Ethel M. Caution-Davis, Class of 1912

Ethel M. Caution-Davis
Class of 1912

Ethel M. Caution-Davis met unimaginable loss in her early life. Her mother passed away when she was three years old, and just two years later, her father died from injuries suffered in an accident at his workplace. Caution-Davis relocated from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to live with a foster mother in Boston, Massachusetts. She excelled in her academic career, becoming the first Black child to attend the prestigious Girls Latin High School in Boston, and in 1912, she was one of the first Black students to graduate from Wellesley. Caution-Davis entered Wellesley as the only Black student at the school. While enrolled, she published poems in the Wellesley Magazine and Wellesley News.

Following her graduation, she became a published poet associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Her work has been anthologized in many collections alongside literary giants including Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. She taught at various schools in the South and Midwest before serving as the Dean of Women at the historically Black Talladega College for three years. Following her tenure at Talladega College, she moved to New York, where she was a casework supervisor for the New York City Department of Welfare. The Wellesley Alumnae Magazine published a profile on her in 1977, which spoke about the tenacious work ethic that landed her at Wellesley and the influential literary and educational career she led after leaving the college. She passed in New York City in 1981.