Born September 11, 1890, in Washington, DC, Martha Euphemia Lofton was the daughter of a prominent local dentist and an elementary school teacher. Dr. Lofton and his wife were staples in the African-American community, playing a major role in helping establish Catholic organizations specifically for African-Americans, including the creation of several Catholic schools in Washington, D.C. Martha, who preferred Euphemia, would go on to follow her family’s life of service to her communities.
Euphemia graduated as valedictorian from M Street High School in 1907, and enrolled at the Miner Normal School, now the University of DC, and graduated in 1909 as a certified teacher. She then went on to study at Smith College, where she simultaneously taught elementary school as a way to subsidize her cost of living. In 1917, Euphemia married Harold Haynes, a childhood friend.
After graduating from Smith College with a bachelor of arts in mathematics and a minor in psychology, Euphemia attended the University of Chicago, known for being a trailblazer in admitting women and students of color for advanced degrees. In 1930, she earned a master’s degree in education. Her thesis studied the difficulty of tests in helping understand the causes and variations in student scores. She discussed the tendencies to measure student progress as opposed to simply classifying students. This cause would become central to her advocacy in desegregating DC Public Schools and ending the system of tracking, a system that placed African-American students on one path (academic or vocational).
Euphemia later pursued a doctoral degree in mathematics from The Catholic University of America. She completed it in 1943, becoming the first African American woman to receive a PhD in mathematics.
Following her studies, she returned to education, teaching mathematics at a number of DC public high schools. Simultaneously, she served as a professor of mathematics at Miner Teaching College, where she re-designed the mathematics program, raising the standards of instruction and requirements for student achievement.
In 1960, Euphemia was selected as a new member of the DC school board. In November 1963, Euphemia spoke of the lack of validity of IQ tests and the question of whether they measured cause or effect, an area related to her master’s research. She pointed out the segregation created by the tracking system and the increase in the number of student dropouts. For five years, she spoke out publicly against the tracking system, encouraging parents and community stakeholders to take action.
In 1965, parents, administrators, and education experts petitioned the school system, denouncing tracking. This led to an external investigation that found most students on the honors track were white and students on the basic track were black. In 1966, Dr. Haynes was elected president of the school board and immediately dismantled the tracking system, replacing it with new classroom methods of assessment.
On July 25, 1980, at the age of ninety, Dr. Haynes passed away and left a legacy that would open doors for black women in science and mathematics for years to come.