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Ames, Blanche Ames (18 February 1878–01 March 1969), artist and women's rights activist, artist and women’s rights activist, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Adelbert Ames, a Civil War general and governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction, and Blanche Butler, whose father was a general and governor of Massachusetts. The younger Blanche graduated from Smith College in 1899 with diplomas from both the College and the School of Art....

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Andrews, Eliza Frances (10 August 1840–21 January 1931), author and educator, was born at Haywood Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the daughter of Garnett Andrews, a judge and planter, and Annulet Ball. After attending the Ladies’ Seminary in Washington, Georgia, Andrews, often known as “Fanny,” was, in 1857, one of the first students to receive an A.B. degree at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia....

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Anslow, Gladys Amelia (22 May 1892–31 March 1969), physicist, educator, and spectroscopist, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Anslow, a textile colorist, lay preacher, and insurance agent, and Ella Iola Leonard, an art and music teacher. In 1909 she entered Smith College in nearby Northampton. Her first science course there was Frank Waterman’s sophomore physics, which she found thrilling. In her junior year she took laboratory physics, using Waterman’s text, and in her senior year she took courses in mechanics, electricity, and magnetism from Waterman....

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Bascom, Florence (14 July 1862–18 June 1945), geologist and educator, was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the daughter of suffragist Emma Curtiss and John Bascom, a professor at Williams College. Her mother, as an officer of the National Suffrage Association wrote, “While the ballot is withheld from women and given to all other classes of citizens except idiots and criminals, it puts on womanhood an inescapable badge, and an inescapable fact, of inferiority” (quoted in Smith, p. 17). Her father advocated for coeducation and unsuccessfully raised the issue at Williams. Both parents profoundly affected the way Florence Bascom saw the world. She became the first woman in the United States to enter fully the profession of geology....

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Mary E. Bass. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B02453).

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Bass, Mary Elizabeth (05 April 1876–26 January 1956), physician, medical educator, and historian, was born in Carley, Mississippi, the daughter of Isaac Esau Bass and Mary Eliza Wilkes. She grew up in Marion County, where her father operated a gristmill and dry goods store. The 1890s economic depression bankrupted Isaac Bass, and the family moved to Lumberton, Mississippi, to invest in pecan orchards. The Basses were pious Baptists and active in civic concerns....

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Rachel Carson Speaking before the Senate Government Operations subcommittee studying pesticide spraying, 1963. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111207).

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Carson, Rachel Louise (27 May 1907–14 April 1964), writer and scientist, was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Warden Carson, a salesman, and Maria Frazier McLean, a teacher. Her father was never successfully employed. He sold real estate and insurance and worked for the local public utility company. Her mother, who had had the benefit of a fine education at the Washington Female Seminary, was an avid naturalist and passed on her deep respect for the natural world and her love of literature to her daughter. Mother and daughter, who never married, lived together almost continuously until Maria Carson died in 1958....

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Clapp, Cornelia Maria (17 March 1849–31 December 1934), zoologist, educator, and biologist, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, the daughter of Richard C. Clapp, a teacher and farmer, and Eunice Amelia Slate. Her parents ensured that she had an excellent education in the public and private schools of her home town, which had been home to several generations of her ancestors. A lifelong learner, Clapp summarized her eclectic academic career: “I was all bent on one thing, then another … first an entomologist, then a conchologist and then a fish woman.”...

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Anna Botsford Comstock. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111455).

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Comstock, Anna Botsford (01 September 1854–24 August 1930), educator and scientific illustrator, was born in a log cabin in Cattaraugus County, New York, the daughter of Marvin Botsford and Phoebe Irish. The Botsfords were prosperous farmers who encouraged Anna in her love of art, literature, and natural history. Her mother, a Hicksite Quaker, shared her love of the natural world with her daughter. From 1871 to 1873 Anna attended the Chamberlain Institute and Female College in nearby Randolph, where she resisted attempts by its faculty to have all students “experience” religion, asserting the moderate beliefs she would retain throughout her life....

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Cooper, Susan Augusta Fenimore (17 April 1813–31 December 1894), writer, was born at Heathcote Hill in Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York, the daughter of the novelist James Fenimore Cooper and Susan Augusta DeLancey. The Cooper family members were devoted to one another, and the parents saw to it that each child received a fine education. Susan had tutors, attended private schools, spoke and read four languages, and studied American and English literature and history, as well as zoology and botany. She was also skillful in music, drawing, and dancing. She once danced in a great Parisian house to waltzes played by Chopin and Liszt while the hired musicians were eating their dinner....

