Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

October 1876

Does anyone suppose that any woman in all the ages has had a fair chance to show what she could do in science? 

The laws of nature are not discovered by accidents; theories do not come by chance, even to the greatest minds; they are not born of the hurry and worry of daily toil; they are diligently sought, they are patiently waited for, they are received with cautious reserve, they are accepted with reverence and awe.  And until able women have given their lives to investigation, it is idle to discuss the question of their capacity for original work.

This comes from a paper that Maria presented to the Fourth Congress of the Association for the Advancement of Women held in Philadelphia in October of 1876.  The paper was titled “The Need of Women in Science.”  Maria was a founding member of the AAW and its president for a term, as well as serving on the Executive Committee and founding and chairing for the remainder of her life the Science Committee.  Her point – women have to be free to work outside the domestic sphere – to be able to devote their time to scientific investigation and work.  Because the opportunity has not been there for them, they cannot illustrate their ability nor given a “fair shake.”  Their other duties consume them and keep them from experimenting and investigating and exploring.  Maria fought tirelessly for her entire adult life for women in education and particularly women in the sciences.  She fought for their rights to have educations and to find their place among men in science and even to lead among all scientists.  She led by example and fought and advocated and supported until she took her last breath.