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BOSTON, 1912 



WHILE there are many recorded instances of 
friendship between author and publisher, to few 
firms is given the peculiarly vital relationship that 
it was our privilege to hold with Mrs. Richards. 

Our existence as a firm is due to her belief in 
the need for specialized service in the literature 
of Home Economics. Our first publications were 
her books. Through seven years of development our 
best business asset was her good will. 

The constant and innumerable kindnesses for 
which we are indebted to Mrs. Richards throughout 
those years cannot be told. To publish her life is 
therefore a fulfillment. 





I. CHILDHOOD ..... 1 

II. GIRLHOOD . . . . . 16 

III. AT COLLEGE ..... 36 

IV. AT COLLEGE (continued) ... 59 













Ellen H. Richards .... Frontispiece 

The Swallow Homestead .... 2 

Mr. and Mrs. Swallow . . 6 

Ellen Swallow ..... 10 

The Prize Handkerchief . . . 12 

Ellen Swallow ....... 22 

The Store at Littleton ..... 26 

Ellen Swallow . | . . . . . 28 

"The Lodge," Vassar College .... 36 

The Willows, Vassar College . . . .50 

The Observatory, Vassar College .... 62 

Facsimile of Diary, 1870 . . . .68 

Class Picture, Vassar 1870 78 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... 88 

The Water Laboratory 102 

Mrs. Richards at Her Desk . . . .108 

The Porch at 32 Eliot Street . . . .118 
The Dining Room . .120 

The Vine-Covered Dining Room . .122 

Woman's Chemical Laboratory . . 136 

Executive Committee, Naples Table Association . 212 
The New England Kitchen 218 

The Rumford Kitchen 224 

The Balsams 

Lake Placid Club *59 
At Lake Placid 264 


Groups of Home Economics Workers . . 286 

Academic Portrait of Mrs. Richards . . . 810 

Professor and Mrs. Richards .... 320 

Facsimile of a Letter ...... 324 

Pen and Ink Drawings by 
George H. Bartlett and Mws Ethel U. Bartlett 


ON the evening of the second of April, nineteen 
hundred and eleven, a group of friends and co- 
workers of Mrs. Richards, several of whom had 
come from fa.r distant places to attend her funeral, 
met at the College Club in Boston. 

Gathered together under the shadow of their great 
sorrow, they told each other what Mrs. Richards 
had done for them. Each had a characteristic say- 
ing of hers to repeat, or an anecdote illustrating 
her unfailing helpfulness to relate, but chiefly they 
spoke of how her call to them had always been in 
the direction of the large outgiving life. 

Strangely enough the outlook even at that time, 
so soon after her death, was not backward, but for- 
ward. They asked even then what they could do to 
carry on the work that she had laid down. As the 
evening wore on, the suggestion was made that one 
way of doing this would be by giving permanent 
form to what had been said there so informally, and 
the hope was expressed that they and others who 
had known the inspiration of her personal influence 
might have an opportunity to show her to the world 
as they had seen her. 

Professor Richards, hearing of this conference, 


asked to have a committee of persons representing 
Mrs. Richards's various interests formed for the 
purpose of advising with him about the preparation 
of a memorial volume. The committee was formed 
with Miss Isabel F. Hyams as chairman, to whom, 
because of "a daily companionship of twenty years 
which had sustained hands that were often weary," 
Mrs. Richards had dedicated her last book. Other 
members were Mrs. Mary Hinman Abel, editor of 
the Journal of Home Economics; Miss Isabel Bevier, 
who succeeded Mrs. Richards as president of the 
American Home Economics Association ; Miss Anna 
Barrows, of Teachers College; Miss Florence Gush- 
ing, who represented the Associate Alumnae of Vassar 
College and the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, 
and who had been a student in the Woman's Labo- 
ratory; Mr. James P. Munroe, of the Corporation 
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; 
Miss Frances Stern, who had been Mrs. Richards's 
secretary; Miss Lillian Jameson, also secretary to 
Mrs. Richards ; Miss Jean Swain, to whom the steno- 
graphic work was to be intrusted, and myself. 

The result of the conference of this committee 
with Professor Richards, and of his earnest desire 
to smooth out all financial difficulties of the under- 
taking in order that he might share with others the 
life-giving influence which had been his for nearly 
forty years, was a determination to prepare this 



In response to a request for material which might 
be of service, many letters written by Mrs. Richards 
were received, and also many records and personal 
testimonies. For all of these we who have been more 
closely concerned in the preparation of the book 
wish to acknowledge our indebtedness. We hesitate, 
however, to express our thanks, because we feel that 
all, near and far, have been working together for 
one end, and that what others have done has been 
not for us but for her. We hesitate, too, to name 
any of these who have assisted us because of the 
hopelessness of naming all. A few, however, must be 
mentioned here. 

We are indebted to Miss Anna A. Swallow and to 
other relatives of Mrs. Richards for the record of 
her early life; to Mrs. Laura E. Richards and 
Miss Rosalind Richards for facts about her personal 
and home life ; to her classmates, Mrs. Flora Hughes 
and Miss Anna Mineah, and other college friends for 
a large number of valuable letters ; to the Woman's 
Education Association of Boston for permission to 
examine its early records; to Miss Margaret E. Dodd 
for bringing to light many facts about the Studies 
at Home; to Dean Marion Talbot for the story of 
her connection with the Association of Collegiate 
Alumna?; to Dr. C. F. Langworthy for information 
about her connection with the work of the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture; to many graduates of the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and many of 


the faculty for facts concerning her connection with 
that institution; to Miss Margaret Maltby for many 
letters written by Mrs. Richards during her later 
years ; to Miss Louisa P. Hewins, of Jamaica Plain, 
a friend whom circumstances made the companion of 
her leisure rather than of her labors, for the story 
of many of her lighter moments. These are but a 
few of those who have helped ; how far we have fallen 
short of acknowledging our full indebtedness the 
text will indicate by showing the breadth of her 
activities and how far our researches have necessarily 

Editors, revisers, stenographer, publishers, illus- 
trator, printer, all of whom came under her influ- 
ence, have worked together to prepare this book as 
a memorial to her. If it is lacking in unity because 
of this wide cooperation, it must surely approach 
more nearly to completeness. 





THE unseen and the untried have ever lured 
adventurous and courageous spirits, calling forth 
in every age explorers, who have this in common 
that they set forth with glad feet and expectant 
faces toward that which lies beyond the knowledge 
or experience of their times. But that which they 
seek, whether it shall be an undiscovered country, 
a new field of knowledge, or an untried way of 
living, is determined by inner impulses and outward 
circumstances. These unite to create multiple forms 
of the exploring type. 

The girl-child of adventurous spirit born to rural 
New England during the middle of the nineteenth 
century naturally chose as her field of exploration 
new modes of helpfulness and of service. This choice 
was almost inevitable at that time in that region, 
for earnestness, conscientiousness, and unyielding 
devotion to duty were breathed in with the air of 
puritan New England, and self-sacrifice was de- 
manded of women both by tradition and by public 
opinion. But many of the older forms of labor 
which had been women's contribution to family and 



community life were being rendered unnecessary, 
while at the same time enlarging means of communi- 
cation and widening educational opportunities were 
opening to them a whole new world, and were sug- 
gesting to those who happened to be of adventurous 
spirit the presence of fresh fields of usefulness lying 
beyond the vision and waiting to be explored. Inner 
impulses toward pioneering, as well as those toward 
helpfulness, were likely in rural New England seventy 
years ago to be quickened by the outward conditions 
of life. 

Into these changing social conditions Ellen Swallow 
was born on a New England farm at a time not far 
from the middle of the last century. As she grew, 
her two most marked physical characteristics, a 
steadfast look from large, thoughtful gray eyes, and 
a quickness of motion and of speech, came to be the 
outward evidences of the two great passions of her 
life a longing for usefulness and a love of pioneer- 
ing. These passions her early life in an isolated 
community and among profoundly religious people 
doubtless tended to strengthen and intensify. She 
was destined to give herself for others, but to do it 
in unique ways, and after the fashion of explorers, 
joyously and enthusiastically, so that the record of 
her life and labors is the story of happy excursions 
into fresh fields of service. 

The Swallow homestead, where she was born, was 
situated near the village of Dunstable, which is part 


of a town of the same name in Northern Massachu- 
setts, on the New Hampshire line. From the place 
where the old home once stood one may look out 
over the fields to a small burying ground where 
Ensign John Swallow, who died in 
the year 1776, lies buried. ^,. 
"Ensign John," as 

The Swallow Homestead 

his descendants fondly call him, was the first of the 
Swallow name to find his way to the little settlement 
of Dunstable, in whose records his name frequently 
appears. He was the grandson of Ambrose Swallow, 
who was born in England, but who was living in 
Massachusetts as early as 1666. There is a tradition 
that the Swallow family had earlier married into a 
French family named Larnard. If this be true, and 


T ii* fact tfcat *n*nl of 




to tfe dbj 


. . . . -^7^. 



proceed with the building of the meeting house. In 
that generation affairs of the spirit were considered 
to be the concern of the whole community. 

But troublous times were in store for the little 
band of settlers in Dunstable, for the town, having 
been cut from a wilderness and lying at the farthest 
point which the tide of immigration following the 
Merrimac River had reached, was in an exposed posi- 
tion, and the inhabitants were continually attacked, 
not only by Indians, but also by wild beasts. We 
read that in 1688 Samuel Gould was appointed dog 
whipper for the meeting house, an office which was 
indispensable because the settlers were obliged to 
take their dogs to church with them for protection. 
So fierce were the attacks of the Indians that the 
population was at one time reduced to a single per- 
son, the remainder having been killed or having fled 
to places of safety. But the pioneers were not to be 
vanquished. Those who had fled speedily returned, 
and having fortified their houses brought back their 
families. From that time on the population steadily 
increased ; not very rapidly, however, for by the year 
1753, when Ensign John cast his lot with the town, 
its inhabitants numbered only two hundred and fifty. 
But though few in number they were great in spirit, 
for in winning the wilderness and converting it into 
fertile farms, in removing the bowlders with which 
the fields were strewn, and which an early history of 
the town says "were doubtless placed there by a 


Titanic force for a beneficent purpose," and in ward- 
ing off attacks of their enemies, they had grown a 
sturdy and courageous people. 

Ensign John's desire to see the gospel well settled 
in Dunstable was evidently taken seriously, for he 
was almost immediately appointed a member of a 
committee to complete the meeting house by supply- 
ing it with "26 windows, 23 of sd windows to Be 
24 squares of glass in Each window, the 2 gavel End 
windows to Be 15 squairs Each & the pulpit window 
to be Left to the Descretion of the parish committe." 
It was he, too, who in 1757 built the house which 
was the birthplace of successive generations of the 
Swallow family. This house stood until 1882, when 
it was burned to the ground and replaced by another 
on nearly the same site, which is still occupied by 
one branch of the family. Ensign John's son, Peter, 
was one of a little band of men which Dunstable gave 
out of her poverty to serve in the War of Independ- 
ence. He had a son Archelaus, and Archelaus's son, 
Peter, was the father of Ellen. 

Peter Swallow, the second, was born on June 27, 
1813, the oldest child of Archelaus and Susanna 
Kendall Swallow. Having scholarly tastes, he early 
began to look about him for an education, and by 
good fortune he was led to the academy at New 
Ipswich, New Hampshire. The good fortune was his 
and also the world's, for it was in New Ipswich that 
he found his future wife, Fanny Gould Taylor, and 

o 5 


there the two families from which Ellen Swallow 
was to draw her strength and power were united. 
Mr. Swallow and Miss Taylor were married on 
May 9, 1839, and on December 3, 1842, their only 
child, Ellen Henrietta, was born. 

Before as well as after graduating from the 
academy, Mr. Swallow taught in the neighboring 
towns of Pepperell, Tyngsborough, and Nashua, and 
one certificate of fitness to teach shows that when 
nineteen years old he traveled as far from home as 
Western Ohio. After his marriage he made his home 
in one end of his father's house, and in 1845 his 
father deeded to him half the farm and half the 
house. For ten or twelve years he followed the 
double occupation of teaching and farming, occupa- 
tions which demanded his time during most of the 
year, but left leisure in the early spring. The month 
of March was often spent by him and his family 
in trips to New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine for 
the purpose of visiting relatives. These journeys 
were made by team, and as they were taken at the 
time of year when the roads were likely to be worst, 
they were full of adventure. Fifty years afterwards 
his daughter wrote: "One of my earliest recollections 
is of my father's reply to my mother's anxiety lest 
we should get overturned in the sleigh on the snow- 
drifted country roads 'Where any one else has 
been, there I can go.' " "This," she continued, "is 
not a bad working motto, but adventurous spirits 



go beyond this and do what has never been done 
before," which expresses well the quality of adven- 
turesomeness and love of exploration which in the 
daughter was added to the will and courage inherited 
from her father. 

Mr. Swallow remained on the farm until 1859, 

when for the purpose of giving his daughter an 

I academy education he moved to the neighboring 

I town of Westford and opened a store. From that 

time until his sudden death in 1871, he was engaged 

in one form or another of trade ; but whether because 

his interests were in books rather than in business, 

or for some other reason, he seems never to have 

been very successful. 

