Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

April, 1878.  I called on Prof. Henry at the Smithsonian Institute.  He must be in his 80th year.  He has been ill and seems feeble but is still the majestic old man, unbent in figure and undimmed in eye.  I always remember when I see him, the speech of Miss Dix, “He is the true-est man that ever lived.

In Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the officers of the Women’s Congress – the Association for the Advancement of Women meetings  ̶  Maria stopped by to visit a friend and something of a mentor, Professor Joseph Henry.  A physicist and professor, Henry was the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.  His feebleness was telling – Henry would die about a month after Maria’s visit with him in May 1878.  Henry was friendly with William Mitchell as well – they all ran in the same circles so to speak – and Henry came to Maria’s support/aid several times including when she wanted to take a leave of absence from the U. S. Nautical Almanac during her European trip.  Those calculations for the Almanac were tedious and trying to complete them and travel was not going to be easy.  When she asked for a leave from the work, the Almanac refused and Henry wrote a letter to support her year or so leave.  I think the Almanac was just afraid to lose Maria completely.  She would only resign several years into her professorship at Vassar – once she was sure that she was settled into the job completely.

JNLF