Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

1881. Sunday, June 12. The eclipse at one o’clock this morning was beautiful. It had rained for a week and cleared off last evening . . . . I got out a little before 1 a.m. and went to bed at 2 {a.m.}. Roses are plenty.

This was not a solar eclipse as Maria would observe in 1831 (Nantucket at age 12 ½), Burlington, Iowa (1869), or Denver, Colorado (1878), but a lunar eclipse (note the time of day) viewed from the observatory at Vassar. School was still in session – yes, colleges did not get out in May – and her well-received and highly-anticipated Dome Party for the year would follow just six days later. This seems to have been a solitary observation – though two of her nieces via her youngest sister, Kate, may have at least been present in the Observatory as they had come a few days before to stay.

What I love even more is her note about the roses being in bloom. A naturalist as well, Maria’s journals are always at least peppered – if not written to great depth – with notations about things in nature. And June, is the time for roses!

JNLF

And please do not forget to join us this Wednesday, June 27 from 7-8 PM for a lecture and book signing at the Nantucket Atheneum with David Baron author of American Eclipse – a book in which Maria Mitchell is one of the featured astronomers. Baron drew on Mitchell’s papers housed here on island at the MMA to research and write his book.