Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria in her chair

{March 1858} I am working to get admitted to see the observatory, but it cannot be done without special permission from the pope, and I don’t like to be “presented.” If I can get permission without the humbug of putting on a black veil and receiving a blessing from Pius, I shall; but I shrink from the formality of presentation. I know thou’d say “Be presented.”

The above is from a letter written by Maria Mitchell to her father, William Mitchell. Never much for pomp – but also raised within the Quaker faith where one of the tenets was that everyone was on equal footing – I can see why Maria balked at having to go through such formalities for Pope Pius but also to gain entry to the Vatican’s observatory. I have written about the fact before that she was the first woman to gain entry and the fact that it took at least a fortnight. Can you believe that? Well, if you lived in that time and earlier, yes you could. But it seems so alien and foreign to us now – though we all know this continues to happen in our world today – for females and males.