Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

March {1857} I found from Nantucket to Chicago more attention than I desired.  I had a short seat in one of the cars, through the night.  I did not think it large enough for two, and so coiled myself up and went to sleep.  There were men standing all around.  Once one of them came along and said something about there being room for him on my seat.  Another man said, “she’s asleep, don’t disturb her.”  I was too selfish to offer the other half of a short seat, and too tired to reason about the man’s being, possibly, more tired than I. . . .One peculiarity in travelling from East to West is, that you lose the old men . . .

My first image is Maria, bonnet on, long skirts and high-top shoes and petticoats and slips beneath with her legs tucked up under her on this train car seat.  That’s what I do on the steamship!  In my jeans, coat, comfortable sweater, sneakers . . .But the image doesn’t work for a woman of the nineteenth century.  Though she is later offered a window seat so that she can prop herself up to sleep which makes me think she really was reclining to some degree.  Perhaps the men in the car didn’t think it appropriate!  It was not for the time – but I could see Maria not caring because she wanted to be comfortable and, “Darn It!,” she was tired!

I close with her comment about old men – think about all those books you have read about the “wild west” and the likely not accurate movies, not many old men, for several reasons.