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The Special Collections and Archives Department of Auburn University Libraries recently received an artifact of significance to the university’s history, the diploma of Margaret Kate Teague, one of the three women who graduated in 1894 from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute’s, or API, first class to accept women.

Teague’s diploma is a major artifact in the history of Auburn University and the changes that have occurred in the years it has served Alabama and the world at large. The admission of women in 1892 and the first graduating class of women in 1894 was the beginning of a series of steps that opened Auburn to diverse applicants.

After the death of her mother in 1890, Teague came to Auburn from Toledo, Arkansas, to live with her aunt. She was tutored and she studied for the API entrance examination. She passed the examination and was admitted as a junior in 1892. Teague earned a bachelor's degree in science with distinction in 1894. 

After her death in 1960, the diploma was passed down in the family. Teague’s grandson, James “Jim” Pinkerton, and his wife, Nieta, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, became caretakers of the diploma. Both felt strongly that the diploma should be returned to Auburn for permanent safekeeping and history.

“We are very pleased and honored to have been entrusted with this rare artifact that documents a great step forward in education equality at Auburn,” said Tommy Brown, archivist at the Special Collections and Archives Department of Auburn University Libraries. “This diploma is one of only three that were awarded to women in the first class that admitted women. The fact that it has survived to come to us for preservation is amazing.”

The diploma had been stored in a folded condition and is now undergoing treatment to ensure its preservation as an artifact that will be available to researchers. “Margaret Kate Teague’s diploma has come full circle after 126 years,” said Jennifer Wiggins, special collections and archives technician. “We’re going to see that it continues to be a source of inspiration for the future.”

Learn more about the Special Collections and Archives Department of Auburn University Libraries at