Mary Caffrey Low (later Carver), born on March 22, 1850, in Waterville, Maine, was the first woman to graduate from Colby College. In 1871, she enrolled as the college's first female student, to graduate four years later in 1875. She was one of the first women in New England to receive a regular A.B. degree. Low was the only female student at Colby until the fall of 1873, when she was joined by four other women, among them Louise Helen Coburn. In 1874, Low co-founded the Sigma Kappa Sorority. Low was the first woman to appear on the rolls of Sigma Kappa and the first to preside over an initiation. She was also the first woman to be invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Low was not allowed to deliver the the valedictory address to her class at graduation, rather, she recited the ode. In 1916, Colby awarded Low the degree of Litt.D. Low is known as the "grandmother of coeducation at Colby." In 1890, the president of Colby College initiated a plan to divide women and men into separate classes at the college. Low, along with Louise Coburn and several other alumnae, wrote and sent a petition protesting the formation of a separate women's division at Colby. The division was soon approved, however, and Colby did not go back to being truly coeducational until 1969. After graduation Low married Leonard D. Carver, a graduate of Colby who became the Maine State Librarian. Low herself became a librarian and worked as a cataloguer in the Maine State Library for many years. Low had a daughter, Ruby Carver Emerson, and a son, Dwight, who died at the age of 5. Low later lived with her daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Low died on March 4, 1926, at the age of 76. The Low Collection includes photographs of and clippings about Mary Low Carver, correspondence, especially to Louise Coburn and other women about the college's decision to create a separate women's division in 1890, as well as about the acquisition of Low's Sigma Kappa sorority pin and the pin itself. It contains a copy of the manuscript written by Low protesting the formation of a separate women's division at Colby.
Collection of Mary Low Carver Materials, Colby College Special Collections, Waterville, Maine.