The following extract from a letter written by 
Ellen Swallow to her mother while she was at Vassar 
gives a clew to one of her father's characteristics : 

"I think father would be delighted to see Miss 
Mitchell lecturing me, as she did this morning, 
because I ignored the one one-hundredth of a second 
in an astronomical calculation. 'While you are 
doing it, you might as well do it to a nicety.' ' It 
\ is said that no household task in the Swallow family 
i was ever performed with such nicety as to meet with 
the father's unreserved approval. And yet this in- 
terest in details seems not to have been associated 
in him, as it often is, with narrowness of vision, for 
he was his daughter's most ardent supporter in her 
efforts to gain a college education and a scientific 


training at a time when such education and training 
were almost unknown among women. 

Ellen Swallow's mother, Fanny Gould Taylor, was 
born in New Ipswich on April 9, 1817, the fourth 
daughter and sixth child of Samuel Taylor and 
Persis Jones. She was descended on her father's side 
from William Taylor, who came to this country from 
England about 1640, and after prospecting a little 
settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where several 
generations of his descendants tilled the soil. It was 
her grandfather, Thaddeus Taylor, who first came 
to New Ipswich. In the middle of the winter of 
1776, with his wife, Bridget Walton, and four small 
children, he moved into an unfinished house on a hill 
in the southwestern part of the town. Here the 
family endured great hardship while the home was 
being finished and the "rough and rocky farm 
subdued." In this house "over the mountains," 
as it was described in a history of New Ipswich, 
Mrs. Swallow was born. 

The Taylor family and many of the families into 
which it married showed a remarkable tendency 
toward longevity. Mrs. Swallow's father lived to 
be eighty-one and her mother to be eighty-eight. 
Thaddeus Taylor, the grandfather, was eighty-one 
when he died and his wife eighty-five. The ages of 
six of their nine children averaged over ninety years 
at the time of death, and one son, Oliver Swain 
Taylor, lived to be four months over one hundred 


years of age. Lydia Treadway, the grandmother 
of Mrs. Swallow's mother, lived to be ninety-four 
and to gather about her two hundred and thirty- 
three descendants. It may be that this tendency 
toward long life was in some way transmuted into 
that wonderful physical endurance which carried 
Ellen Swallow through a delicate childhood, and later 
made it seem as if she were living the lives of ten 
people and incidentally doing their work. 

Deft and dainty were the adjectives most often 
applied to Mrs. Swallow. To her dexterity, which 
was shown in all traditionally feminine occupations, 
may doubtless be traced the carefulness of manipu- 
lation which helped to make her daughter successful 
in one of the most exacting of all forms of chemical 
work, water analysis. The mother's daintiness in 
dress impressed all who saw her, even in later 
years, when sickness and suffering would have made 
carelessness excusable. 

From references to Ellen in letters received by 
her father and mother during her childhood, we may 
infer that she was one of those active yet dainty 
little creatures upon whose quick, quiet motions it is 
always a delight for grown people to look. "How 
is little Ellen?" one cousin wrote. "I often think of 
her; what a pretty, interesting, amusing little thing 
she is." And another: "I wish she were here; I 
should like no better plaything." 

As she grew, she came perilously near being a 


iluyueiveotyfn' ink, n <tl,nt 


tomboy, if, in fact, she did not quite step over the 
line. This was a sore trial to her mother, who 
wished to train the little feet to walk demurely, 
and the hands to love indoor and feminine occupa- 
tions. But fortunately there came along a wise 
physician, who, noticing the frailty of the child, 
said that if she were to grow to womanhood she 
must be allowed to run freely in the open air; and 
from that time forward she followed her natural 
bent, spending most of her time out of doors with 
her father and her uncles on the farm. She rode 
the horses, drove the cows to pasture, and pitched 
hay. Two little stone posts still standing mark the 
gateway of her own garden, which she made and 
tended. In after years she used to say that there 
was one form of farm work only which she had 
never done. To her great sorrow her mother would 
not permit her to milk the cows, for fear her hands 
would grow large and unbeautiful. 

Mrs. Swallow, like her husband, had been educated 
at the academy in New Ipswich. Between her and 
her daughter there must have been a keen intellectual 
sympathy, for when in college Ellen painstakingly 
outlined for her mother at home books which she 
had read and lectures and sermons to which she had 
listened. But there was also a fundamental differ- 
ence of opinion as to what came within a woman's 
sphere. In one of the letters written from college, 
Ellen told of an address made by a student on 


Founder's Day. This brought forth a vigorous 
protest from the mother, in spite of the fact that 
she had been assured that the audience consisted 
exclusively of faculty and fellow-students, and that 
the description of the youthful orator, "dressed in 
black with a lavender bow, her hair dressed plainly, 
and wearing white kid gloves," made a picture of 
preeminent feminine propriety. 

Notwithstanding the fact that Ellen's predilections 
were for outdoor life and strenuous pursuits, house- 
hold tasks were not neglected. By the age of thirteen 
she had, under the tutelage of her mother, mastered 
the housekeeping arts which in later years she valued 
so highly that she sought to have them embodied in 
the curricula of the schools. The sheets and pillow- 
cases of a toy bed daintily hemstitched, a pair of 
silk stockings, and a beautifully embroidered hand- 
kerchief for which she took a prize at a country 
fair, when she was only thirteen years old, still 
testify to her skill; while a china vase, which was a 
prize offered at the same fair for the best loaf of 
bread, bears silent witness to her early accomplish- 
ments as a cook. 

Her father and mother, both well educated for 
the times, and both having been teachers, were 
extremely critical of the incumbents of the village 
school, and except upon rare occasions they in- 
structed the child themselves. Her early years, 
therefore, were passed chiefly within her home, varied 


"By tin- ant- of th'n-ti-i-n /,> Inn! i,u,xt<-ml the housekeeping arts, 
in l,,t,;- IWOTJ ! ,-/,-// .s-o highly Hint she sought to have 
them embodied in the curricula of the schools" 


by occasional visits at the farm of her uncle, Still- 
man Swallow, in Nashua, whose daughter Annie was 
her most intimate associate during her girlhood and 
young womanhood. Here, besides enjoying the 
companionship of a large family of children, she 
took great delight in the high-bred horses with 
which the farm was stocked. 

Her love of animals and her sympathy with them 
must have begun very early in life. In fact, some 
of the first outpourings of her generous and helpful 
spirit seem to have been toward pets. One of the 
products of her mother's skillful fingers were little 
white cotton rabbits, which found their way into 
many homes to the delight of children. When Ellen 
was four years old she broke her arm. After it had 
been put into splints, her mother found her out 
upon the grass one day, supporting herself upon 
her uninjured arm and painfully pulling grass for 
the cotton rabbits with the other. 

Dunstable, during the time of Ellen Swallow's 
childhood, had a population of about five hundred 
and fifty, scattered over a territory of sixteen and 
a half miles, not more than one hundred of them 
living in the near-by village. It had no railway until 
1850. Then the Worcester and Nashua cut across 
its western portion, but made no stop within the 
town. It was not until long after she left that rail- 
way connection was established with other parts of 
New England. In this isolated place she grew up, 


among an industrious and religious people. It was 
a fortunate childhood in many ways, for while her 
body was being gradually strengthened by out-of- 
door life, her mind was being stimulated by her home 

She was sixteen years old when her father sold 
his farm in Dunstable, and became the proprietor 
of the village store in Westford. A friend who 
knew her during the Westford years says that her 
young companions always considered her a mem- 
ber of the firm, so active was her interest and so 
unfailing the help which she gave her father. We 
may therefore consider the move from Dunstable 
to Westford to be the dividing line between a care- 
free childhood and a young womanhood of purpose- 
ful preparation for a life work toward which her 
steadfast gaze was always set, even when its outlines 
were least clearly defined. 

The road from the Swallow farm to Westford 
leads past the cluster of houses and the little church 
which form the village of Dunstable, and passing 
through the pine woods suddenly comes out upon an 
open space, across which the academy on the high 
land at Westford comes into view. This was the 
road which Ellen Swallow traveled in April, 1859. 
With the strength and the courage of her fathers 
which had been bred in the stern realities of pioneer 
life, with their faith which had seen a beneficent 
Providence even in the rocks with which their paths 



had been strewn, and with a spirit tuned to the 
beauty of the quiet landscape and of the pines, she 
set forth, and as she traveled, suddenly the way 
opened before her, and there on the heights beyond 
she caught glimpses of opportunity. 



THE periods into which life naturally divides 
itself those of preparation and education, of 
active labor, and of decline are least clearly 
marked in lives of greatest power and most earnest 
purpose. For great power is likely to show itself 
in useful labor during the years which are usually 
given to education, and earnest purpose persists to 
the end, carrying with it the demand for continued 
training. Thus dividing lines are obscured. 

If Ellen Swallow had been a person of only 
average energy and average strength of purpose, 
we might now be able to speak of her days at 
Westford as a period given to education, and to 
point to the places which were most intimately 
connected with her life there and say: "Here at the 
academy on the Common she was educated; there in 
the little store across the way her father worked 
to support his family and to educate his daughter; 
and there a short distance down the orchard-lined 
street, in the white house among the flowers, her 
mother made the family home." But so great was 
her energy and so independent her spirit, that she 



not only took an important part in the home- 
making, but also insisted upon helping to raise the 
money for her own education. Naturally quicker 
than her father, and with a greater aptitude for the 
details of business, she became his constant assistant 
in the store. At the same time her mother and she, 
freed from the harder labor which farm life brings 
to women, found time from their housework to make 
the little home bud and blossom with the flowers of 
which they both were passionately fond. During 
the Westford period, therefore, she took a real part 
in the work which was going on about her, and was 
not removed from it for purposes of education. 
These years, instead of being given wholly to prepa- 
ration, represent rather one stage of her developing 
power, one phase of the unfolding of a life in which 
labor and preparation for greater labor always 
went side by side. 

Picking up the thread of her life at the time of 
its greatest complexity, when activity was greatest 
and interests most numerous, we are surprised to 
find how many of its strands may be traced back 
to childhood or girlhood. Of these the most persist- 
ent, that which stretched straightest and strongest 
from the beginning to the end and around which 
all other interests twined, was the love of home. 
To the separate household arts which she had 
learned to perfection during her childhood, she 
added in girlhood the art of household management, 


and during her mother's frequent sicknesses she 
had full charge of the home. She cooked, washed, 
ironed, cleaned house, papered rooms, and laid 
carpets. Those who heard her lecture in later 
years on subjects related to home-making, often 
took it for granted that, being a chemist, she spoke 
from theory and not from practical experience; but 
as a matter of fact there was no household task 
which she could not perform as well as any one 
whom she employed. When she became an expert 
in an important branch of science, she added her 
knowledge of sanitation to her skill in housekeeping, 
and brought both to the service of her home. 

Closely connected with love of home was another 
interest which found its place almost as early in 
her life and also continued to the end. This was 
the passion for flowers which she shared with her 
mother., There are few letters from mother to 
daughter or from daughter to mother which do not 
j contain some inquiry as to the welfare of the plants, 
some statement as to their progress, some hope 
expressed as to the blossoms to come, or some enu- 
meration of blossoms which had already appeared. 
Friends at a distance, too, seem always to have 
thought of mother and daughter among their house 
plants or in the garden. 

While still a girl she wrote to her cousin Annie: 

"Please tell Lucy that my coliseum [ivy] has 
grown finely, has been in blossom ever since she was 


here. A few days ago I counted thirty blossoms 
and fifty buds. I will send a blossom if I don't 
forget it. I have made a basket for the ivy and 
hung it in the window. It has also been in blossom 
several weeks. I wish you could come and stay with 
me a few weeks ; our bracing air would do you good. 
You have no idea how pretty our village looks in its 
summer dress. We have so many shade trees in the 
streets, and so many pretty orchards beside them, 
that at this time it is really a charming spot." 

At a later time she wrote : 

"The ivy that I had from your house covers the 
whole window and is in full bloom. It is the admi- 
ration of all. Our calla is magnificent; our Mobile 
amaryllis (we call it so in distinction from the com- 
mon one because ours came from Mobile) is budded, 
and I expect will be well worth seeing. Our common 
amaryllis is not going to bloom at present. Our 
salvia is splendid; the little blush rose has had two 
great roses at once; the pink one has been in bloom 
and now has eighteen buds, nine on one new sprout. 
We have beautiful heliotrope. I have a little silver- 
leaf geranium about three inches high, which is 
budded. Won't it be a little darling? We have 
part of our plants in the store. People take so 
much notice of them that father is willing to have 
the trouble of them and has taken a great interest 
in taking care of them ; has done more of it than he 
ever did before. I think he would rebel as strongly 
as any of us now to be deprived of them." 


