All Things Grinnell

Edith Renfrow Smith ‘37

October 17, 2019

Edith Renfrow Smith '37, the first African American woman to graduate from the College, shares her memories of growing up in Grinnell, her family's history of slavery, and her incredible life.

Smith received an honorary degree at the 2019 Commencement ceremony. After graduating from Grinnell with a major in psychology and minors in history and economics, Smith then moved to Chicago, where she has lived since, working as a stenographer and public school teacher. Smith is now 105 years old and is part of a Northwestern University study of "superagers." In the episode, Smith discusses the importance of education in her family as they went from slavery to college graduates in two generations, and reflects on lessons learned from her long life.