Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Oct. 25, 1875 . . . I have scarcely got over the tire of the congress yet, although it is a week since I returned . . . . It was a grand affair, and babies came in arms.  School-boys stood close to the platform and school-girls came, books in hand.  The hall . . . could hold at least one thousand seven hundred.  It was packed and jammed . . . . When I had to speak to announce a paper I stood very still until they became quiet.  Once I had stood that way, a man at the extreme rear, before I had spoken a word, shouted out, “Louder!”  We all burst into a laugh.

Maria was now the president of the Association for the Advancement of Women (AAW).  This was its annual meeting in 1875.  One of the founders of the AAW, Maria would also found its Science Committee which she would chair for life.  Her sisters and sister-in-laws were members.  Her sister, Phebe Mitchell Kendall, chaired the Women’s Dress Reform Committee – if you know anything about “bloomers” this is, in part, where it happened.  I like to wonder if her Quaker upbringing provided her with any oratory skills.  With some empowerment from watching other women stand up in Quaker meeting to address the meeting.  Lucretia Coffin Mott stated that was something that gave her strength and confidence – watching women standing in Quaker meeting and addressing the gathering.  The Reverend Phebe Coffin Hanaford implied the same – and as a young girl she stood on an apple box to speak to her “meeting” – her large gathering of siblings.