Introduction

American Women in Science Before the Civil War by Elizabeth Wagner Reed, Ph. D., has been made available to all for educational and scholarly purposes by her children John Wagner Beasley, Catherine Cleland Reed and William George Reed. If you find this material useful, consider making a donation to:

The Elizabeth Reed Science Outreach Fund
Xi Chapter, Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science
www.gwis.org


The first physics laboratory in a women's college was established by Professor Sarah Frances Whiting at Wellesley College, 1878. In this photograph, astronomer Annie Jump Cannon is the third student from the left. Her career was largely inspired by Prof. Whiting who, Cannon wrote, wanted her students "to become not only good scholars, but women of influence in their communities." The only other physics lab at an undergraduate college before this was at MIT, where Prof. Whiting visited, finding it "nerveracking to be in places where women were really not expected to be, and to do things which women had not done before."