, when she received a tenure-track position, she rose steadily through the professorial ranks, becoming a full professor in 1967.

The willingness to take on whatever tasks were at hand, however formidable, was characteristic of Alice throughout her years at the College. Her primary teaching fields were 19th- and 20th-century English history, including such subjects as the origins of World Wars I and II, the “woman question” in Victorian England, and the 1830s as a decade of reform. But when the department was in need of someone to do Tudor England, and even later, to offer courses on medieval England, Alice was willing to take on these challenging periods as well. In 1968, she served a term as chair of the history department, and on more than one occasion she agreed to serve as temporary chair when emergencies arose. She was a welcome member of several committees at the College over the years and was a particularly valued member of the Admissions Committee, on which she served several terms. Always a strong supporter of civil rights and other progressive causes, she assisted in the establishment of the Black studies department at the College, and she was a founder of the town of Wellesley’s A Better Chance program. Those who knew Alice will always remember her readiness to help in any worthy cause, and her warm and generous personality.


Pamela Edward (Livingston) ’82
I remember Mrs. Robinson (especially her periodic showings of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII") with great fondness. It was she who supervised my independent study (History 350) and her guidance and insight made the final product better. The commemorative plate depicting Hazard Quad, where I lived senior year, and which she gave me after I graduated, is a treasured possession.
Catherine Frazer (Sears) ’46
My mother, Catherine Sears, was to Alice from the time they met at Wellesley as classmates. My mom remembers her fondly.
John D. Sharer (Sharer ) ’72
I am an associate member of the Wellesley Alumnae Association. During my senior year at Dartmouth, I was a Twelve College Exchange Student. I had the privilege of being a student in Mrs. Robinson’s Historiography class. It was interesting, exciting, and intellectually challenging. Indeed, along with Mrs. Preyer’s Legal History seminar, it was among the best courses of my undergraduate career.

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