Beginning in girlhood too, and continuing as 
long as she lived, was a fondness for fiction, which 
was probably allied to her love of pleasant explora- 
tion and due to the eagerness with which her mind 
went out to every phase of life. She climbed with 
zest the difficult paths of science, but she also walked 
with pleasure the easier paths of romance. The 
friends of her busier years have a picture of her as, 
comfortably seating herself in a street car, she took 
a novel from her pocket or bag and became lost to 
the world about her; or as, the work of a long day 
over, she drew a footstool to a warm spot beside 
fireplace or register and found in a story complete 
mental relaxation, which prepared the way for sound 
and restful slumber. It would be easy to think that 
, this habit was acquired in the years of her greatest 
activity for the purpose of freeing herself at times 
from the pressure of care, but as a matter of fact 
it dated back to girlhood. Her uncle, Mr. George W. 
Taylor, writing after her death, says : " Ellen had 
become at about twelve years old a rapid reader, 
and was spending much of her time in reading works 
of fiction. I then said to her that I thought she 
better stop reading so much fiction and take up the 
study of more meritorious work." 

That she had some misgivings herself is shown 
by a prim little composition upon the subject of 
"Gathering Pebbles," which was written during her 
school life in Westford. After telling how she 


wandered for one whole afternoon by the seashore 
picking up stones, she adds: "Do not many people 
spend precious hours in gathering pebbles and only 
pebbles from other places than the seashore? When 
in our school days we idle away our time in all the 
various ways that only scholars can find, linger too 
long over some enchanting book, lay aside the text- 
book for the story because we do not feel like study, 
are we not simply gathering pebbles which look 
bright, but will fade when we look back in after 
years, and think how much more we might have 
accomplished ? " 

But the truth is that the reading of fiction never 
interfered with her other interests and pursuits, for 
she read with lightning rapidity, and could so sail 
off on the current of the story as to forget all her 
worries and return completely rested and ready for 
further work. And from no novel, not even one of 
small literary merit, did she ever fail to get some 
little suggestion which helped her to solve a practical 
problem, or some thought which could be woven into 
the philosophy of her life. 

To the training she received in the store, which 
began with waiting on customers and gradually 
enlarged itself to include the keeping of accounts 
and the purchase of goods for which purpose she 
often made trips to Boston, as well as to her natural 
quickness of perception, may be traced the busi- 
ness ability which led to her being intrusted in her 


maturer years with large sums of money for all kinds 
of educational and philanthropic enterprises. 

Life behind the counter, however, valuable as it 
doubtless was as a means of discipline and education, 
and important as its bearing was upon her later 
work, was not all roses. The store being of the 
kind known as a general store, she was obliged to 
sell tobacco, which she hated. It is said that at one 
time a group of men who had bought tobacco of her, 
filled and lighted their pipes in the store, seating 
themselves around the stove according to the usual 
custom. When the youthful storekeeper objected, 
they said, "Why do you sell us tobacco if you don't 
expect us to smoke it?" "We sell you molasses, 
too," she replied quickly, "but we don't expect you 
to stay here and cook it up." 

Two women customers, one of whom insisted upon 
having saleratus because she never could cook with 
soda, the other of whom demanded soda because 
saleratus did not make good biscuits, and who hav- 
ing been supplied from the same package were both 
satisfied and both confirmed in their original opinion, 
may have amused her at the time, but they probably 
inspired her with a desire to look more deeply into 
the nature of the things with which she was dealing, 
and may well have directed her thoughts toward 
scientific study. 

Records of her life in Westford, though meager, 
show that her love of adventure was leading her 



into ever widening circles of investigation. While 
in the academy, she spent her vacation with friends 
at Lynn who had a store from which they supplied 
groceries to the large houses at Nahant and else- 
where along the fashionable North Shore. While 
on these visits, it was her greatest delight to take 
her place upon the front seat of the delivery wagon, 
and, riding from house to house, learn "how the 
other half lived." The Ellen Swallow who as a girl 
widened her horizon by looking upon life from the 
front seat of a grocery wagon was the same person 
who, in after years, frequently left the more conven- 
tional routes of travel to explore the wilds of Canada 
in search of minerals, or to visit remote mining 
regions with her husband. She went to Europe, to 
be sure, in 1876, and again in 1884, but during 
the last twenty-six years of her life she preferred 
to go where daring feats of engineering were in 
progress, where mountains were being tunneled or 
rivers spanned, or where great, new cities were 
conquering unfavorable environments. 

But her excursions to out of the way places and 
into romance never, even in her youth, became pur- 
poseless wanderings, for the goal was always before 
her; and being determined to make her life count 
in some helpful way, she would return to the straight 
path she had marked out for herself and trudge 
bravely forward. Her earnestness and her deep 
faith, which in later years she trusted her deeds 


to reveal, found expression during her girlhood in 
the religious forms and phraseology of the day. 
" The extra dash of puritanism " which some one has 
said was added to her New England ancestry made 
itself apparent in the letters of this period. 

"As it is Friday," she wrote in 1861 to her cousin 
Annie, "and I have a few moments which are not 
imperatively claimed, I take the opportunity to write 
the long-delayed answer to your welcome missive. 
I was disappointed, as well as you, at not being able 
to make my visit, for I had looked forward to much 
enjoyment from it; but Providence decreed other- 
wise, for wise reasons, doubtless. ... I want to come 
and see you so much. I can see you all with the 
mind's eye, just as when I used to be with you, and 
even while I write your faces present themselves 
before me in various ways. I fancy myself again 
with you, out in the barn in the swing or jumping 
off the hay, and lastly husking corn, and anon up in 
your well-remembered room playing 'blindman's 
buff,' etc. . . . Ah! childhood's joyous days are fled, 
never more to return. God grant that our lives may 
be useful ones." 

The education which she received at Westford 
Academy differed little from that given in the many 
other academies with which New England was at that 
time dotted. There was a little mathematics, a few 
compositions, some French, and much Latin. In the 
Latin she must have been thoroughly grounded, for 


her knowledge of it, and her ability to teach it, 
formed a capital from which she later received an 
income that made it possible for her to continue her 
own studies. She proved to be an excellent tutor, 
much in demand. 

The successive principals of the academy, whose 
periods of service were measured by terms rather 
than years, and of whom there were four during her 
three years' attendance, were all Harvard graduates. 
The first was John D. Long, who afterwards became 
Governor of Massachusetts and later Secretary of 
the Navy. The second was Addison G. Smith, with 
whom she became well acquainted. After he left 
Westford they corresponded and exchanged books 
and views upon politics and literature up to the time 
of his death in 1874. This was the first of those 
comradeships with men which, added to the one great 
love of her life and to her friendships with women 
and her sympathy with children, made her human 
relationships peculiarly wide. 

In March, 1862, she left the academy and was .tf 
preparing to teach when the after effects of an 
attack of measles interfered with her plans. In May 
she wrote to her cousin : 

"I am very glad the measles are over with, for 
I have dreaded them very much since I had the 
whooping cough, though it has sadly interfered with 
my plans for the summer, as I had engaged to try my 
skill in teaching the 'young ideas how to shoot.' It 


was a severe disappointment, but I feel it was all 
for the best. My friends all shook their heads when 
I told them of my engagement; said I ought not to 
attempt it in my present health. Some even said 
they were glad I was really sick. ... I have not been 
obliged to lie abed a day before since I was 

The Store at Littleton 

seven years old, yet suffered less pain in the three 
weeks I was sick than in the same time for the last 
three years. I am gaining, though rather slowly, 
and am not very strong, as this writing will show." 

In the spring of 1863 the family moved to 
Littleton, a town situated about three miles from 
Westford, where Mr. Swallow had bought a larger 
store for the purpose of extending his business. 
From Littleton the following letters were written to 
her cousin Annie: 

LITTLETON, April 30, 1863. 

"Are you surprised to see the new heading to my 
letter, or have you heard of our removal hither? 


Yes, we are really inhabitants of Littleton, or shall 
be when we have been here long enough. So you 
will never see our place in Westford in all its glory. 
Yet we have a pleasant place here, in some respects 
pleasanter than the other. The store is very large 
and nice. The tenement is not as convenient as one 
could wish, yet it is not very bad. It consists of a 
two-story ell containing two large rooms below and 
chambers above, with two rooms back of the store. 
Over the store is Central Hall. We have a large 
garden but no fruit trees. There is quite a little 
village, more, I should think, than at Westford. The 
house fronts upon a little common. When we get 
righted I think we shall feel quite contented. ... I 
feel it my duty to stay at home under present cir- 
cumstances instead of teaching, as I had hoped." 


MARCH 22, 1864. 

"Am going to teach this summer if it please God 
to grant me health and strength. School will begin 
about the first of May, and I shall be needed here 
to help take account of stock about the middle of 
April, so I shall have no time for visiting. I wish 
you could come and see me. I am going to the 
easterly part of the town, about two miles from here. 
It is a large school of some forty scholars. It will 
require a great deal of care and patience, but it is 
my chosen work." 

JUNE 9, 1864. 

"I have thirty-seven pupils. Am about two miles 
from home; go home every Friday night. I have a 


very pleasant boarding place, about as far from the 
schoolhouse as your barn is from the house. I have 
a few large scholars who study the higher branches, 
which makes it more pleasant for me." 


"Thought perhaps you would like to know how 
I and my flock are prospering. Well, I guess about 
as well as could be expected. I have forty-one 
pupils and have to call out over thirty classes each 
day. You may judge there is some work in it. ... 
I usually have to work harder Saturdays than any 
other day in the week. I have put up two wreaths 
of flowers since I was at Nashua, and have two in 
the house now to do. . . . Mother thinks it will be 
very lonesome here in the winter, so I have almost 
decided to remain at home, but cannot tell what may 

After this the work at home and in the store, 
and the care of her mother, who was often ill, took 
up so much of her time that she did not again 
attempt to teach. She wrote on February 10, 1865 : 

"I am the same Nellie as of old, full of business, 
never seeing a leisure hour, never finding time to 
study or read half as much as I want. . . . Father 
has a little extra business on hand now; is carrying 
goods to two villages in Westford; so I have to help 
him more. He has no one regularly now. Will have 
in the spring, probably." 



It was during the intervals of time between teach- 
ing, storekeeping, and housekeeping that she pre- 
pared herself for college. There was an open book 
beside her, whatever she was doing. The winter of 
1865-66 she spent at Worcester attending lectures 
and studying, though just where and whether or not 
for the distinct purpose of preparing herself for 
Vassar, which had opened a few months before, it 
has been impossible to discover. Here she practiced 
the strictest economy, living principally on bread 
and milk. 

From Worcester she wrote as follows: 

DECEMBER 18, 1865. 

"It seemed real good to have one of your nice 
letters. I wanted to sit right down and answer it, 
but could not then, as I had a good deal to do before 
going home. I spent nearly a fortnight home at 
Thanksgiving. Have come back to spend the winter, 
if all is well. I enjoy the privileges I have here very 
much, and I have the opportunity of doing good, 
too, for Deacon Haywood has taken me to his Mis- 
sion School and given me a class of bright little boys 
to look after. And I go with him to the jail some- 
times, when there is need of missionary work." 

APRIL 14, 1866. 

" This is the anniversary of our belpved President's 
assassination. What gloomy days those were! I 
shall never, never forget that sad time. I think 
I could not suffer more than I did for two or three 


days, and if I could have foreseen all that has hap- 
pened since, I think I should have almost lost faith 
even in God himself; yet I believe that all things 
will be ordered aright by the good Father in Heaven. 

"I expect to remain in Worcester about two 
months longer, then if father is alone I shall prob- 
ably go home, though I cannot tell what changes 
may occur ere that time; though there is no 'possi- 
bility' of your dreams proving true at present, for 
the young or old gentleman has not yet made his 
appearance who can entice me away from my free 
and independent life. 

"I know of no lady with whom I would exchange 
places. The gentleman whom I think the most of 
and who comes the nearest my ideal in other things 
does not treat his wife as I wish to be treated; yet 
they are considered a very loving, happy couple, 
and are as much so as the average. I often tell him 
we could not live together more than a week if we 
were obliged to, though we agree very nicely now 
on most essential points. 

"Oh! Annie, the silent misery I am discovering 
every now and then among my friends whom I 
thought as happy as most, makes me shudder. Some 
things I learned yesterday about one of my dearest 
friends, made me almost vow I never would bind 
myself with the chains of matrimony. I don't believe 
girls usually get behind the scenes as much as I have, 
or they could not get up such an enthusiasm for 
married life. 

"Annie, is it possible that we have attained the 


eventful age of twenty-three? Do you feel old? I 
am sure I don't, yet I have seen something of life 
in these years and it seems long to look back upon, 
and how little I have done for my Saviour in com- 
parison with what I ought to have done. And now 
I fear I let many opportunities go by that I ought 
to improve. Pray for me, dear Annie, that my life 
may not be entirely in vain, that I may be of some 
use in this sinful world. I feel sometimes as though 
I would be glad to leave it, the ties that bind me to 
earth at times seem very slight." 

