Winifred Edgerton Merrill was born in Wisconsin in 1862. Elder William Brewster was a relative of Edgerton making her connection to the original Plymouth Colony solid. Winifred had an unusual opportunity to become educated by private tutors. She would later go to college at the prominent Wellesley College where she would obtain her B.A. degree in 1883. She then moved on to study at Columbia where she took courses in astronomy and mathematics.
Merrill would petition for a PhD and fail to be recognized for her work and study that provoked earning it. She persisted and eventually was granted the PhD for her mathematics study and was awarded the degree with high honors.
1887 brought with it a new relationship and a marriage for Winifred Edgerton Merrill. She married a Columbia graduate and the couple had four children. Her husband was a geologist and shared her scientific love of various disciplines.
Winifred Edgerton Merrill will go down in history as the first woman to ever receive a degree for her study at Columbia. Additionally, she will forever be remembered for her splendid discipline and spunk for mathematics and astronomy. It was her love for her field that inspired women after her to pursue their lifelong goals in fields once dominated by men.