Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Carter, Gwendolen Margaret, 1906-1991

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1906-1991

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, on July 17, 1906, Gwendolen Margaret Carter was the daughter of Charles Carter, a physician, and Nora Ambrose Carter. After she completed a B.A. in history at the University of Toronto in 1929, she attended Oxford. There she received a B.A. in 1931 and, after teaching at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1932 until 1935, an M.A. in 1935.

Carter came to the United States to do graduate work at Radcliffe, where she earned an M.A. (1936) and a Ph.D. (1938), both in political science. She held instructorships at Wellesley and Tufts Colleges before being appointed assistant professor at Smith College in 1943. Smith promoted her to associate professor in 1947 and professor in 1951 and then named her Sophia Smith Professor in 1961. In 1964, Carter was appointed Melville J. Herskovits Professor of African Affairs and Director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, a position she held for a decade.

Carter's early work concentrated on European governments; after doing her dissertation on aspects of the League of Nations, her first book, published in 1947, was The British Commonwealth and International Security. Major Foreign Powers, a text she co-authored with John Herz, has been through several editions. While working on a study of the British Commonwealth after the war, Carter first visited Africa in 1948.

Her scholarly interests immediately turned to that continent, and she returned to South Africa for a yearlong study in 1952. Succeeding trips resulted in a number of publications concerning African affairs, including The Politics of Inequality: South Africa Since 1948 (1958); Independence for Africa (1960); South Africa's Transkei: The Politics of Domestic Colonialism (1967); and Which Way is South Africa Going? (1980). She edited several works about Africa, including the four-volume From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964 (1972-1977).

In addition to receiving Ford and Rockefeller Foundation grants for her work, Carter served on the advisory council of the African Bureau of the Department of State (1862-1967), was a State Department lecturer in Africa in 1966, and directed an Office of Education seminar for American teachers in Africa in 1967. She was active in professional activities, serving as president of the African Studies Association (1958-1959), vice-president of the American Political Science Association (1963-1964), president of the New England Political Science Association (1959-1960), and trustee of the African American Institute (1964). She also served on various boards and committees of these and other organizations.

Carter's awards and honors began in 1935, when she received the George V Medal for Public Service. She also received an achievement award from the American Association of University Women and a medal for distinguished achievement from Radcliffe College, both in 1962, and was named a fellow of the American Academy of Sciences in 1965. She was granted honorary degrees by Wheaton College (1962); Russell Sage College (1963); Western College for Women (1964); Goucher College (1964); Carleton University (1965); McMaster College (1966); Boston University (1966); the University of Toronto (1970); Northwestern University (1977); Smith College (1979); and Stetson University (1981).

After retiring from Northwestern in 1974, Carter (who became a naturalized American citizen in 1948) taught part-time at Indiana University. She was active as a traveler and a scholar until her death in 1990.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Gwendolen M. Carter, (1906-1990) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 35/10
Abstract The Gwendolen M. Carter Papers chronicle Carter's career as a political scientist and Africanist from the 1930's through the 1970's (a small amount of earlier material is also included.) The bulk of the collection dates from approximately 1960 through approximately 1975. Carter's South African research interests and her activities as director of Northwestern University's Program of African Studies are especially well documented. The collection is divided into eight sections: Personal Papers;...

Program of African Studies Records

 Collection
Identifier: 35/13
Abstract Northwestern University's Program of African Studies, founded in 1948, was the first program on Africa in the nation and the first multidisciplinary program at Northwestern. Developed by anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits to train a corps of scholars maintaining African interests across disciplinary lines, the Program grew to include core and associated faculty from such diverse disciplines as African-American studies, art history, history and literature of religions, law, management,...