There were love affairs at this time; the usual 
hopes and anticipations of young womanhood. After 
she had begun her work as a chemist, but before 
she became engaged to Professor Richards, she wrote 
to a college friend: 

"I can now change the query, 'Will it pay to 
sacrifice love for fame?' into the declaration, 'It 
has paid so far;'" adding, "If I had not had an 
almost Napoleonic faith in my star I should have 
yielded." The star, if we may judge from after 
events, had no intention of guiding her away from 
matrimony, only of saving her from a marriage 
which, as a possibility, she could deliberately hold 
up before herself and compare with a career. Stars 
are not always leading us in the direction we think 
they are at the moment. 

Having abandoned the thought of marriage, she 
bent her whole effort toward getting further educa- 


tion. At that day, however, there were few doors 
open to ambitious women. Until Wellesley and 
Smith were founded, about ten years later, New Eng- 
land had no college to which women were admitted, 
*" while Vassar, the woman's college just across the 
New York border, was so recently founded that 
its fame was just beginning to spread abroad. As 
there were no colleges in her neighborhood, there 
were, of course, no college preparatory courses. She 
herself had an honorable part in the work that led 
to the founding of the Girls' Latin School of Boston, 
in 1878. 

Thus hampered and delayed in getting the edu- 
cation she desired, and with a feeling of power 
within her for which there was no outlet, she entered 
in 1866 upon the only unhappy period of her life. 
This unhappiness is not to be explained on the 
ground that she scorned the duties which lay near 
at hand, for she assumed her full share of work at 
home, in the store, in the church, and in the Sunday 
school. "Nellie was a very busy little woman," 
writes a friend, "and whether measuring off calico, 
weighing sugar, or acting as postmistress, she always 
had a kind and cheerful and helpful word. She was 
always studying up ways and means to better and 
improve things. She was not only influential in start- 
ing a reading and magazine club, but attended to all 
the details and pushed it through till the little post 
office looked a good deal like a periodical store." 


Whatever her hands found to do, she did. She cared 
for sick friends and neighbors ; and in order to earn 
money, she sewed, and preserved flowers, organizing 
classes in this art in the neighboring towns. 

Nor is there any evidence that her unhappiness 
was allowed to find outward expression. A man who, 
as a little boy, had known her during this period, 
wrote after her death: "She had an active part with 
the other young people of the town in the social life 
of the place, the fun and frolic that was going on, 
and she was a great favorite at our home. I vividly 
remember her presence with us as a nurse, a volun- 
teer nurse, when we had serious sickness in the house. 
There were, of course, no trained nurses in those 
days, and in a country place like that no professional 
nurses at all. The neighbors used to help each other 
out, when there was severe sickness, by taking turns 
as 'watchers' with the sick. And the thing that 
impressed a very small boy about 'Nellie Swallow's' 
nursing a thing that I have thought about hun- 
dreds of times since was her wonderful cheerful- 
ness and hopefulness when everybody else about the 
house was anxious and depressed. I can remember 
the sweet, encouraging tone of her voice and her 
winsome smile in those dark days." 

But the tasks which were given her at this time 
were not commensurate with her power, and the un- 
used energy within her seems fairly to have turned 
upon her and to have reduced her almost to a con- 


dition of invalidism. It is difficult for those who 
knew the Mrs. Richards of later years, who, rising 
at half-past five, went briskly through a long day's 
work, scorning to rest or take naps, to believe that 
she was the same person who in 1868 made the 
following entries in her pocket diary: 

January 6 Did not go to meeting, tired. Janu- 
ary 11 Tired, indifferent. January Tired. 
January 27 Tired. February 1 Busy, tired. 
February 2 Almost sick. February 9 Miserable, 
lay on sofa all day. February 13 Felt wretchedly 
all day. February 14 Lay down, sick. Febru- 
ary 19 Oh ! so tired. February 23 So tired. 
March W Tired. March 24 Tired. April 11 
Terribly tired. 

This was the story as she told it at the time. A 
few years later she wrote to a friend who found 
herself hedged in : 

"I lived for over two years in Purgatory really, 
and I didn't know what to do, and it seemed best 
for me to just stay and endure and it seemed as 
though I should just go wild. I used to fret and 
fume inside so every day, and think I couldn't 
live so much longer. I was thwarted and hedged in 
on every side; it seemed as though God didn't help 
me a bit and man was doing his best against me 
and my own heart even turned traitor, and, well 
altogether I had a sorry time of it." 

But better times were coming for her. "One day 


she came up to my uncle's house," writes a friend, 
"and said: 'You know, Mr. Tuttle, that I have been 
to school a good deal, read quite a little, and so 
secured quite a little knowledge. Now I am going 
to Vassar College to get it straightened out and 
assimilated. What do you think of my plan?'' 

The same little diary which contains the record of 
the suffering which she endured with outward calm 
contains the following entries: 

September 15, 1868 Farewell to Littleton; met 
Father at Waldo House and took the Albany express 
at 10. 

September 16 From 5.25 to 10 in Albany. 
Arrived at Vassar, pleasantly welcomed, very tired. 

September 17 First day at college; am de- 
lighted even beyond anticipations, the rest seems 
so refreshing. 

"--- \^z>' "The Lodge," Vassar College j^^f- 



FORTUNATELY, at this point, Ellen Swallow takes 
up the story of her own life. During her years at 
college she wrote long letters, at least once a week, 
to her mother, which form an uninterrupted record, 
and which have come to be known as her Vassar 
Diary. Twenty-five years after she graduated, she 
heard some one say that it was unfortunate that 
the comments of students upon college conditions, 
which might be of value in determining college poli- 



cies, were usually embodied in private family letters, 
and thus lost to the world. With her customary 
directness of action she sought out her own old 
letters and marked certain portions to be type- 
written, omitting the references to purely personal 
and family matters, and also the long abstracts of 
books and sermons which she had made for her 
father and mother. Later she culled from the type- 
written extracts all the passages which had special 
bearing upon the beginnings of Vassar, and published 
them in the Vassar Miscellany of January and 
February, 1896. 

When she entered Vassar, in September, 1868, 
she was classified as a special student. Somewhat 
over a year later she was admitted to the senior 
class, and was graduated in 1870. 

A college mate writes: "Her two years at Vassar 
belonged to the period when faculty and students 
alike (consciously or unconsciously) were forming 
the standards of the new college. Her part in the 
work was that of a strong personality, understand- 
ing well her own needs, and by the same light in- 
terpreting the needs of her fellow-students. Some 
years older than the average student, she was mature 
in character, with mental powers well-disciplined 
and controlled. To do work well for its own sake, 
not for its reflex on herself, she had already learned." 

"While her primary purpose was study, she was 
alive to all the best influences of college life, and 


in it she was an active though often a silent force. 
To make the most of her own powers for the sake 
of using them in advancing knowledge and in broad 
and enlightened activity seemed to be her aim, while 
no opportunity for fellow service was to be let slip 
by the way. Independent in thought and action, 
quick to see far-reaching consequences, never self- 
assertive, she is to be counted among that strong 
company of the earlier students who while receiving 
much gave much to Vassar College." 

The strongest personal influences which came to 
her in college were from Maria Mitchell, the astron- 
omer, and from Professor C. A. Farrar, who was 
at the head of the Department of Natural Sciences 
and Mathematics. Miss Mitchell wanted to make 
an astronomer of her, and she would doubtless have 
succeeded if her science had not been so far removed 
from the earth and its needs. In the woefully brief 
autobiographical notes which Mrs. Richards left 
she said it was probably an unrecognized leaning 
towards social service which led her, an enthusiastic 
student of Maria MitchelPs, to abandon astronomy 
and study chemistry. Professor Farrar's very 
strong influence over her came partly from her 
respect for his ability as a scientist and a teacher, 
and partly from the fact that he took the very 
advanced position for that time that science should 
help in the solution of practical problems. 

Her natural bent was evidently towards scien- 


tific studies, for either in classroom or by examina- 
tion she took all the courses in science then offered 
with the exception of one in mathematical astron- 
omy, and wherever there was an opportunity she 
did additional volunteer work. One classmate writes 
that she was a member of a little group of three 
who in an elective course in chemistry analyzed 
everything that came in their way "from shoe- 
blacking to baking powder." 

The selections from her letters which are given 
here were made with a view to showing not only the 
external conditions of her life at this period, but 
also the pure joy with which she responded to the 
intellectual stimulus of her college life, which from 
the standpoint of biographical interest is quite as 
important. In many cases the references to her 
own progress and attainments seem egotistical, but 
it must be remembered that during those early days 
of pioneering she was almost like two persons, one 
of whom was making an interesting experiment and 
taking a step which was against all precedent and 
against the advice of all of her associates, while the 
other was a sympathetic onlooker, joyously record- 
ing successes. It should be remembered, also, that 
the letters were intended only for the eyes of a 
loving father and mother, who knew what sacrifices 
she had made, and who were, as a matter of course, 
to be told of any triumphs which she achieved. 




September 10. The President admitted me to 
pursue the regular, or a special course. I was 
cordially welcomed by all whom I had met before 
(during the preliminary examinations in previous 
June) 1 and everything promised fair. 

I had for dinner, soup, which was a fashionable 
one, water poured over meat, with macaroni a little 
larger than knitting needles, then roast beef, suc- 
cotash, squash and potatoes, with rhubarb pie and 
canteloupes for dessert. All was nice as possible. 

Our carpet is a little figure, red and green, bright 
and good. The walls are pure white, at least 
13 feet high, the doors and casings, dark, the 
shutters, chairs and chamber set are chestnut, a 
black walnut whatnot, an oval study table, with 
a little waste paper basket underneath. 

September 17. This morning I went over to the 
Observatory and looked through the telescope, an 
entrancing instrument. Had a very delightful call 
on Miss Mitchell and her father, who is a charming 
old gentleman. At eleven o'clock, we who had not 
been classified, went into the chapel to listen to 
Professor Hart for an hour. He accompanied 
Professor Agassiz to Brazil, and he told us stories 
of his adventures. 

1 The explanations in parentheses which are found all through 
the diary were made by Mrs. Richards in 1895. 


I do not feel the least anxiety now in regard to my 
studies. I do not expect to work much for a month. 

The Art Gallery has about 600 pieces, some 
of them little gems and some are curiosities. The 
Library contains much of interest for me; his- 
tory and travels and choice works which I have 
long wished to read. The table is well furnished 
with magazines. It will be a favorite resort to me. 

September 19. I am so fortunate in my little 
family. All are studious and agreeable. 

Some twenty or more of the girls wear their 
hair flowing to their waists without any attempt 
at doing it up. It is not usually curly, but long 
and straight. It seems as if they had not yet 
dressed. ... I hope you are feeling better by this 
time. I don't worry, because I can do no good by 
it. I left everything behind me at Worcester [about 
the time she went to Vassar her parents moved to 
Worcester] and live an entirely new life. Of course 
if you are sick or need me, you must send for me, 
and I will immediately come to you. Then will be 
soon enough to worry. 

September %Jf. I have got so far settled that I 
will give you a sketch of my daily occupations. 
The bell strikes at six. At quarter of seven we have 
breakfast. Each one can leave the dining room as 
soon as she has finished, and thus I get time to make 
my bed, which is all we have to do in our rooms. 


In chapel we sing, and Miss Lyman offers prayer. 
We have ten minutes then for arranging our rooms, 
or, if it is done, for study, then we have twenty min- 
utes alone for devotion and meditation in perfect 
quiet. Study hours do not begin until nine. At 
quarter of ten I go down to philosophy [physics]. 
I like Professor Farrar very much. There is an 
intellectual power about him. All recitations are 
forty minutes. At twelve we have Trigonometry, 
at one comes dinner, which occupies three-quarters 
of an hour, then I go out of doors for an hour, 
write an hour, and if my lessons are nearly ready 
for the next day, go into the Library directly after 
French, and perhaps read or study a little before 
dressing for tea, which is at six. Then chapel and 
another twenty minutes as silent time, from 7.30 
to 9.45 for writing, reading, or study. I find I 
have much time to myself, and it seems so pleasant 
to be able to read and write with much comfort and 
without danger of interruption, which used to dis- 
turb me so much. I have not been homesick for a 
moment. I have nothing to complain of. The 
Faculty have not reached S( wallow) yet, so I do not 
know what studies I shall take in addition. 

It would seem that there was an immense amount 
of travel in this great building, but on counting up, 
I find that my regular work requires my going up 
and down about two hundred and fifty steps daily, 
and I have to walk nearly a mile on the corridors. 


Miss Lyman said yesterday, "You know people 
will persist in calling this a school, when it is not 
a school at all, but a college really." She also said, 
"The Faculty do not consider it a mere experiment 
any longer that girls can be educated as well as 

I am very glad that I did not come earlier for 
they have made great improvements, and I think 
now is just the time to commence with the new 

October 4- We of this parlor get on harmoni- 
ously. I am quite well and perfectly contented. 
We have festooned clematis all about the room, 
and have a new tablecloth, black and green. We 
had all the long morning to ourselves until half 
past three, which is the regular hour for service. 
We listened to a very dull sermon from a Pough- 
keepsie clergyman. I do not wonder some of the 
girls dread Sunday, which hardly seems a Sabbath 
to me, save in the rest from study. I shall go down 
to the city whenever it is pleasant. We have just 
been to our us,ual corridor prayer meeting, a half 
hour together every Sabbath evening. 

