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Ellen Swallow Richards' Legacy: MIT Alumnae Make a Difference


Saturday, March 5, 2011 , Conference 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM,   Reception and Dinner 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
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Ellen Henrietta (Swallow) Richards, MIT Class of 1873:
First Female Graduate and Faculty Member at MIT



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Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards (ESR, 1842-1911) became the first woman awarded a Bachelor of Science degree at MIT in 1873 and served as the first female faculty member of the Institute where she taught for over 40 years.


Skeptical professors admitted ESR into MIT as "an experiment." It proved wildly successful as she became nationally renowned for her research in water analysis while a student. After graduation, she tirelessly promoted women's education and created a laboratory for women at MIT, in 1876, making a chemistry education available for hundreds of women. Later, Ellen worked with MIT Professor John Ordway to create the nation's first sanitary chemistry laboratory in 1884.

Author of the Art of Right Living, Ellen believed it was important to "do real things of value to people." Ellen applied scientific principles to subjects like household management and nutrition giving birth to the field of home economics and spurring Boston public schools to improve their lunch programs. In 1887, Ellen led a study examining the pollution levels across Massachusetts prompting the state to create America's first water quality standards.

ESR's example and actions paved the way for the vital roles that women play at MIT and throughout the world. Join us in commemorating her and many prestigious alumnae in March.

More Information about ESR

In honor of the 125th anniversary of Ellen's graduation in 1998, AMITA created an exhibit to celebrate the history of women at MIT .

Recent article in MITnews: A life filled with firsts to help celebrate the MIT150.

Take a few minutes to read the article from Tech Review, October 2007, about MIT's first alumna, Ellen Swallow Richards (1873) in Ellencyclopedia

...and the letter in Technology Review about AMITA's perspective on Ellen Swallow Richards written by AMITA's past president, Sarah Simon.

View our MIT Institute Archives and Special Collection about Ellen Swallow Richards. There is an extensive list of her publications and books (which are microfilmed in 1997) in the archives. Find out more about the Women's Laboratory and the Rumford Kitchen at the World's Fair in Chigago 1893.

View a photo album of Richards and her work

Wikipedia link on Ellen Swallow Richards.


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