Mary Clabaugh Wright, History

Mary Clabaugh Wright was a scholar of Chinese history whose work is widely regarded for bringing studies of contemporary Chinese history into the Western historiography. She was hired as an associate professor in 1959 from her position as curator of the Chinese Collection at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Clabaugh served on the Yale history department faculty from 1959 until her passing in 1970, where was the first woman to hold tenure in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Wright was a dedicated scholar of Chinese history and did her research in China beginning with her graduate studies before World War II. Wright primarily spent her years in China (1941-1947) collecting documents and paraphernalia related to contemporary political movements in China.  After the War started, Wright and her husband, also a Yale historian, spent two and a half years in the Weixin internment camp in Shandong, China. Even after liberation from the camp in 1945, the couple remained in the country for two additional years, researching and collecting historical documents that would later be archived as part of the Chinese Collection at the Hoover Institution, which Wright was integral in establishing.

In his memorial piece for her in China Quarterly, Eugene Wu remembers Wright as a “profound scholar” with never-ending energy to put into her work. “The day before she left Stanford to join the Yale faculty in 1959,” reminisced Wu, “she made use of her time waiting for the elevator to be fixed to write a report on the Chinese Collection of the Hoover Institution she was about to leave behind.”

Notable works of Mary Clabaugh Wright

  • Wright, Mary Clabaugh. The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The Tung-Chih Restoration, 1862-1874. Vol. 92. Atheneum, 1957.
  • Wright, Mary Clabaugh, and Mary Clabaugh Wright, eds. China in Revolution: The First Phase, 1900-1913. Vol. 237. Yale University Press, 1968.
  • Murphey, Rhoads, and Mary Clabaugh Wright. Approaches to modern Chinese history. Univ of California Press, 1967.

More information

Profile by Sarah Babinski, PhD candidate in Linguistics