Ms. White had a long and industrious career that included many awards, honors, committee appointments, and “firsts.” However, even though she spent a lot of time traveling, acting as part of committees, and on writing and research, by all accounts, her students came first. Some of her more famous students include: Charlotte Zolotow (1933-6) (1), August Derleth (1930) (2), Herbert Kubly (1937) (3), and Mark Schorer (1929) (4).

helen1Education and Positions

  • 1916 Radcliffe College A.B. English, summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa
  • 1917 Radcliffe College A.M. English
  • 1917-19 Smith College assistant in English
  • 1919-25 UW Madison instructor in English
  • 1924 PhD in Letters and Science–perhaps first woman to earn PhD in L&S at UW
  • 1925-33 UW Madison assistant professor
  • 1933-36 UW Madison associate professor
  • 1936-67 UW Madison professor–first woman full professor in the UW’s College of Letters and Science
  • 1943-44 (fall semester) Barnard College visiting professor
  • 1948 Columbia University visiting professor
  • 1955-58 chair of UW English department–first woman to do so
  • 1958-59 Harvard University visiting professor
  • 1961-67 chair of UW English department

Accomplishments, Elected Positions, and Committees

  • 1920 Modern Language Association–delivered her first major paper on Blake (topic of dissertation)
  • 1933-38 American Association of University Women committee on Membership and Maintaining Standards
  • 1937-41 American Association of University Women committee on Fellowship Awards
  • 1940-49 National Conference of Christians and Jews, board of directors; commission on religious organizations 1951–
  • 1941-47 National President, American Association of University Women
  • 1944-47 Modern Language Association Council
  • 1945 First woman president of Wisconsin’s University Club
  • 1945 Co-founder of the Wisconsin Writer’s Institute
  • 1945 Modern Language Association Executive Council
  • 1945 President, University of Wisconsin Teachers Union
  • 1945-50 Vice President, College English Association
  • 1945-48 American Council on Education executive committee; committee member 1947-55
  • 1946 United States Educational Mission to Germany
  • 1946-49 member of US National Commission for UNESCO
  • 1946 member of the US delegation to the 5th meeting of the Preparatory Commission for UNESCO in London
  • 1947 member of the US delegation UNESCO in Mexico City
  • 1947-67 Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs member
  • 1947-50 Vice President, International Federation of University Women
  • 1947-50 Vice-Chair US Board of Foreign Scholarships
  • 1947-54 member US Board of Foreign Scholarships; chair 1950
  • 1948-50 National Student Association advisory board
  • 1950-51 Vice President, American Association of University Professors
  • 1951-54 member Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services
  • 1952 Whitney Foundation, Division of Humanities, Advisory Board
  • 1956-58 President of the American Association of University Professors (the first woman to head this organization)
  • 1959 elected into American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1960-62 Advisory Committee for Survey of Federal Programs in Higher Education
  • 1961 elected Fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters
  • 1962-67 National Newman Foundation board of trustees
  • 1962-65 National Council of Teachers of English advisory council
  • 1962-67 Sister Formation Graduate Study and Research Foundation member of lay advisory board
  • 1963 Consultant, Catholic Renascence Society
  • 1963 National President, Modern Humanities Research Association
  • 1963 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Commission VIII, International Platform Association
  • 1964 Wisconsin Education Association Council of Wisconsin Writers, committee member
  • 1964 Notre Dame University Library Council member
  • 1965 appointment to the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities
Here Ms. White is third from left in a group picture of the Fulbright Program's Board of Foreign Scholarships taken on December 11, 1953. The presidentially appointed Board of Foreign Scholarships, composed of twelve members drawn from academic, cultural, and public life, supervises the Fulbright Program worldwide. (5)

Here Ms. White is third from left in a group picture of the Fulbright Program’s Board of Foreign Scholarships taken on December 11, 1953. The presidentially appointed Board of Foreign Scholarships, composed of twelve members drawn from academic, cultural, and public life, supervises the Fulbright Program worldwide. (5)

Other Memberships and Affiliations

Honors and Awards

  • 1916 George B. Solhier prize for bachelor’s thesis
  • 1928-9, 1930 Guggenheim Fellowship at British Museum and Oxford’s Bodleian Library
  • 1939-40 Research Fellow at the Henry E. Huntington Library–one of the first women to hold this appointment
  • 1942 University of Notre Dame Laetare Medal –for “a life devoted to the things of the mind and the spirit” for an outstanding Catholic layperson whose distinction in a particular field of endeavor has reflected glory upon the Catholic faith
  • 1944 Theta Phi Alpha Siena Medal
  • 1947 Distinguished Achievement Award (for Education) Graduate Chapter of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association
  • 1949 American Association of University Women’s Achievement Award ($2500)
  • 1951 Northwestern University Centennial Award
  • 1956 Catholic Book Club of America Campion Award
  • 1956 Folger Library Research Fellowship
  • 1957 Georgian Court College Mercy Medal
  • 1958 Cardinal Newman Award
  • 1958 named Honorary Officer, Order of the British Empire for her eminence in the field of 16th and 17th century English Literature
  • 1959 Christopher Award for Literature
  • 1963 Jane Addams Medal for Distinguished Service, Rockford College
  • 1964 Hadassah Award
  • 1964 John Gilmary Shea Award for Tudor Books of Saints and Martyrs
  • 1965 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Distinguished Service Citation
  • 1965 Wisconsin Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award

Honorary Degrees

  • Boston College 1959
  • Bradley University 1957
  • Carroll College (MT) 1954
  • Catholic University of America 1961
  • Duquesne University 1962
  • Grinnell College 1965
  • Kalamazoo College 1957
  • Loyola University 1957
  • Merrimack College 1958
  • Miami University (OH) 1948
  • Mt. Mary College 1941 LL.D
  • Mt. Saint Scholastica College 1939 LL.D
  • Nazareth College (KY) 1962
  • Oberlin College 1960
  • Regis College 1965
  • Rockford College 1942
  • Smith College 1947
  • St. Joseph’s College (IN) 1960
  • St. Norbert’s College 1949
  • Trinity College (DC) 1949
  • Wilson College 1947 L.H.D

(1) more information about Charlotte Zolotow: 

(2) more information about August Derleth:

(3) won the National Book Award in nonfiction for his book An American in Italy.

(4) wrote Sinclair Lewis: An American Life, a book many regard as the definitive biography of the famous writer and social commentator.

(5) The Fulbright Program, 1946-1996: An Online Exhibit