Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Maria Mitchell

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Unknown artist. Maria Mitchell with class in front of Observatory, between 1865 and 1888. Special Collections, Vassar College Libraries, Poughkeepsie, New York

Maria Mitchell
b. 1818, Nantucket, Massachusetts; d. 1889, Lynn, Massachusetts

Maria Mitchell, an astronomer who earned international recognition in her lifetime, was also dedicated to advancing women's education in the United States. After discovering a the orbit of a new comet in 1847, she became the first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1848), the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (1850), and the American Philosophical Society (1869). She was also a professor and chair of astronomy at Vassar College from 1865 to 1888. In 1873, she helped found the American Association for the Advancement of Women (precursor of the General Federation of Women's Clubs) to promote higher education and professional opportunities for women. The Maria Mitchell Association in Nantucket, Massachusetts, was established in 1902 to sustain her legacy; it includes her historic home, a science library, an observatory, and a museum.

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