Millicent Todd Bingham

Millicent Todd Bingham
Millicent Todd Bingham (1880- 1968)
Geographer, author, editor, conservationist

Born in 1880, Millicent Todd Bingham was the daughter of astronomer/Amherst College professor David Peck Todd and musician/artist/writer/editor Mabel Loomis Todd. Millicent’s own professional trajectories would show that she’d inherited interests and traits from both of the parents, with whom she had exceedingly complex relationships.

A 1902 graduate of Vassar College, Millicent taught French at both Vassar and Wellesley before continuing her own studies in Berlin and Paris before returning to the States and beginning her graduate studies in geology and geography at Harvard University. She became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in that field from Harvard, a degree she earned in 1923.

Due to her father’s astronomical work Millicent was able to accompany her parents on several journeys to distant locations in pursuit of solar eclipses. The journeys throughout Southeast Asia, northern Africa, Japan and Russia were important to the development of Millicent’s world views as a young woman, but the trip to South America was particularly formative with regard to her own geographical work. The geography of Peru became the focus of both her doctoral dissertation and a subsequent book.

Millicent married academic psychologist Walter Van Dyke Bingham in 1920, and moved with him first to Pittsburgh, and then to New York, where she taught at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. She published numerous articles on topics in geography and seemed well on her way to a promising academic career. But in 1929, as the centennial of Emily Dickinson’s birth approached, her mother, who’d been Dickinson’s first editor, asked Millicent to assist in the preparation of a second edition of Emily’s letters and a fourth volume of poems. Ultimately, she jettisoned her own work and took up her mother’s. In addition to assisting Mabel with the preparation of a new edition of Dickinson’s letters, after Mabel’s death in 1932 Millicent would publish a fourth volume of Dickinson’s poetry and three additional books about the life of the Amherst poet. Millicent received two honorary doctorates (from Dickinson and Amherst Colleges) in recognition of her scholarly contributions to literature.

In addition to her Dickinson and geography books and articles, Millicent was also the author of several other mostly biographical books about members of her family and her teachers. She worked diligently after Mabel’s death to ensure that her mother’s land purchases in Massachusetts and Maine became dedicated conservation areas in perpetuity. The creation of the Audubon Hog Island Camp, an environmental camp for adults and students in 1936 began a partnership with the National Audubon Society that was codified in 1961 in a dedication ceremony that included environmentalist Rachel Carson, who had been an inspiration for Millicent and who had become a good friend.

Millicent Todd Bingham died in Washington D.C. in 1968, where she’d spent the last decades of her life, and was buried beside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Main Publications

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1935). Mabel Loomis Todd: Her Contributions to the Town of Amherst. New York: George Grady Press.

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1937). The city of Miami and southeastern Florida. Miami, FL:  Tequesta.

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1945). Ancestors’ Brocades:  The Literary Debut of Emily Dickinson.  New York:  Harper and Brothers.

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1954). Emily Dickinson:  A Revelation.  New York:  Harper and Brothers.

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1955).  Emily Dickinson’s Home.  NY:  Dover Publications.

Todd, Mabel Loomis and Bingham, Millicent Todd, Eds. (1945). Bolts of Melody: New Poems of Emily Dickinson.  New York:  Harper & Brothers.

Todd, Millicent. (1909). Mary E. Stearns.  Cambridge, MA:  Riverside Press.

Todd, Millicent. (1913).  Eben Jenks Loomis, 1828-1912.  Amherst, MA:  Self-Published.

Todd, Millicent. (1918).  Peru, a Land of Contrasts.  Boston:  Little, Brown.

Todd, Millicent, with Raoul Blanchard. (1919). The Geography of France. New York:  Rand McNally.

Todd, Millicent, and Paul Vidal de la Blanche. (1926). Principles of Human Geography.  New York:   Henry Holt and Co.

Key References

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (1945). Ancestors’ Brocades:  The Literary Debut of Emily Dickinson.  New York:  Harper and Brothers.

Bingham, Millicent Todd.  Diaries, 1888-1968. Millicent Todd Bingham Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Bingham, Millicent Todd.  Journals, 1895-1967. Millicent Todd Bingham Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Bingham, Millicent Todd.  Miscellaneous letters and correspondence, 1884-1968. Millicent Todd Bingham Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Bingham, Millicent Todd. (May 1937). “Rescuing an Island.”  Natural History, 318-328.

Dobrow, Julie. (2020). “Eclipses, Ecology, and Emily Dickinson: The Todds of Amherst.” Amherst in the World, Martha Sexton ed., Amherst College Press.

Dobrow, Julie. (2018). After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Dobrow, Julie. (November-December 2018). “Millicent Todd Bingham:  Life of an An Unlikely Dickinson Scholar.” Harvard Magazine.

Dobrow, J. (Winter/Spring 2012).  “Saving the Land:  Thoreau’s Environmental Ethic and its Influence on Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham.”  Journal of the Thoreau Society (277).