The only trouble here is they won't let us study 
enough. They are so afraid we shall break down 
and you know the reputation of the College is at 
stake, for the question is, can girls get a college 
degree without injuring their health? 

I am not working hard at all in my classes. My 


regular studies do not take quite all my time, so 
that I have time to read and study other things. 
It is wonderful how all my wishes are granted 
without my asking or working for it. 

October 15. We have a sheet of paper with our 
six names written at intervals of a few lines, headed 
"Slang," pasted on our parlor door and every time 
one of us uses a slang phrase or a bad word, as 
"goodness" we have to write it down and pay a 
penny besides. When we get pennies enough, we 
will have a treat. The girls are .afraid they will 
not get many pennies from me. I have not been 
caught yet. 

October 18. Miss Lyman had some beautiful 
thoughts beautifully expressed this morning, on 
Economy, taking God's greatest example and try- 
ing to impress it upon us that we were each one 
his stewards. Dr. - - gave us a sermon of over an 
hour's length this afternoon, on "Sin exceeding 
sinful." It was good enough, but he might have 
said it all in half an hour and it would have done 
the girls more good. . . . We have so many religious 
exercises on Sunday, prayers and silent time. Our 
corridor prayer meetings make more than most 
people get and some girls are holding a daily prayer 
meeting. I think it is too much. 

October 19. I have taken my first lesson in riding 
horseback. I rode a little black pony, Josephine. 
[The only extras on her college bill for the first 
year were for riding lessons.] 


October 25. Our Bible classes were organized 
this morning and I was assigned just where I had 
hoped, to Prof. Farrar. He is such a large-souled, 
noble man and deep thinker. We are to study 
church history which will just suit me. 

November 6. I have been very busy all the week. 
Have been perfect in all my lessons. We are just 
through our examinations in philosophy. I have 
not failed in any of them. I am very well. We 
had chicken pie for dinner and pumpkin pie and 
cheese yesterday for dessert, but I do want some 
mince pies and pork ! 

November IS. I was so vexed yesterday morning 
that I did not think of meteors and that Miss 
Mitchell did not tell us. The girls who watched 
on the Observatory counted 3500. 

I must tell you that we had rules for table eti- 
quette read in our corridor meeting to-day. Never 
put a knife in the mouth. Never eat anything with 
a knife that you can eat with a fork. Eat soup 
noiselessly from the side of the spoon. 

November 25. I cannot risk my health without 
having a rest (at Christmas). The twenty-six 
weeks that follow in one unbroken line will be hard 
enough with all the strength that I can lay up. 
I came here wholly unfit for study and my first 
care was to look after my body, as my health is 
the first importance. Having got that in pretty 
good condition, I gave my brain the lead . . . 


working every moment of the time, even carrying 
the train of thought to the dinner table, which is 
not allowable, always aspiring to the first place. 
I have a double incentive now, for I have fully 
decided to remain here one and very likely two 
years longer, and upon my standing now will in a 
measure depend the employment I shall have. I 
think there will be no difficulty in arranging matters 
satisfactorily and I must keep the body in good 
condition to do the bidding of the spirit. We live 
so isolated and so unanxious a life here that a 
change is indispensable, to me at least, and if I 
choose to dress more simply and use the dollars in 
other ways, I feel justified in so doing. 

My ivy is the pride of the third corridor north. 
It is about three feet high and very .thrifty. 

November 26. Miss Lyman sent for me the 
other morning to say that I was accepted for a 
scholarship and that she had no doubt I would 
make good use of it. 

December 3. This has been quite a pleasant day 
for me. I have been promoted in German, so shall 
have to study a little harder, but it will be very 

Don't do anything for my coming home, only 
have some mince pies. I shall be hungry as a bear. 
I have gained thirteen pounds since I came. 

January 20, 1869. I had a German letter to write 
for Miss Kapp yesterday instead of a lesson. I put 


it in rhyme, twenty-four lines in German, ten syl- 
lables in a line. I have to read an essay before our 
Literary Chapter to-morrow night. It is not written, 
only stray sentences, and one for the Natural His- 
tory Society on Saturday, not even touched. We 
are to commence a drill review in Chemistry to-day 
which takes much time and I have to give all my 
strength and courage to comfort Miss - , who 
gets so tired and discouraged. 

January 23. I am enjoying our philosophy now 
very much. We have been making the universe to- 
day by a large globe of oil in alcohol and water, 
throwing off planets, etc. 

February 5. As the half year closes on Tuesday 
next and many studies are finished, there has been 
a deal of reviewing and examinations which makes 
hard work. My being promoted in German made 
my work double and I wanted to keep up my 
reputation in mathematics. I think of what you 
say in regard to doing extra in order to keep the 
standard people set for you, because you have 
excelled in some things, but while I am so well and 
can study nine hours a day without a headache, 
I am all right. 

February 16. I fear you will get more than you 
are thankful for this time. If my notes are not 
quite plain enough to be interesting, say so. If 
you are really pleased, I like to do it for you, for 
it takes much reading to cull the grains of wheat 


from the chaff and writing them down aids in fixing 
them in memory. (This refers to the abundant 
extracts and abstracts which fill the letters.) . . . 
A letter of eighteen pages is something I never 
wrote before. 

February 19. Last night Miss Mitchell gave 
her maiden lecture before Chapter Delta. I was 
invited and I enjoyed it so much. She was rather 
timid and would not allow any of the Faculty 
admitted, but it was charming to hear her talk of 
the people she had met when in Europe and she 
need not have feared. Her manner was very simple 
and correct without any pretension. She stipulated 
that she should sit at a table and she gave us some- 
times her notes taken at different times, and some- 
times she spoke her thoughts. We all came away 
more proud of her than before, if that was possi- 
ble. She spoke of Caroline Herschel who aided her 
brother so much in his discoveries and Mrs. Somer- 
ville, whom she had the pleasure of visiting when 
about eighty years old, and who "came tripping 
into the room" to meet her. Also she told us of 
Harriet Hosmer. She urged us to do our work 
well and faithfully. She said that living a little 
apart as she did, she could see our advantages better 
than we could. 

February 28. Last night's lecture did not come 
up to my expectations. Prof. - - is a learned man 
doubtless, but I did not think he understood what 


to say to us. I expected something new and worth 
knowing, not to be told that the rocks lay in beds 
and that the continent was not in its present shape 
in -the beginning, and that when pebbles rubbed 
against each other they wore off into sand. 

March 18. This morning Miss Lyman gave us 
a regular "dressing down." She said that we should 
look as though we were interested, if we were not, 
when we went to lectures, and that we should give 
close attention to whomever was speaking. She re- 
marked that Prof. - - was a distinguished man 
and if he should go to Europe, all the learned men 
would flock to hear him; that he had made many 
discoveries and was speaking on his own ground 
and was capable of teaching wiser people than any 
of us are. Very true, but he would not speak to 
such a company of learned men as he spoke to us. 
(This refers to the talking down to our supposed 
level which most of the early lecturers were guilty 
of.) Miss Lyman was quite shocked that two or 
three ladies actually carried work into the chapel. 
I should like to harve heard Miss Lyman talk to 
three hundred young men in that strain. 

April 4- It is really Spring. The ladies' delights 
are in bloom and the tulips are up three inches high. 
The birds are singing in the morning. 

April 9. I would like to come in and give you 
my first flowers for I have had the great privilege 
of finding the white hepaticas, the first spring 



flowers found this year. Miss Folsom and I found 
them in our walk about two miles away from the 
college. We sent a delicate bouquet to poor old 
Mr. Mitchell (Maria Mitchell's father) who will 
never see the spring flowers again. We carried a 
cluster to Dr. Avery who was much pleased and to 

The Willows 

Miss Lyman who is sick. . . . The frogs are peep- 
ing, the yellow crocuses are in bloom and the 
hillsides are becoming quite green. 

Easter Sunday. I send you a specimen of the 
walking fern which we found on Cedar Ridge. [A 
college mate writes : " There was a little Natural 
History Club of which she was an active member, 
and long walks in the neighborhood brought home 
specimens for its meetings. Often she was one of 
a group of five or six who, regardless of swamps 


or stone walls or ditches, made their way straight 
to some distant hilltop, marked from the college 
windows as a good place for a mountain view. 
Oftener still her vigorous, elastic step set the pace 
for one or two in a walk through fields and woods 
and her eyes and ears made note of what was best 
worth observing."] 

Dr. Avery has given me permission to rise in the 
morning when I wish if I will not disturb the others, 
so I shall gain some hours these long mornings. [The 
college mate who was quoted above says: "There 
were no wasted minutes in her calendar. Out-of- 
doors there was whole-hearted recreation: in-doors, 
time well-adjusted to accomplish her ends. The 
tireless industry that later she made so significant 
showed itself in many ways. There was an hour 
for going to the library to look through the Reviews 
and Magazines and Weeklies, culling out whatever 
had a bearing on her own studies or recorded prog- 
ress in other fields. There was knitting to pick up 
between observations at the telescope or to keep 
time to the learning of German verbs. The knit- 
ting needles were active sometimes even on the 
long flights of stairs that led to her fifth floor 
room of the senior year."] 

One morning this week Miss Lyman sent for me. 
I immediately began counting up my sins, as we 
all do when that message comes to us. I concluded 
I had not done anything but what I could brave 


her wrath for, so I marched into the dreaded little 
office with good courage. She was exceedingly 
pleasant and wished to know if I could find time 
to teach two young ladies arithmetic. I could, of 
course, and she said I might try and that Prof. 
Farrar would give me the necessary directions. 
Each will pay about $5.00 a month. [From this 
time on, until her education was finished, she sup- 
ported herself, chiefly by tutoring. She had come to 
college with $300, partly saved and partly borrowed, 
and she had expected to remain one year only. Her 
entire expenses during her first year at Vassar were 
$515, of which $400 was for tuition and board. 
She spent in the summer of 1869 $66.50, which 
brought her expenses from September, 1868, to 
September, 1869, up to $581.50.] 

April 20. A party of Juniors and others 
planned an excursion to the Cannon Factory at 
West Point, to go down on the boat and back 
at night. Prof. Farrar and Miss Braislin were to go 
as leaders. Miss Lyman "could not think of it" 
and wondered they had not asked her before the 
plan was made. They told her they had no doubt 
she would let them go. Then they asked her to see 
the President about it. She said she would do so, 
but he would first ask her what she thought and she 
would tell him she could not consent. He might do 
what he pleased. "It might get into the papers" 
and that would never do. It must not happen on 


account of the precedent it would set. "It was 
not because it was West Point" oh no! "It was 
the principle of the thing." It seemed a real insult 
to Prof. Farrar. He was justly very indignant. 
It is a pretty idea. If we are to be educated so that 
we can speak in public or to be self-sufficient any- 
where, we ought to be capable of taking a little trip 
without fearing a notice in the papers. Just at 
present the whole faculty is in disgrace with us. 

[Forty-one years afterwards, Mrs. Richards, 
speaking at an alumnae luncheon, referred to this 
affair: "Shall we ever forget the West Point expe- 
dition which did not take place? Now we know 
that rapid growth is cancerous or fungoid and that 
it was not so much fear of us individually as of 
what our development meant in the future that led 
to the tantalizing caution so galling to us."] 

Tell father he must not think it hard to work. 
Work is a sovereign remedy for all ills and a man 
who loves to work will never be unhappy. 

April 26. Miss Folsom and I went to the city 
yesterday for a little shopping. My hat is a soup 
dish of white straw, with five leaves of the straw 
edged with black velvet on the top. It cost $2.25. 
In town we went up College Hill. The view of the 
city was very fine from the roof of the building 
which is used for a summer hotel. Miss Folsom 
and I are the acknowledged champions of the 
pedestrian excursions. I was not going down the 


river to West Point, so only the principle touched 
me. As long as I am always prompt to my classes, 
and have my lessons well, and have no intimate 
friend, and mind my own business, my disobedience 
of one or two rules will be winked at. I do not 
trouble myself to stay within the red fence when I see 
something I want the other side. 

April 29. Founder's Day exercises opened with 
music on the organ. Dr. Raymond offered prayer, 
then a poem was read by the composer, one of the 
students, then Miss Whitney gave the address. 
She is a tall, commanding looking girl, not hand- 
some, but intellectual. She was dressed in black 
silk with a lavender bow. She had a long watch 
chain about her neck. Her hair was arranged 
plainly and she wore white kid gloves. She was 
a good representative of Vassar. The gestures 
were admirable and the voice good. There is little 
that could possibly have been bettered in words or 

Friday afternoon we went out surveying, took 
about half our measurements. I intend to draw 
a map of the farm. It will make me hurried, but 
then I am used to that. 

May 10. I laughed at your reference to our 
training. Why, little mother, you used to keep 
posted on the world's progress. If women are to 
vote, they ought to be able to state their reasons 
for thinking in a certain manner on the subject. 


