Madeline Wallin, daughter of Alfred and Keyes Wallin, was born on October 12, 1868 in St. Paul, Minnesota. She briefly attended Smith College in the early 90s before transferring to the University of Minnesota where she received her bachelor’s degree in history. There, she met her future husband, George Sikes. Wallin went on to attend the University of Chicago as one of its first female graduate students. As an active member of the blossoming academic community, she took part in many of the education and social events of the University. She was a member of the Club of History and Political Science, and was one of the prime organizers of The Women’s University Settlement League, a student group which dedicated time and effort to nearby Chicago settlement houses. After receiving her Ph.M in political science in 1893, Wallin secured a teaching post at Smith College as a history instructor. In 1896, Wallin left her position to accept the marriage proposal of George Sikes, now the editor of the Chicago Record. The couple moved to Chicago and had two children, Alfred and Eleanor. Despite having curtailed her career in favor of raising her children, Wallin remained a popular speaker on settlements and education reform until her death in 1955.
Wallin's papers include correspondence and writing dating from her high school years in Elgin, Illinois to her death in 1955. Particularly notable are letters and essays documenting her time at the University of Chicago, which offer detailed accounts of early student life and the experiences of women students. "First Impressions of the University of Chicago" was written in 1893 for the University of Minnesota student paper, Ariel. It offers a brief overview of life at the new university, transmitting much of the optimism and philosophy surrounding the creation of such a university. "Dr. Harper and the University Girls" gives some insight into the difficulties that were encountered by the first women students.
The Madeline Wallin Papers may be viewed online or in the Special Collections Research Center in the University of Chicago Library.