First American Women in Science I

Female Scientists Who Inspired Others to Follow

telescope used by astronomer Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell
Astronomer (1818-1889)
After she discovered a comet in 1847, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the most prestigious honorary societies, elected Maria Mitchell as its first woman member. The Academy was founded during the American Revolution by Founding Fathers John Adams, John Hancock, and other patriots.

Image: Maria Mitchell and her brass telescope
Mitchell and her students used this telescope; now more than 150 years old, it remains among Vassar's treasures.

Matthew Vassar founded Vassar College in 1861, the second of the Seven Sisters schools to offer higher education strictly for women. In 1865, he appointed Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) the first person on the Vassar faculty. The well-known astronomer made the building of an observatory with living quarters for herself and her father a condition of her employment.


Edmonson Sisters

slaves in washington dc

Slave Girls Searching for Freedom

In the seventeenth century, all slave states passed laws declaring that the children of an enslaved mother inherited her legal status. Mary and Emily Edmonson were two of fourteen children who survived to adulthood, all of whom were born into slavery in Maryland. In the late 1840s they became icons in the abolitionist movement.

Image: Mary Edmonson (standing) and Emily Edmonson (seated), shortly after they were freed
Credit: Ipernity.com

Early Years
The Edmonson sisters were the daughters of Paul and Amelia Edmonson, a free black man and an enslaved woman. They were described as "two respectable young women of light complexion." At the ages of 15 and 13, Mary (1832–1853) and Emily (1835–1895) were hired out to work as servants in two elite private homes in Washington DC; their wages were the sole income of Amelia's mistress.


Underground Railroad in Washington DC

Slaves Find Freedom in the Nation's Capital

young girl finds freedom in Washington DC
The Underground Railroad refers to the effort of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape. In the 1840s, a group of people came together to support the Underground Railroad in the District of Columbia. Despite the illegality of their actions, and with little regard for their own personal safety, people of all races, classes and genders participated in this widespread form of civil disobedience.

Image: Ann Marie Weems
Dressed as a male carriage driver, she successfully fled slavery in Rockville, Maryland via Washington DC in 1855. People of both races and various class backgrounds assisted in her escape, demonstrating the diversity of the underground railroad activists.

Ann Marie Weems
Ann Marie Weems was a slave to Charles Price, a slave trader in Rockville, Maryland. Weems had four older brothers, all of whom had been sold to the Deep South; she feared she would face the same fate. Her owners so feared that she would escape they made her sleep in their chamber. Weems was described as a "bright mulatto, well-grown, smart and good-looking" fifteen-year-old girl.


First Women Inventors

machine invented by a woman

First American Women Inventors

Before the 1970s, the topic of women's history was largely ignored by the general public. Women have probably been inventing since the dawn of time without recognition. Many women faced prejudice and ridicule when they sought help from men to implement their ideas. Property laws also made it difficult for women to acquire patents for their inventions. By 1850 only thirty-two patents had been issued to women.

Image: Sybilla Masters Corn Refiner

Sybilla Masters (1715)
Sybilla Masters invented a way to clean and refine the Indian corn that the colonists grew in early America and received the first patent issued to man or woman in recorded American history in 1715. Masters' innovation processed the corn into many different food and cloth products.


December Hiatus

Christmas 2015

Since the month of December is taken up with holidays and travel, I have decided to go on hiatus for the rest of this month. I won't be slacking off, however; I will be doing some much needed cleanup and updating on my blogs. Unfortunately, I will also be doing that dreaded activity that constantly tries to lure me away from my writing: HOUSEWORK.

I wish you the happiest of holidays, and I hope the gifts you receive are exactly what you wanted.

I will be praying for peace on earth for all people - from my fingertips to God's ear.

Thank you for reading my blogs,