Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Dec. 21. {1854} I have just put down Mrs. Stowe’s first volume of “Sunny Memoirs” and true to my general theory of preferring people to scenery I prefer this to the second.  I read the 2nd some time since, when that was within my grasp and the first was not.  All the way through the second, I felt that I could have written as good a book.  I give up the idea now, I could not have written so unobjectionable a book and at the same time used so much independent judgement . . .

I only picked this quote really for the fact that I wanted others to have a better glimpse of what Maria Mitchell read.  Likely, it came from the Atheneum where she was librarian and the first volume may have literally not been in her grasp because someone had checked it out from the Atheneum.  I think many people think of her only reading books of natural science, mathematics, and astronomy.  Not so.  She read fiction, and memoirs such as this.  This may have been part of her thinking of traveling – something that would come just a few years later – as these two Harriet Beecher Stowe volumes are travel memoirs.

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell1854, Oct. 23. Yesterday I was again reminded of the remark which Mrs. Stowe makes about the variety of occupations which an American woman pursues. She says it is this, added to the cares and anxieties which keep them so much behind the daughters of England in personal beauty. And today, I was amused at reading that one of her party objected to the introduction of wood floors in American housekeeping, because she could seem to see herself down on her knees, doing the waxing. Throughout Mrs. Stowe’s book there is an openness which I like, no pretense in affectation, religious cant but it is honest habit and not affectation.

While this was written many years before, Maria Mitchell and Harriet Beecher Stowe must certainly have been at least acquaintances as they shared things in common, including their roles with the Women’s Congress, the New England Women’s Club, and likely SOROSIS, a women’s organization of which Mitchell was a founding member. They also shared friends and acquaintances in common and Mitchell made sure that Uncle Tom’s Cabin quickly appeared on the shelf of the Nantucket Atheneum when it was first published.

JNLF

National Collaborative of Women’s History

For quite a few years now, the Mitchell House has been a member of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS). The NCWHS’s mission is to support and promote “the preservation and interpretation of sites and locales that bear witness to women’s participation in American life. The Collaborative makes women’s contributions to history visible so that all women’s experiences and potential are fully valued.”

Other members of NCWHS includes the Alice Paul Institute, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Clara Barton National Historic Site, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Pearl S. Buck Historic House and Site, and the National Women’s History Project to name a few. A guide book to the various member sites was published a few years ago and the NCWHS just featured the Mitchell House on its homepage this month. Take a look at the feature – www.ncwhs.org – and also take some time to learn more about this wonderful collaborative effort on behalf of women’s history sites – because all historical sites have women’s history! – because this week marks the anniversary of the first women’s right conference at Seneca Falls.

JNLF