The foregoing material has been collected in order to provide information about the achievements of women who were active in science in the early days of this country, before the Civil War. While today there are many more opportunities for women in science because graduate schools are open to them, and professional careers can be had, this has not always been so. What of the early women, many of whom were denied entrance into colleges and paying careers despite their interest in science? Did they participate in scientific organizations? Did they produce works of scientific value? The records in the scientific publications of the period show that indeed they were active in many ways, as donors to museums, as members of scientific societies, as experimenters and writers of scientific books and papers. Data on donations, memberships and other activities have been presented in Part 1.
Women have been members of scientific organizations from the time of Lucy Say's election to the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Science in 1841 until, of course, to the present day. Two years after the founding of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1848 two women, Maria Mitchell and Margaretta Morris became members. Women became members of state societies of science as soon as these organizations were founded. In general these organizations had no restrictions on women as members written into their constitutions, but naturally women were a small minority in the earlier groups.
Woman donors to societies were of two groups, those who gave collections to museums and those who gave money for scientific pursuits. Donors of collections ranged from those who gave a single item, which was duly recorded by the curator, to givers of large valuable collections of specimens, books and papers. Some of these biological materials had been collected by the women themselves for the purpose of adding to a museum's store of specimens. The earliest known woman collector was Hannah Williams, who sent specimens of animals and plants to an apothecary in London in the early seventeen hundreds. Money given for scientific pursuits ranged from small sums given by participants in fund raisers to the sum of $74,000 given by Mrs. Binney for an astronomical observatory.
One large group of women collected daily weather data for the Smithsonian Institution, beginning in 1847. They were supplied weather instruments for these measurements by the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian project continued until 1873.
As teachers of science women functioned at every level from elementary schools to college. In addition they wrote many useful textbooks for schools, some of which at the elementary level were written in a dialogue form. These question and answer books could be used for teaching children at home. Usually the child asked a question of the mother, who then responded with the answer. Also many informative articles were published in magazines. The women's own research was published in scientific journals.
In short, women participated in all kinds of scientific pursuits. The fact that many of these women had no academic degrees or professional status did not seem to detract from their acceptance. They could join scientific societies, attend meetings and publish in scientific journals. It is possible that some women may not have succeeded in achieving any of these goals, but in this case they could not be found in reference materials. Only women of whom some written record exists have been described here.
The record does show that women had the interest and the drive to work in science in these pre-Civil War years. The question remains why did they do it? What was in it for them? The answers are as varied as the twenty-two women themselves who published books and papers about science. Some were teachers who wrote textbooks for their own use. Several collaborated with their husbands or other relatives. Some wrote professionally for magazines. Some had primary concerns in some other field, but maintained their interest in science.
In Part II the twenty-two women whose publications have been found are listed, a short biography of each one is given, and an evaluation of her work is provided, together with a bibliography which includes all of her scientific publications which could be found after a careful search of the available literature. Much more is known about some of the women than about the others, but all fulfill the criterion of having published books or articles on some aspect of science. These works have been evaluated by the writer from the viewpoint of their scientific worth as judged in the context of the times. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries no man or woman, Harvard professor or gifted amateur, was writing about the science we know today of nuclear physics or biochemical genetics. However, it will be seen that these women's contributions to education in science, to research and to furthering the progress of science were substantial, and were accurate scientifically.
Two sisters, Emma Willard and Almira Lincoln Phelps became very successful educators and writers of textbooks. They established a school for girls, Troy Female Seminary, in Troy, New York. Here they taught using innovative methods for teaching science. They used many of their own books on geography, chemistry, astronomy and botany. Their school became known nationwide. Mrs. Phelps' book on botany sold over a half a million copies. Neither sister had ever gone to college.
Two of the women had professional careers in medicine, Mary Putnam Jacobi and Lydia Folger Fowler. Both had medical degrees. Both women married men in their own fields and worked with them. Both women published on medical subjects. Jacobi was especially prolific with more than a hundred articles to her credit.
Four of these women were expert research scientists. Three of them experimented on insects, rearing them in their own homes and gardens. Here they studied their life cycles, their behavior and their interactions with the environment. The fourth, Ellen Tupper, became a professional apiculturist. She raised her own bees, corresponded with beekeepers, lectured and wrote about bees. Charlotte Taylor studied many kinds of insects, rearing them through their life cycles and writing popular charming articles for magazines. These articles she illustrated with her own drawings. Margaretta Morris became well known for her research on the Hessian fly, a serious pest of wheat. She published her research in scientific journals. A very different type of research was pursued by Eunice Foote, who studied the effects of the sun's rays on the temperature of gases. She also did research on electromagnetic phenomena. Nothing was found about where she did this research which must have required access to laboratory equipment.
