International Women's Day: Chicago Booth honors first woman to earn PhD in Business

Ursula Batchhelder StoneIn honor of International Women’s Day, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business celebrates Ursula Batchhelder Stone (left), the first woman to earn a PhD in business from a U.S. university.

A teacher and an activist, Stone not only blazed a trail for women to study business, but she was among the first scholars to participate in what was then a fledgling academic field. Stone made history when, at age 29, she received a PhD from the University of Chicago School of Commerce and Administration, later renamed Chicago Booth.

In 1922, Chicago Booth established the first doctoral program in business in the U.S. Three years later, Stone, a Bryn Mawr graduate, enrolled as a student. She focused her research on consumer economics and graduated in 1929 with her dissertation, “The Baking Industry with Special Reference to the Bread-Making Industry in Chicago.”

It was an exciting time of rapid change and new opportunities for women in work, politics and sports. Women had just received the right to vote in 1920, and five years later the U.S. elected its first woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming. In 1926 American Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel—beating the record set by the previous male channel swimmers.

An advocate for education

Born on June 26, 1900, in Faribault, Minn., outside of Minneapolis, Stone learned early to value education. Her mother was active in the women’s suffrage movement, and Stone followed suit, later serving as a leader in the League of Women Voters. After moving to Chicago, Stone married Raleigh Stone, professor of industrial relations at the business school, and settled in Hyde Park, where they raised a family.

Throughout the 1930s, Stone worked with her close friend Rachel Marshall Goetz, forming the Batchelder and Marshall Research Service. They conducted independent research and published detailed reports of their findings for a variety of Chicago companies, including an in-depth report for the League of Nations Association on Chicago as a world trade center. In 1939, Stone joined the faculty of George Williams College in Hyde Park, lecturing in economics and social sciences.

Later, she was elected the only woman on the committee that established the South East Chicago Commission, the first organization in the country to develop a strategy for stemming urban blight and promoting urban renewal. In her later years, she wrote creative fiction and essays. Her papers are contained in the Ursula Batchelder Stone Collection at the University of Chicago Library Special Collections Research Center. Stone passed away in 1985.

Today, Chicago Booth remains at the forefront of fostering progress among women at business schools. Indeed, 42 percent of Booth's incoming full-time MBA students are women, and the school remains dedicated to advancing professional opportunities for women in the fields of business and economics.

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a global day of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.