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Doubleday, Neltje de Graff (23 October 1865–21 February 1918), natural history writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Liverius de Graff, owner of a men’s clothing store, and Alice Fair. She attended St. John’s School in New York City and the Misses Masters’ School in Dobbs Ferry, New York. In 1885 her family moved to Plainfield, New Jersey. On 9 June 1886 she married ...

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Douglas, Marjory Stoneman (07 April 1890–14 May 1998), author and environmentalist, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Florence Lillian Trefethen Stoneman, who went by the name of Lillian, and Frank Bryant Stoneman, a businessman and newspaper editor. When Marjory was three her father's business failed, and the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Further business reverses took a toll on Lillian Stoneman's mental health and resulted in a nervous breakdown. Not long thereafter, Lillian separated from her husband and, with her six-year-old daughter, traveled to Taunton, Massachusetts, to live with her parents and unmarried sister....

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Eifert, Virginia S. (23 January 1911–16 June 1966), writer, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Ernest Snider, a building engineer for the Elks Club, and Felicie Cottet. As a child Eifert was fascinated by wildlife. She spent much time outdoors, especially in Springfield’s Washington Park, and read nature books by such authors as ...

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Furbish, Kate (19 May 1834–06 December 1931), botanist and watercolorist, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the daughter of Benjamin Furbish, a hardware merchant and civic leader, and Mary A. Lane. The family moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Furbish was an infant, and she was educated in the Brunswick schools. Her public school education was supplemented by art courses in Portland and Boston, botanical study in Boston, and the study of French literature in Paris. In 1870 she began to focus on the Maine flora, and for the next sixty-one years she devoted herself to its study. She did not marry, and on her father’s death in 1873 she inherited enough money to live comfortably on her own for the remainder of her life....

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Herrick, Sophia McIlvaine Bledsoe (26 March 1837–09 October 1919), editor and writer, was born in Gambier, Ohio, the daughter of Albert Taylor Bledsoe, a lawyer and professor of mathematics, and Harriet Coxe. Sophia, or Sophie, grew up in Springfield, Illinois, where her father practiced law, and in Mississippi and Virginia, where he taught at the state universities. She was educated at boarding schools in Cincinnati and Dayton. In 1860 she married James Burton Herrick, an Episcopal clergyman, and moved with him to New York City. Between 1862 and 1865 Sophia and James had three children. In 1868 they separated, and Sophia and the children moved to Baltimore to join her father, who had served as assistant secretary of war in the Confederate government....

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Miller, Harriet Mann (25 June 1831–25 December 1918), author and naturalist, known by the pseudonym Olive Thorne Miller, was born in Auburn, New York, the daughter of Seth Hunt Mann, a banker, and Mary Field Holbrook. During her youth she lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri and was educated in private schools....

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Neal, Marie Catherine (07 December 1889–06 June 1965), botanist and author, was born in Southington, Connecticut, the daughter of Linus B. Neal, a banker, and Eva W. Chedney. As a girl, she went on hunting and fishing excursions with her father, discovering in nature her future life’s work. Neal’s interest in plant life was heightened by her first course in botany at Smith College, from which she graduated in 1912 with a B.A. degree. She had worked in college as a secretary for Travelers Insurance Company and the Connecticut Children’s Aid Society. Upon graduation, she became a secretary in the geology department at Yale, working for Herbert E. Gregory. She moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1920 to continue her work for Gregory, after his appointment as director of the Bishop Museum. Neal was placed as research assistant in the museum’s conchology department in the division devoted to the study of mollusks, as there were no museum openings in botany. She worked there for ten years from 1920 to 1930. In 1923 Neal cataloged 200,000 terrestrial mollusks and in 1928 coauthored with Henry A. Pilsbry and C. Montague Cooke, Jr., a monograph titled “Land Snails from Hawaii, Christmas Island and Samoa.” While completing these tasks, she continued to pursue her botany studies, made an extensive botanical collecting trip to New Zealand, and completed her master’s thesis in marine algae of Hawaii, obtaining her master’s degree from Yale in 1925. Her articles written in this period for the ...

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Phelps, Almira Hart Lincoln (15 July 1793–15 July 1884), science educator, was born in Berlin, Connecticut, the daughter of Samuel Hart and Lydia Hinsdale, farmers. Almira’s childhood was filled with her father’s stories of the revolutionary war, fireside readings of Milton’s poetry and Shakespeare’s plays, and lively political discussions in a Jeffersonian environment rare for Federalist New England. An early exposure to books at home and the admonitions of her sister Emma ( ...