Maria Mitchell in Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

March 15, 1858. Today an eclipse of the sun was to come off, and with Mr. B and the Westons I went to the Observatory of the Capitol to look at the phenomenon . . . . The old gent speaks no English, but the bad French of both of us made a language. He had placed three telescopes of ordinary mounting in a terrace which overlooks the Forum, and as it was very cloudy, we looked at the magnificent views of the Alban and Sabine Mts. instead of looking at the Eclipse . . . . A dozen young men suddenly formed into a line and Prof. Calandrelli presented his pupils, who gracefully lifted their caps. They were fine looking fellows of about 16 and they all smiled as they greeted me and were evidently pleased at being noticed . . . .

Maria Mitchell was in Rome in 1858, a part of her European trip that started with her serving as a young woman’s chaperone. When the young woman, Prudence Swift, was called home due to her father’s bankruptcy (thus no more funds for the trip), Maria Mitchell remained and continued to travel. She was the first woman to gain entry to the Vatican Observatory – not even one of her heroines, Mary Somerville, ever gained entry.

JNLF