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Emma Guffey Miller

Emma Guffey Miller left a long-lasting legacy on Slippery Rock University’s campus, in large part due to her national political affiliations.

A native of western Pennsylvania, Miller attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in History and Political Science in 1899. On a trip to Japan, she met and married Carroll Miller in 1902. After teaching and living in Osaka, Japan, Emma and her husband returned home in 1907, and she became an active supporter of women's suffrage and the League of Women Voters. By the 1920s, the couple had settled on a farm near Wolf Creek, just outside Slippery Rock.

During the 1920s, Miller increasingly focused her attention on work within the Democratic Party. In 1924, at the age of fifty, Mrs. Miller was elected to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate for women’s rights and was given the honor of becoming the first woman to ever receive a nomination as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency. Miller developed friendships with many prominent figures in the Democratic Party, most notably Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt. This friendship marked her solidification in the Democratic Party, as she was asked to deliver a number of seconding speeches for Presidents and other influential people. She spent her political life as an advocate for women’s rights, and worked towards the establishment of an equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution until her death in 1970.

Her illustrious political career and long-standing passion for education led to Miller's nomination to the Slippery Rock State College Board of Trustees in 1933, on which she served until 1968. Miller came to Slippery Rock State College in 1933 with intentions to upgrade the aging campus and bring more life to the university through one of the biggest building initiatives in school history. Her early years on the board coincided with FDR's New Deal, which provided the school the opportunity to utilize government funds as a way to pull out of the Great Depression and improve facilities for students. When a fire completely consumed North Hall, a women’s dormitory, in 1937, Miller took action to secure the funds needed to build a new North Hall. Her deep political connections and skills of negotiation proved to be irreplaceable in getting the necessary funding to construct two new classroom buildings, a new library, and the President's home.

In recognition of her substantial contributions to the campus landscape, in 1960 Slippery Rock State College designated its new theater and performing arts building Miller Auditorium. Miller was an honored guest speaker at the building's dedication, and at a number of events in the auditorium until her death on February 23, 1970. Since Miller's passing, tales of ghostly appearances in Miller Auditorium have been a part of campus lore. Experimental examinations by paranormal investigators even concluded that there is a paranormal presence in the auditorium. Many suggest that this presence is perhaps Miller herself, keeping watch over her legacy and the building that bears her name.


Miller and Roosevelt Longtime friends Emma Guffey Miller and Eleanor Roosevelt having a conversation in 1962. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Roosevelt were also active political members who advocated for equality for women. Source: Slippery Rock University Archives Date: 4/10/1962
Miller Auditorium Dedication Program of the activities and ceremonies that took place during the dedication of Emma Guffey Miller Auditorium on Slippery Rock University's campus in 1960. Included in this media is the dedication of a dormitory also. Source: Slippery Rock University Archives Date: 6/24/1960
Miller and Equality Emma Guffey Miller and Senator Burke drafting the Burke Constitutional Amendment for Equal Rights for Women in February, 1938. The Burke Constitutional Amendment was a controversial amendment that provided for equal rights for women, a forerunner to the failed 1972 Equal Rights Amendment. Source: Library of Congress Creator: Harris & Ewing Date: 2/9/1938
Miller the Public Speaker Mrs. Emma Guffey Miller accepts an award at a Pennsylvania Speech Association conference in 1965. She was known for her brilliant and compelling speeches. Source: Slippery Rock University Archives Date: 1965
Birth of Miller Auditorium The early stages of construction on the auditorium building at Slippery Rock University that would be named in honor of Emma Guffey Miller for her contributions to the school. Source: Slippery Rock University Archives Date: 1957



Brian Reed, “Emma Guffey Miller,” Butler County Historical, accessed May 21, 2024,