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Alexander, Hattie Elizabeth (05 April 1901–24 June 1968), microbiologist and pediatrician, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Bain Alexander, a merchant, and Elsie May Townsend, both of Scottish ancestry. The family remained in Baltimore throughout Alexander’s relatively happy and comfortable childhood. She attended Baltimore’s Western High School for Girls prior to enrolling in Goucher College, to which she won a partial scholarship. While at Goucher, her enthusiasm for a variety of sports—hockey, baseball, basketball—exceeded that for academics, and she was an unimpressive student. Nevertheless, she exhibited marked, though largely unapplied, skill in Dr. Jessie King’s bacteriology class, and fellow students in the Goucher yearbook declared that “ambition fires her; hygiene claims her; kindness portrays her.”...

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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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Bailey, Florence Augusta Merriam (08 August 1863–22 September 1948), ornithologist, was born in Locust Grove, New York, the daughter of Clinton Levi Merriam, a banker, and Caroline Hart. She grew up on the family’s country estate, Homewood, in the rural Adirondack foothills. Bailey’s father encouraged his children’s curiosity about nature and wildlife, camping and exploring with them in the countryside. He had met and corresponded with the naturalist ...

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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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Blodgett, Katharine Burr (10 January 1898–12 October 1979), chemist and inventor, was born in Schenectady, New York, the daughter of George Bedington Blodgett, a patent attorney for the General Electric Company, and Katharine Buchanan Burr. Her father was murdered a few weeks before her birth, a crime never solved. She grew up in reasonably comfortable circumstances in New York City, where her mother worked in child care. She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1917 with an A.B. and majoring in physics. She then undertook graduate study in chemistry at the University of Chicago, obtaining the M.S. degree in 1918....

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Bodley, Rachel Littler (07 December 1831–15 June 1888), botanist, chemist, and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Anthony Prichard Bodley, a carpenter and patternmaker, and Rebecca Wilson Talbott, a teacher. An 1849 graduate in classical studies of Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, Rachel Bodley taught there and served as preceptor in higher college studies until 1860, when she decided to pursue her interests in botany and chemistry. She began advanced studies in the natural sciences at the Polytechnic College in Philadelphia in 1860 and returned to Ohio in early 1862 to accept a position as professor of natural sciences at the Cincinnati Female Seminary....

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Brandegee, Mary Katharine Layne Curran (28 October 1844–03 April 1920), botanist, was born in the wilds of western Tennessee, the daughter of Marshall Bolling Layne, a schoolteacher, and Mary Morris, a weaver. Mary Katharine Layne, known as “Kate,” lived as a child in Tennessee, Missouri, Utah, Nevada, and in California at the time of the gold rush. In her own words, “My father, an impractical genius, afflicted with ...

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Britton, Elizabeth Gertrude Knight (09 January 1858–25 February 1934), botanist, was born in New York City, the daughter of James Knight, a furniture manufacturer and sugar plantation operator, and Sophie Ann Compton. Britton spent most of her childhood at the family sugar plantation near Matanzas, Cuba, where she developed a love of the outdoors with the encouragement of her father, who had an interest in natural history. She was later sent to New York to live with her maternal grandmother so that she could attend school. She graduated from the Normal College (now Hunter College) in New York in 1875. Despite her youth, she was immediately appointed a “critic teacher” at the Normal College’s teacher-training institution, the Model School; in 1883 she became a tutor in natural history at the Normal College. Upon her marriage in 1885 to ...

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Bryant, Louise Frances Stevens (19 September 1885–29 August 1959), social statistician and medical editor, was born in Paris, France, the daughter of Charles E. Stevens, a civil engineer, and Miriam Collins Nicholson. She spent her first three years touring Europe with her mother and sister while her father led government-sponsored prospecting operations in South America. In 1888 he died, leaving a sizable inheritance, and they settled in New York City. The inheritance dissipated in unfortunate investments, and in 1910 she moved with her family to Rahway, New Jersey. After attending Hunter College and the Normal College of the City of New York for a year, she matriculated in 1904 at Smith College, where she studied philosophy and zoology and received her B.A. in 1908. Later that year she married Arthur A. Bryant; they had no children....

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Bunting, Mary (10 July 1910–21 January 1998), college educator and microbiologist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest child of Henry Andrews Ingraham, a lawyer, and Mary Shotwell Ingraham, a community activist. Her well-educated parents were committed to bringing culture to their children, along with a love of the outdoors. Family life was close and satisfying for Polly (so called to avoid confusion with her mother), who appreciated her father’s interests in art and literature and her mother’s community commitments, including as a member of the New York City Board of Higher Education and the national president of the Young Women’s Christian Association....

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Cannon, Annie Jump (11 December 1863–13 April 1941), astronomer, was born in Dover, Delaware, the daughter of Wilson Lee Cannon, a prosperous merchant and shipbuilder, and Mary Elizabeth Jump. As a young child Annie showed interest and talent in science. Aided by her mother, she began observing the skies and recognizing the constellations. Encouraged by her father, she enrolled in 1880 in Wellesley College, which had recently been founded to provide sound academic education for women. As an undergraduate she studied physics and astronomy with ...

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Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Carr, Emma Perry (23 July 1880–07 January 1972), chemist, was born in Holmesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edmund Cone, a general practitioner from a family of physicians, and Anna Mary Jack. Her family moved fifty miles south to the somewhat larger town of Coshocton about a year after Carr was born. She graduated from public schools and then went to Ohio State University in 1898, where she studied chemistry with William McPherson. At the end of her freshman year she transferred to Mount Holyoke College, becoming part of a tradition that supported women’s education in science and that, as a faculty member, she would sustain and expand....

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Carr, Marjorie H. (26 Mar. 1915–10 Oct. 1997), environmental activist and zoologist, was born Marjorie Harris in Boston, Massachusetts, to Charles Ellsworth Harris, a teacher, and Clara Louise Haynes. The couple wintered in Florida, eventually relocating in 1918 to a ten-acre orange grove south of Bonita Springs. Marjorie reveled in the natural beauty of rural southwest Florida, enjoying the nearby rivers and beaches while riding her beloved pony. In ...

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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....