I hope they will be able to use language better 
than most of the men and not make such a fuss 
about speaking in public. I do not care to have 
women vote, but they will do it, in my opinion, 
while you are living and they ought to be prepared 
for it, but that is not the aim of the work here. 
We only do our own talking. We read our own 
essays and of course we ought to be able to give 
our sisters our ideas. Miss Whitney was speaking 
to us, not to a public audience. The place was 
proper and fitting for her. No one but a student 
was fitted to give a eulogy on our benefactor. 

And as to surveying it is light work compared 
with washing. The chain is light and clean and 
the pins also. The instrument for taking obser- 
vations can be easily carried and it is very fine 
work to take bearings. We cross brooks and wood- 
land for pleasure and pray why not for business? 
It requires a good deal of skill to go over a fence 
or a wall built of such small shaly stones as the 
walls here, but it can be done and it is an accom- 
plishment. I do not mean to do it with long 
dresses and hoop skirts, of course not. I find 
nothing in it not consistent with grace or virtue. 
I prefer surveying for a week to spending a week 
in fashionable society even of the best class and 
there would be far less danger. Tell Merrick that 
when I come home I will be ready to go out with 
him and test my capability. Anything that will 


take the American woman out of doors will be a 
blessing to her. 

Miss Lyman gave the girls a lecture on working 
in the garden. She said that some of the finest 
ladies she knew took the charge of both the vege- 
table garden and the flowers and raked and did the 
weeding. At first she was shocked to see the ladies 
in Canada working out of doors but she found that 
they were better and healthier and she got over 
her prejudices. I think you will have to make up 
your mind to do the same. 

May 16. We have very much more than usual 
to do this week. In calculus Prof. Farrar is anxious 
to accomplish an immense amount of work in this 
first class in college. We have a lesson of ten pages 
for to-morrow. The class of '70 will be the first 
under the new system and will be the best trained 
of any, so we have some ambition. I am really 
astonished at the amount of work we do. I think 
few men in college do as much as we do here. 

It is not orthodox to be found outside the grounds 
except in parties of three, so that if one is hurt, 
one can stay by to see that she does not elope and 
one can run to get help. Accidents so often happen 
to girls walking quietly in the road, that this is of 
great consequence! ! 

People have a curiosity to know what mon- 
strosity is to arise from my ashes, do they? I feel 
much like saying, confound their base ideas of true 


education. But I will only say, tell all such inter- 
ested individuals that my aim is now, as it has been 
for the past ten years, to make myself a true woman, 
one worthy of the name, and one who will unshrink- 
ingly follow the path which God marks out, one 
whose aim is to do all of the good she can in the 
world and not to be one of the delicate little dolls 
or the silly fools who make up the bulk of American 
women, slaves to society and fashion. I do not 
intend to ever say anything in reply to the half 
sarcastic inquiries and covert sneers I have heard 
so much from those who think that a person must 
have a profession if she has been to college. Col- 
lege is a place to learn. When you find what stuff 
you are made of, then is the time to choose and 
study a profession, if ever. I only say this to quiet 
your sensitive nerves and to give you a weapon with 
which to defend your pride. I do not wish any 
defense for myself. 

May 21. Nothing of general interest has occurred. 
One of the society chapters had an entertainment. 
At the German table Miss Kapp proposed a paper, 
to be called, Die Schwalbe, the German for Swallow, 
with editors and a staff of correspondents. I am 
to collect items and anecdotes and translate them 
into German. 

Do not worry about me. Miss Lyman has no 
cause to complain of me. I never fail in my college 
duty, so I do not have to get excused. The faculty 


have granted my every wish and there is no chance 
for trouble. I always study causes and effects 
wherever I am, so I must criticise sometimes. 

May 30. (Abstract of sermon by Rev. Mr. Cox, 
of Brooklyn.) Thanks for your kind sympathy 
in my suffering (an ulcerated tooth, reported the 
week before). It was indeed severe, "but this body 
must be subject to the mind and the philosopher 
must learn to control his nerves and not let pain 
hinder the process of his thought," as Mr. Cox so 
beautifully said. "Serenity is not natural. It is 
a virtue. Calmness is a Christian grace." 

On Wednesday, by a special favor from various 
officers of the College from Miss Lyman down, I 
was offered, without my seeking it, a place with 
a party going across the river on a botanical expe- 
dition. I enjoyed the trip very much. It was the 
first time I had been in a conveyance of any kind 
since Christmas. 


AT COLLEGE continued 

September 21. It is so good to get back to 

Sabbath morning. A message came that Miss 
Lyman wished to see me in her parlor at eleven. 
She had fifteen or twenty of the active Christian 
workers to meet her and consult on religious mat- 
ters in College and make suggestions. We were 
there nearly two hours. 

Wednesday. I spoke with the President yester- 
day concerning my studies for the next semester. 
Shall re-read Wayland's Moral Science and he will 
examine me. Then I shall take political economy 
and physiology thus completing the whole curricu- 
lum, excepting Greek, and a year each of French 
and Latin. 

Wednesday. What think you? The senior class 
must read their compositions on the platform in 
public! We are horror stricken. Miss Morse sent 
for me and wished to have me take an oversight of 
a little friend of hers who has trouble with her Latin, 
so that brings in a little pin money. 



October 10. I have helped three different girls 
out of mathematical difficulties during the week and 
had to submit to being thanked and kissed. I find 
my eyrie on the fifth floor is not so secluded a place 
as I had fancied. [Her room for this year was 
chosen primarily for its secure quiet, but also for 
its glorious view, with the sunsets over the long, 
dark line of the Highlands of the Hudson and the 
peaks of the Shawangunk. There were not more 
than half a dozen others who for various reasons 
had chosen these upper rooms, and as they were 
a fairly law-abiding set, there was no surveillance 
by corridor teachers and little interruption from 
idle visitors.] 

October 17. (Contains an account of the trip 
to Rondout by the geological class.) This is the 
first day I ever wore my gymnastic suit all day long. 
I hope it will help bring the day when such suits 
will be worn. It is so suitable. I wonder if the 
Poughkeepsie Journal will chronicle the wonderful 
sight. We have often ridden through town but never 
walked their streets before. 

October 20. Our first hour in the laboratory. 
Prof. Farrar encourages us to be very thorough 
there, as the profession of an analytical chemist is 
very profitable and means very nice and delicate 
work fitted for ladies' hands. I also made my first 
observation of the sun, which I shall keep up every 
day at noon. There were only three little spots 


One of the seniors, who is in astronomy comes 
to me sometimes for a little light and she thinks 
I am "awful good." 

My plants are doing very nicely. The rose is 
growing fast also the ivy, and several geraniums. 

The Synods of New York and New Jersey are in 
session in the city and are coming out to see us this 
afternoon. We are to assemble in chapel and show 
ourselves, literally make our best bow, as the Presi- 
dent introduces the Moderator. This body visited 
the ground six years ago and encouraged Mr. Vassar 
in his undertaking, and the President felt it a duty 
to ask them out now. 

Later. The Reverends have just arrived. A 
large open wagon, two omnibuses and many hacks 
and carriages. I should think the whole two hun- 
dred were here. College is put in apple pie order 
for them to see. 

October 24. The visit of the Synod passed off 
well. One hundred and fifty ministers were packed 
in a dense black mass on the platform to look at 
us. Dr. William Adams of New York spoke very 
well. Said he felt it to be one of the greatest 
privileges of his life, etc. 

I have nothing further to record of the past 
week, only it has been full of blessing and mercy. 
I have been well, learned much and able to help 

October 26. I spent nearly an hour in the obs.erv- 


atory last night looking through the telescope. It 
was a new experience and a delightful one. I saw 
considerable, though Miss Mitchell said I must not 
expect to do much the first night. I thought Jupiter 
and his moons were magnificent through the little 
telescope, but Miss Mitchell let me look through 
the large one, the third in size in the country, after- 
wards, and it was beyond description. The round 

The Observatory 

planet with its beautiful colored light, and so close 
to it the bright moons. To-day the sun is very tur- 
bulent. The spots that have been quiet for four 
days have disappeared and changed greatly. Last 
night the aurora was wonderfully beautiful. 

We are to have three lectures on Egypt by Dr. 
Thompson. I expect they will be treats. 

October 30. I wonder if it is because I am doing 
more good that I enjoy so much more than last 
year. I thought then that nothing could be better 


than to see and hear so much of value, but last 
night, after our natural history meeting, where 
Prof. Orton told us seven what we might do for 
science, thinking of that and of my astronomy and 
chemistry and of the world whose door is now wide 
open to me, I felt as though I could never murmur 
at anything again, but could be useful and contented 
in learning, any where that I might be. I feel as 
though I was fast on my way to the third heaven, 
if not already there. I do not wonder at the enthu- 
siasm of an Agassiz or a Livingstone. 

November 7. My life is becoming very busy, 
as it always does. The old woman's prophecy is 
surely being fulfilled. (Referring to the meeting 
in Lowell of a person who stopped me on the street 
and said "And you have a great deal of work to 

The first of importance to tell you is that on 
Thursday I found the nebula that I found the week 
before. Miss Mitchell was very much pleased and 
said that I showed a facility with instruments and 
with my eyes that promised well. I do not know 
yet if it is a real discovery or if some one had seen 
it before. Miss Mitchell does not know it. I shall 
be much hurried this week and next on account of 
the meteors. ... I must sleep on Saturday and 
Sunday as much as possible as Miss Mitchell needs 
six or seven of us with her Saturday and Sunday 
nights, and there are few girls who are able to 
do it. 


November 14- On Friday night I determined to 
wake up at three in the morning. I did it within 
three minutes. It was quite clear and I went into 
the Lithological cabinet on this floor, perched up 
in the window and watched for meteors. I saw eight 
in an hour, two very fine ones. Last night was very 
dubious, but two of the advanced class, the only 
post-graduate, and myself went to the observatory 
at ten o'clock. It was quite an honor that Miss 
Mitchell chose me of all her class of fourteen to be 
her aid. She ordered Miss B. and myself to lie on 
the lounges in her sitting room. We were not to 
raise our heads, or speak if Miss Mitchell came in 
to look at instruments, unless she called us. It 
cleared up at quarter of eleven, the stars came out 
quite bright. One very brilliant meteor flashed 
through the haze in the north. I was the only one 
at the observatory who saw that, for I had drawn 
the lounge to the east window where I could see 
clearly. In ten minutes it was cloudy again. Miss 
Mitchell said it was one of the darkest nights that 
she ever knew. At five we went sound asleep and 
slept until half past six. So ended our famous 
meteor night. 

The first two of the senior essays were read last 
night. The Faculty freely and without demur or 
condition admitted me to the class of '70 last night 
and highly complimented me on my meekness and 
patience in quietly waiting these six weeks. 


As to a box, I should enjoy it during the Christ- 
mas vacation, if it won't cost too much and take too 
much of your time to prepare it. I suppose I do 
not need it, for I have all that is necessary here, 
and am getting quite stout. My body does not 
need pampering. I should like it only because it 
came from home. 

November 21. We are to have company in two 
classes to-morrow and are to have extra lessons. 
Much responsibility is thrown on us for the reputa- 
tion of the College. Nobody knows how we work 
here. It is really marvelous. No other institution 
can show whole classes of such hard workers. 

November 28. I went down to the meat cellar 
yesterday and weighed myself, 123 Ibs. 

There is an article in the North American on the 
Civil Service Reform which father ought to read 
in order to keep posted in political affairs. 

December 3. One cannot understand Vassar 
until they have been here. I speak advisedly when 
I say there is no such work done in any institution 
in the country. All professors say so who have 
been in other places. All students say so. One 
teacher who has been principal of a young ladies" 
seminary says the same. All bear testimony they 
never knew what could be done. Our very play is 
hard work. 

December 5. Miss Mitchell says that I may have 
two little telescopes here during the vacation and 


make all the discoveries I please. I am planning 
much for the two weeks. Prof. Farrar says that 
butyric acid which is formed in strong butter is 
one of the worst poisons. It works so slowly that 
one does not know what is the matter, but it un- 
dermines the health surely. Avoid strong butter 
wherever you are. 

December 19. The President preached a Christ- 
mas sermon to-day. Everybody talks so much 
about Christmas. I realize fully that I am not in 
New England, and though I try to be very liberal, 
yet dear old Massachusetts is dearer than ever. 

The senior who read her essay last night suffered 
everything almost. She cried over it a great deal, 
and when she went up on the platform she was white 
as marble. I expected to see her sink to the floor, 
although she had a fine essay. Prof. Farrar does 
not think it right to subject the girls to such a 
strain and he will not go in to hear them. It is 
almost martyrdom to some of them, for they will 
be judged by it, however unjustly. Miss Mitchell 
will not hear any of her girls read, strong woman 
that she is. 

Miss Mitchell told me yesterday that Prof. 
Henry of the Smithsonian wished some one to under- 
take the meteorological record here; that I could 
do it if I would. Instruments would be furnished 
me and I can keep them after I leave here and con- 
tinue the work if I please. I shall undertake this. 
Mr. Mitchell used to do it as long as he was able. 