One woman can be characterized as a popularizer of science, for she wrote for such magazines as Popular Science and Harpers. Sophie Herrick was an educator, editor and publisher of articles on nature which were illustrated by herself.
Four women collaborated with their husbands, Mary Jacobi and Lydia Fowler who were mentioned above, and two others, Elizabeth Agassiz and Eunice Cutter. Agassiz was the wife of Louis Agassiz, a professor of geology at Harvard University. She taught natural history to girls, using her husband's material, and was instrumental in facilitating the establishment of Radcliffe College. She traveled with her husband on his explorations, where she kept journals of the trips. These interesting accounts from a keen observer were later published. She also wrote two small books on sea organisms to be used by teachers. Eunice Cutter adapted her husband's books on physiology for the use of elementary school students.
Both Laura Johnson, a teacher who wrote a botany textbook, and Jane Welsch, who wrote geology and chemistry books, had the encouragement of Amos Eaton, who was an educator at the Rensselaer Institute. Hannah Bouvier dedicated her astronomy book to her father for his "solicitude and parental instruction." Maria Mitchell learned astronomy as a young assistant to her astronomer father. She went on to become a successful professional as a professor of astronomy at Vassar College, although she had never gone to college.
Two women who had absorbing interests in other fields also wrote on science. Catherine Beecher, a reformer who regarded women as important both as teachers and homemakers, wrote both an arithmetic book and books on household management. She was also something of an inventor, as is evidenced by her designs for household equipment such as waterbeds for invalids, for example. Dorothea Dix is best known for her reforms of nursing and of the care of mental patients, but she found time to write small books on natural history, collect rocks and publish papers on moths and spiders.
Lesser known authors of books on science are Helen Conant who wrote an introductory text for entomology, Jane Taylor who published children's books on physiology, Mary Townsend, an invalid who studied and wrote about insects, and Mary Swift, whose elementary physics book was translated into Burmese.
Twelve of the twenty-two women were married, six were single, and the marital status of the others is unknown. Nine of the married women had a total of 21 children. The family size ranged from one child to two women who had five children each. Three of the women had a total of thirteen stepchildren. It is apparent that the stereotype of "old maid" does not apply here. In fact, several of the most productive women in this group were married with children, including Jacobi, Willard and her sister Phelps, and Ellen Tupper.
It is obvious that there is much still to be done in learning about these women, especially the lesser known ones such as Mary Swift. There remain archives to be searched and diaries to be found and read. It is to be hoped that records of these women exist which will reveal more of their lives, activities and motivations. The material found in scientific journals and in biographies of the better known women has been presented here, but there may be much more to be found by other research workers in the archives of museums and libraries. It is to be hoped that other workers will want to investigate in greater depth these women of science, from the ones who collected specimens, illustrated books and gave money, to the ones who did leave written records of their scientific pursuits.
Since the material in part two has been restricted to women who have published books and papers, there is still much to be learned, especially about the women who were teachers who did not publish, but who inspired their students to undertake careers in science. These women seldom got credit for their influence. One example of a well deserved tribute to a teacher appeared in the Harvard Magazine in the 1987 May-June issue. The Vita of Walter Bradford Cannon is a summary of his life as was supplied by the authors in a biography of his life and work entitled Walter B. Cannon, the life and times of a young scientist, by Saul Benison, A. Clifford Bargar and Elin L. Wolfe, Cambridge, Mass. Belknap Press. 1987. Walter B. Cannon, 1871-1945, became a famous professor at Harvard. He was a pioneer in the research and teaching of physiology with a world wide reputation. He was also a social activist, interested especially in helping young students and his tribute to his high school teacher is included in this biography. May (Mary) Newson was his high school teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was the primary influence in advancing his career in science. She saw the academic promise in this boy and encouraged him in every way. She took him into her home, talked to him about books, encouraged him to dream about his future. She even traveled to Harvard so she could supply him with details about the college. She investigated sources of financial help for him, finally procuring enough money for him to enroll.
After he went to Harvard as an undergraduate and later as a medical student (she had advised him to go to medical school) she continued to write to him and to encourage him when he needed help. In turn Cannon helped other Harvard students who came from his home state of Minnesota. He is quoted in this Vita as saying, in reference to Miss Newson, that "he would never be able to repay her." No doubt many other teachers deserve a similar tribute.