Yale Women Faculty Forum Unveils Portrait of Otelia Cromwell ’26 PhD, First African-American woman to earn a Yale PhD

As part of its mission, the Yale Women Faculty Forum is working alongside the Yale Public Arts Committee to increase the diversity of portraiture on campus. On September 21st, WFF unveiled a painted a portrait it had commissioned to honor Otelia Cromwell, the first African-American woman to receive a PhD from Yale University (1926). The portrait was painted by Jennifer Packer ’12 MFA, an assistant professor at Rhode Island School of Design. “Packer paints portraits with attention to the complexities of representation and the responsibilities of viewership. She is quoted, ‘It’s not figures, not bodies, but humans I am painting.’” Drawing upon the gospel lyrics, “You know my soul look back and wonder how did I make it over,” Vera Wells ’71 told Cromwell’s story, which includes being the first African American graduate of Smith College. To learn more, watch this compelling and powerful video produced by Smith College published on the WFF website.  

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