College has been in a ferment to-day. Some weeks 
ago the Students' Association requested the Lecture 
Committee to invite Wendell Phillips to deliver his 
lecture on the Lost Arts. Dr. Raymond told us 
this morning that we were refused; that the Com- 
mittee had one member who would not hear him or 
let any member of his family hear him, and one who 
would hear him rather than anybody else. The 
other three members stood between in their opin- 
ions. They thought that a man so identified with 
extreme views ought not to come here as we were 
not to be exposed to radical doctrines of any sort. 
"The sacred trust of fathers and mothers" etc. 
To-night we held a meeting of the Philalethean 
Society and requested the secretary to ask the 
Faculty to have Wendell Phillips lecture before 
them and that they might sell tickets, so that no 
one should come unless sensitive papas and mammas 
were willing. We are about tired of poky lectures. 
This year has been better than last but we want 
the best. 

December 29. So far this vacation has more 
than realized my highest anticipations of profit and 
enjoyment. Friday evening some ten or twelve of 
us had a candy pull in Prof. Farrar's kitchen, a 
fine time which he enjoyed as well as we. Saturday 
evening we all gathered in the college parlors and 
the President read to us Dickens' Christmas Carol. 
It was a great treat and every one enjoyed it. We 
then had ice cream and cake and a social time. 



I never fully realized how much a New England 
birth was worth. I am so happy that that was my 
lot. It is a great deal in these days. I feel it so 
keenly now when I am away from it among a strange 
people almost. Dear old New England is the home 
of all that is good and noble with all her sternness 
and uncompromising opinions. 


January 5. The last day of quiet. I am very 
sorry. I have enjoyed this so much. I have accom- 
plished a great deal in one way and another. 

I shall save in money all that I can, for I want 


a telescope more than anything else. I am per- 
fectly content with whatever clothes I have. I 
have enough in my head to balance what is wanting 
on my back. I am just as happy as if I had a 
dozen dresses, and have come to the conclusion 
that a contented spirit is a great boon. 

With regard to the essays, we would not mind 
an ordinary essay, but this is felt to be a test of 
our class standing and an unfair one at that. It 
is an unheard of thing, so far as I know, in any 
college and we feel that it is very different from 
reading at a literary entertainment. 

January 23. I went up to Sunrise Hill with Miss 
Mitchell's niece yesterday morning. It was like 

January 31. I am doing nicely in all my studies 
now and am not fretting over the examinations 
which occur Thursday and Friday. Much depends 
on keeping cool and I believe I have that faculty. 

February 13. I wish you could have heard 
the good things I have heard to-day. First 
Prof. Farrar's Bible lesson, taking up the life of 
David, then this afternoon and evening, Rev. Mr. 
Sanders of Ceylon, told us of the Island, the people 
and the work there. I almost wanted to go to India 
after hearing his stories. 

We are fairly on our way now in all our new 
studies. My yesterday's work was, physiology at 9, 
astronomy at 9-45, logic at 10-30, chemistry at 12. 


I learned my physiology -and astronomy for to-day 
between 11-15 and 12. A class meeting fifteen 
minutes came after dinner. I studied German what 
time I could find in the afternoon besides thirty- 
five minutes with a pupil in Latin, forty-five minutes 
for elocution, thirty minutes with a classmate in 
astronomy who did not quite understand the lesson, 
until 5 o'clock, when I rested forty-five minutes, 
then dressed my hair and myself for tea. After 
chapel spent an hour with Miss T. in Latin. At 
8 o'clock went to the President to hear him read 
Boswell's Life of Johnson until 9. Took a bath, 
read over the logic for to-day and was in bed before 
the bell struck at 10. Wasn't that a good day's 
work? There were a dozen other little things, such 
as my weather record, a visit to the steward's de- 
partment for a bone, a call on my former parlor- 
mate, etc. 

The world moves, but we seem to move with it. 
When I studied physiology before (when I was a 
little girl of seven years old) there were two hun- 
dred and eight bones in the body. Now there are 
two hundred and thirty-eight. I think father would 
be delighted to see Miss Mitchell lecturing me this 
morning, because I ignored one one-hundredth of a 
second in an astronomical calculation. "While you 
are doing it, you might as well do it to a nicety." 
That is the only thing she has ever complained of 
me for. 


February 20. I am not fretted with my work 
after all. My lessons are not hard and they are 
interesting, and I find some time to read, but it is 
mostly scientific reading. . . . 

We have had no good observing weather of late. 
When it does come, we shall improve it whether we 
do anything else or not. There is so much to do 
that, as usual, I shall do part of everything and 
content myself with that and not try to outshine 
the rest. I came here for self-culture and not for 
honors. My talent does not lie in recitation. 
"Great executive ability" has been Miss Mitchell's 
and Prof. Backus' only compliment for me. 

February 27. Friday I stayed up until nearly 
half past eleven. I found some star clusters which 
I thought Miss Mitchell did not know. She was 
greatly pleased and said to me, "Do not spend any 
money on knicknacks until you buy yourself a tele- 
scope. You will make valuable discoveries in the 
course of your life." 

We had our Chapter meeting Friday night and 
the criticism of the last meeting was read. The 
critic of the evening was the best scholar of the 
class and I was delighted with her criticism of 
my essay. She said it was well delivered, showed 
thought and study. There was no attempt at 
ornament which caused a little lack of smooth- 
ness. It had the three elements of a good essay, 
thought, information, and urging us to action. 


Monday was a busy day. I went to five recita- 
tions, spent three periods with my pupils, went to 
see Miss Lyman for the first time this year at her 
request, that she might give me authority to train 
the delinquents in all their studies "as if you were 
their mother." . . . 

Miss Lyman said today: "Colleges do not pre- 
tend to finish, seminaries only do that. They make 
nice little flower beds with the seeds all planted 
in rows and the earth smoothed off handsomely. 
Colleges spaded up the ground deep down and put 
in guano, mixed it up thoroughly that whatever is 
planted there afterward has a luxuriant growth." 

Yes, I know I take up too many things, I know 
that I am careless in many ways, I always was, 
but I can be careful enough when I think occa- 
sion requires it, and I have decided that it is 
not worth my while to use up strength in going 
against the grain where it is not necessary in order 
to accomplish a great end. I find that to be my 
greatest fault but when I see others who have that 
virtue and yet are so deficient in what I have in 
great abundance, I am content to do what I can 
in my own way. Miss Mitchell appreciates highly 
in me, what she decidedly lacks, business ability 
and administrative talent, and a quick, clear in- 
sight into things. I came here to train myself, 
not to make a show, and I am satisfied. I 
am better off than those who are so anxious 


about class honors. I shall not feel badly if 
I get none of them. I have not shown my full 
strength. I have kept in my corner and worked 
for myself. . . . 

I would like to enjoy the quiet with you a little 
while, but my life is to be one of active fighting. 

March 13. My teaching seems to give great 
satisfaction for Miss Lyman has called me to 
her twice this week to consult on poor scholars, 
and has given me charge of her niece and another 
young girl who do not like Latin. I enjoy teach- 
ing and find that my previous teachers were really 
superior; that my knowledge of Latin has not 
gone, only faded by reason of dust, and can be 
brushed up without difficulty. 

Of course the event of the week for me was the 
essay last night which was a complete success. 
My voice filled the chapel without effort and they 
said I seemed to have any amount of breath and 
power unexpended; that I stood there just as 
though it had been my business to read essays. 
I never felt more cool and collected in my life, 
and my face was not in the least flushed, nor did 
a nerve quiver. I never have dreaded it, but I got 
off better than I expected. Miss Mitchell would 
not come because she would suffer so much, al- 
though I assured her I should not. . I wore my 
black silk with lace sleeves and my class pin, 
without a particle of color about me. Everybody 
else had worn bows and ribbons. 


Miss Mitchell was cautioning one of her girls 
the other day about looking too long through the 
telescope, but the girl was obstinate, when Miss 
Mitchell said, "You do not take so good care of 
yourself as Miss Swallow does." 

I sympathize with father and I wish the women's 
rights folks would be more sensible. I think the 
women have a great deal to learn, before they are 
fit to vote. 

March 16. In calculus, Prof. Farrar keeps me 
in reserve to call upon when the others fail. I 
ask nothing more, only longer days or quicker 
memory. There is so much to do. 

March 20. "Es bildet ein Talent sich in der 
Stille, sich ein Character in dem Strom der Welt." 
So says Goethe, and I've been making a talent 
here in the quiet of my life, as I couldn't if I had 
entered into the rushing, foaming stream that 
flows even here. I had been in the hurrying waters 
too long not to appreciate an opportunity to lie 
on the bank and rest, watch others, and gain 
strength for the coming years. Moreover, I am 
a thorough-bred democrat, clear to the marrow, 
as perhaps you have reason to know, and there 
is too much of aristocracy and particularly mon- 
archy, in the air of the College for me to safely 
pass freely about, without coming into collision with, 
when there would be great danger of an explosion. 
I early learned where the powder magazines were 


situated, and carefully avoided the vicinity, but 
did not put out my candle, and now I begin to 
see that my little light has had its effect. An 
extra covering is thrown over the fiery material 
when I am around, so that I can come nearer, and 
I feel that I've conquered. 

Again, time is too precious to me to waste in 
chitchat and gossip. I worked too hard for the 
opportunity of being in Vassar College to throw 
away any of it. Very few people pay well in 
intellectual or moral coin for the time spent, 
therefore, the greatest misfortune to me would 
have been popularity at first. 

Once more, it does not pay well to strain one's 
mind and spend one's time to be sure of rattling 
off rules or facts, or a string of words in exact 
order, when there are so many principles lying 
in them which are rich in thought and informa- 
tion. 7 didn't take the 200 topics in chemistry 
and prepare for examination by studying from 
beginning to end, as one girl did. I didn't fail 
in the examination, as she did, when a question a 
little off the track was put, and I wasn't sick 
a fortnight, as she was. I gave much thought 
to my plan of life here. It was the result of 
cool deliberate judgment, and I am satisfied with 
the fruits. . . . 

I don't think I can be called an idle individual 
about now, five studies, laboratory and observa- 


tory practice, and earning $1.50 a day, as much 
as most girls do who work all day. Tell Father 
I guess I'll beat him. And the money is not all, 
I have gained so much courage to find that my 
knowledge comes back to me and that I am suc- 
cessful in imparting it. The recommendation that 
will be ready for me, will be valuable some day. 

Well, I must hasten to the news items. I've 
been in the Laboratory some time, helping get 
ready to make some casts for your mantel shelf, 
and this week we are to begin to learn photogra- 
phy. Last night was a clear night, for a wonder, 
and I was out on the stone steps of the Observa- 
tory two and one-half hours, and got pretty 
tired. There was a beautiful aurora, red stream- 
ers and brilliant white ones. The night before, 
we saw the planet Uranus, through the great 
telescope, seventeen hundred million miles away. 

March 27. I am getting a reputation for know- 
ing all that occurs in the out-door world. Miss 
Mitchell sends to me if she wants to know what 
happened in the night, or how the stars looked at 
a certain time. Dr. Avery told one of the girls 
on this floor that if she wanted anything in the 
night, she could call on me, for I was a spook. 
I was amused, for I had never heard that term. I 
believe it is the darkey term for ghost or spirit, 
that wanders about in the night. 

Without date. Tuesday night we heard more 


of the eccentric Sam Johnson. The President 
requested the girls to bring their knitting work. 

April 3. (From one of the latest works on 
physiology, a lot of rules on cooking and food.) 

April 10. Five of us left the College yesterday 
morning (this was the Easter vacation) for Fish- 
kill, in search of a Graphite Mill which our text- 
book in mineralogy said was there. That was all 
we knew. (Follows a full account of the trip.) 

I was up in the night and found seven new star 
clusters, and three new nebulae, which will delight 
Miss Mitchell. 

April 17. I shall wear my white dress to grad- 
uate in. I could have nothing prettier. Miss 
Lyman said that she did not know why we should 
have new dresses, and I can do my share toward 
creating a different style of dress. A senior has 
some influence you know, and the professors, espe- 
cially Prof. Van Ingen, are much opposed to long 
dresses and finery. It hurts the College. I have 
lived up to my principles on dress while here and 
hope that I have done some good. 

April 24. I do not see the use of a veil for me. 
I never wear one over my face and I do not want 
it because it is the fashion. That is against my 

May 1. I shall have to wait until I see you 
for my raptures over George William Curtis. 
He made himself doubly dear by asking it as a 


privilege to do so much from love and not for 
pay. He spoke of our having an opportunity to 
show what our needs and capacities were, not in 
a hot house, but like a tree, symmetrical in all 
directions. It was the best women's rights speech 
I ever heard. Suffrage, the ballot or rights, were 
not mentioned. [A large photograph of Mr. 
Curtis hung in her bedroom up to the time of her 

Wednesday. I hope I can remember Miss Mitch- 
ell's story of her experiences at Rome when I 
get home, how she got into the Observatory of 
Father Secchi, which no woman had ever entered, 
and where Mrs. Somerville and Caroline Herschel 
had vainly tried. How she would not ask the Pope 
herself, because she would have to kiss his hand, 
which she thought beneath the dignity of an 
American, but she got Mr. Cass, the American 
minister, to get her permission. 

