Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria in her chair

1881, Feb. 26.
Miss Whitney reads Frances Power Cobbe’s “Lectures to Women” aloud to me. In the main they are excellent. I agree almost at every point. What she says about the duty of women in veracity, in cultivating both physical and moral courage, etc., in demanding not “favor but justice” . . .
The advice to women to be cheerful and to try to promote cheer around them is excellent. I wish I had thought about that earlier in my life and practiced upon it.

Maria Mitchell had been quite ill for several months prior to this entry, made worse probably by the medicine she was given for her treatment – something she noted. For some time afterwards she had a ringing in her ears. Mary Whitney, her former student and then assistant, would take Maria Mitchell’s place at Vassar and would also serve as the first president of the MMA.

I find the comment about cheer interesting as well. I look at it in light of the fight for women in education – Maria’s main focus – and also women’s rights. How fighting for justice – “demanding” it – and doing it in a cheerful and not angry way might win more. I think of the old adage that one gets more flies with vinegar than honey.

(Note: later in life Maria began to drop the Quaker way of referring to the date, unless she was writing a Quaker elder or Quaker closely familiar to her.)