Tuesday. As Lizzie Coffin and I went in to 
Chemistry class to-day, Prof. Farrar said, "Dr. 
Coffin and Prof. Swallow." 

The two happy years at Vassar were brought to 
a close by a botanical expedition to the Catskills 
in company with a party of college friends. The 
last entries in her pocket diary are : 

Wednesday, June 15. Rose at 3%, walked to 
the station. Went to Mountain House. Thursday. 


Explored. Friday. Came back. Successful trip. 
Monday. Mother came. Tuesday. Class Day. 
All went well. Wednesday. Commencement. A.B. 
Said goodby. All kind. Friday. Home. 



THE Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
founded for the purpose of offering advanced in- 
struction in science and opportunity for research, 
and of making a connection between science and 
/ the industrial arts, was opened to students in the 
I year 1865, the same year that Vassar was opened. 
Up to the year 1871, its students were all men. 
In January of that year, a woman was admitted as 
a special student in chemistry. On the morning of 
her entrance, she had an interview with the presi- 
dent, Dr. J. D. Runkle, who, having worked valiantly 
for her admission, was from the first deeply inter- 
ested in her success. He introduced her to the 
only other woman in the building, Mrs. E. A. Stin- 
son, the assistant in charge of the chemical store- 
room, and asked that arrangements be made for 
her comfort. Later in the day, when passing the 
storeroom, he inquired of Mrs. Stinson how the 
young woman was getting on. "She looks rather 
frail to take such a difficult course," Mrs. Stinson 
said. "But did you notice her eyes?" was his 
reply. "They are steadfast and they are coura- 
geous. She will not fail." 



The new student with courage in her eyes was 
Ellen Swallow, who seven months before had been A 
graduated from Vassar College. The story of how 
she succeeded in becoming the first woman to enter 
the Institute of Technology, or, for that matter, the 
first woman to enter any such strictly scientific 
school in the United States, makes an important 
chapter in the history of woman's education. 

When she left college there was little to determine 
her future course except a leaning towards science 
and a need for self-support. Like most educated 
women of her day she turned to teaching as a means 
of livelihood. Unlike most of them, however, she 
thought of any teaching she might at this time do 
as only a stepping-stone to more advanced work. 
With her eager desire for wider experience, she 
seems not to have considered any position short of 
California, and finally decided upon South America. 
At the time of her graduation she was under ap- 
pointment to go in the autumn to the Argentine 
Republic, as one of six teachers engaged by Presi- 
dent Sarmiento. But the Argentine Republic was 
at that time in a state of war, and during the 
summer conditions became so unsettled that the gov- 
ernment was obliged to break its contract with the 
teachers from the United States. 

The final word concerning the change of plan 
did not reach Miss Swallow until late in the 
summer. In the meantime she watched and waited. 


On August 21 she wrote to a friend, "I do want 
to go if it is best, but I am afraid that selfish 
ambition is too much at the root of my desire for 
it to be granted." 

She did not, however, content herself with watch- 
ing and waiting; she worked also. The first three 
weeks after her return from college she describes 
as "one grand Aunt Dinah's clarin' up time." Her 
mother had been sick all winter, and the work had 
run behind. She set about, therefore, not only clean- 
ing house, but also getting her own and her mother's 
wardrobes into shape. According to a letter written 
on July 26, she got out all her trunks, boxes, and 
bureau drawers ; she sorted, mended, washed, and 
ironed, and arranged all her worldly possessions 
for the summer. She papered her room, made "a 
nice toilet stand out of two empty tea chests, a 
piece of heavy bedspread and some white fringe," 
took up and put down entry carpets and other 
carpets; took up and set out plants; ripped up 
dresses, washed, turned them, and made them over. 
To this long recital of activities she added, "So 
you may imagine I have not had time to be very 
misanthropic," and "I take books from the library 
to read when I sit down for a few minutes to cool 

"Don't you see," she wrote later to a friend 
whose plans were also unsettled, "how wisely our 
different natures have been provided for during 


these weeks? You need some outside aid to quell 
jour inward disquiet, and you've had it under cir- 
cumstances calculated to draw your thoughts from 
yourself. I, always self-reliant, have had to fight 
my battles alone and unaided. I have those around 
me who look to me for help in their trials, never 
dreaming that I have any." 

The South American plan having failed, she 
apparently decided to take a little leisure in which 
to meditate upon what to do next. On Septem- 
ber 15, she started upon a three weeks' trip to 
Nashua, Dunstable, Westford, and Littleton. "I 
went to my birthplace," she wrote on October 8. 
"Saw great trees planted by my hand, great boys 
nearly six feet high whom I had rocked in the cradle, 
and felt the wrinkles deepen and the old in my joints 
at the sight. I visited new households formed since 
my last visit some four years ago, and found babies 
in abundance. I liked my new cousins and thought 
the world would be peopled without my troubling 
myself in the matter. ... I went to Littleton and 
saw the dear faces and was welcomed most heartily. 

"Well, here I am," she continued, "no nearer 
my winter's work than when I left you, to any 
earthly eye. I have tried several doors and they 
won't open. I am not discouraged or blue at all. 
I've full faith that the right thing will come in time. 
I've only to work and wait. I've lived in the greatest 
calmness all summer, not feeling the old unrest and 


fretting against the fetters, and I know the blessing 
of contentment. 

"I wonder if there would be any chance for me 
to take private pupils in Latin in the Western 
cities. I think I would do it though I believe I 
would go into a chemist's shop in preference. Does 
Dayton boast any drug stores or the like? Would 
it be advisable for me to advertise, think you, for 
a situation in such a place? I rather want to dip 
into some science. 

"I often feel as if I must have something good 
in store for me so many people give expressions of 
confidence in my future never a croaking word 
do I get. I hope I shall not neglect the right 
thing when it comes, but I begin to feel anxious to 
see something done. I can't lie idle and must stir 
in some direction." 

On the day after this letter was written, she 
must have decided in what direction to stir, for she 
wrote to Merrick and Gray, commercial chemists in 
Boston, asking them if they would take her as an 
apprentice. Her final decision to study chemistry 
was probably reached through a desire to help her 
father in the new business upon which he had 
entered, that of manufacturing building stone. She 
wrote to commercial chemists because no school then 
open to women offered more chemistry than she had 
had at Vassar. Merrick and Gray replied that they 
were not in a position to take pupils, and that her 


best course was to try to enter the Institute of 
Technology of Boston as a student a most ex- 
traordinary piece of advice to be given to a woman 
in 1870. She realized that if she acted upon it she 
must do so unaided, with no support or encourage- 
ment from her friends. 

" There's no sense in going further it's the edge of cultivation," 
they said to her in effect. But she decided that 
the time had come for the "edge of cultivation" to 
be pushed a little further forward, and wrote at 
once to the Institute of Technology, asking if the 
school admitted women, and giving as references 
Maria Mitchell and Professor Farrar. To this 
letter she received no answer for four weeks. In 
the meantime she wrote to Booth and Garrett, of 
Philadelphia, another firm of chemists. These good 
Quaker gentlemen replied, on November 14, that 
they were not in need of any assistance, for "experi- 
ment, study and reflection" were their sole occupa- 
tions, and that these could be performed only by 
themselves. They regretted that they knew of no 
position to which they could direct her attention, 
although they had "heard that female assistance 
had been employed in the apothecary store." They 
regretted the more that they could render her no 
aid as they desired "to see proper means of liveli- 
hood thrown open to females." 

The sympathetic spirit of this reply led her to 
write again, urging her case. Their second letter 


stated that they would take pupils only upon the 
payment of $500 a year, which of course, in her 
self-dependent position, put the thought of study 
with them beyond the realm of possibility. Like 
Merrick and Gray, they advised her to try to enter 
a scientific school. 

In the time that elapsed between writing to the 
Institute and receiving a reply, she wrote the fol- 
lowing to a friend: "I have quite made up my 
mind to try Chemistry for a life study and have 
been trying to find a suitable opportunity to attempt 
it. I've been busy with this and hoped to have 
something to report, but everything seems to stop 
short at some blank wall and I suppose I'm like 
Baalam and don't see the angel of the Lord in the 
way. ... I trust something will come to pass soon 
for I fear I shall get impatient. 

"I've been making some lovely wax flowers for a 
lady to give as a wedding present and some for our 
Fair, ajso sewing for the Fair and helping make 
fancy things, doing a little in that way, reading 
some and cooking, Thanksgiving, etc., going to 
lectures, etc., etc. I've been full of business and 
it is well, else I should go wild over all the hindrances 
I find in my path." 

Ten years later she wrote to a woman who had 
consulted her about preparation for a definite line 
of work : 

"I know just how you feel; you want your own 


work to do in the world. You want to feel that just 
a little is your own. Is not that it? Well, I went 
through a good many years of that. After I felt 
the power to do I could not sit and fold my hands. 
I have found my work and plenty of it, but it is not 
what I had planned it to be and it did not come to 
me until I was nearly thirty years old." 

On the twenty-eighth anniversary of her birth, 
December 3, 1870, the Faculty of the Institute of 
Technology formally received her application for 
admission, which had been in the hands of the secre- 
tary, Dr. Samuel Kneeland, up to that date. It 
voted, however, "to postpone the question of the 
admission of female students until the next meet- 
ing." On December 10, "the question of the admis- 
sion of Miss Swallow was resumed and after some 
discussion it was voted that the Faculty recommend 
to the Corporation the admission of Miss Swallow 
as a special student in Chemistry." That same day, 
however, it was "Resolved That the Faculty are of 
the opinion that the admission of women as special 
students is as yet in the nature of an experiment, 
that each application should be acted on upon its 
own merits, and that no general action or change 
of the former policy of the Institute is at present 

It was on December 14 that President Runkle, 
who had previously said to her that he considered 
the introduction of ladies to the Institute "a con- 


summation devoutly to be wished," wrote her as 
follows : 

"Dear Miss Swallow: The Secretary of the Insti- 
tute, Dr. Kneeland, will notify you of the action of 
the corporation in your case at a meeting held this 
day. I congratulate you and every earnest woman 
upon the result. Can you come to Boston before 
many days and see me? I will say now that you 
shall have any and all advantages which the Insti- 
tute has to offer without charge of any kind. I 
have the pleasure of knowing both Miss Mitchell 
and Mr. Farrar of Vassar. Hoping soon to have 
the pleasure of seeing you, I am 
Faithfully yours, 


President of the Institute." 

So it came about that the answer to her question, 
"Are women admitted?" was not "They are," but 
" You are." To the clause in President Runkle's 
letter, "without charge of any kind," Miss Swallow 
afterwards referred, saying: "I thought it was out 
of the goodness of his heart because I was a poor 
girl with my way to make that he remitted the fee, 
but I learned later it was because he could say I 
was not a student, should any of the trustees or 
students make a fuss about my presence. Had 
I realized upon what basis I was taken, I would not 
have gone." Fortunately she did not know. 


The only Institute Building in 1S7C 


Where for years Mrs. Richards had her laboratory 



Just before she received word of the success of 
her plan, she had engaged to work in a store for 
the two weeks preceding Christmas. This delayed 
her entrance to the Institute a short time, but it 
gave her something quite as valuable to her as two 
weeks of study an understanding of what the 
Christmas rush means to the shopgirl. Christmas 
Eve she worked until half-past ten without supper. 

On Christmas she wrote to a friend: "I would 
give very much to have an hour's talk with you on 
the prospect the future is opening to me. I want 
your opinion on it and the support of your interest 
in what lies before me. Very mysteriously God leads 
us, doesn't he? He grants us our wishes, often tho in 
different ways from what we expect. You will know 
that one of my delights is to do something that no 
one else ever did. I have the chance of doing what 
no woman ever did and the glimpse I get of what 
is held out to me makes me sober and thoughtful, 
not that I want to turn back but I fear that I can't 
carry steadily all the load I've taken and feel in- 
clined to go slowly at first, not with my usual dash. 
To be the first woman to enter the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, and so far as I know, any 
scientific school, and to do it by myself alone, un- 
aided, to be welcomed most cordially, is this not 
honor enough for the first six months of post- 
collegiate life?" 

Shortly after the holidays she went to Boston 


and engaged a room at 523 Columbus Avenue. This 
was a boarding house kept by Mrs. Blodgett, the 
mother of Isa Blodgett, her most intimate friend 
at Westford Academy. She could not, however, 
afford to pay for board, and so she and her 
friend Helen Morse, who roomed with her, boarded 
' themselves. 

Established in Boston, she entered upon the 
same program of work and study which she had 
followed all her life. As early as January 26, she 
had assumed temporary charge of the office of a 
friend in his absence from the city, and was "en- 
joying being in the office and the Institute also." 
Shortly afterwards she took full charge of the 
boarding house in which she was living, during 
the absence of Mrs. Blodgett, whose daughter was 
critically ill. She kept peace in the kitchen, 
directed the servants, planned the meals, and took 
care that the routine of the house should not be 
interrupted. "I got up at half past five this morn- 
ing," she wrote at this time, "to get Mr. Blodgett 
his breakfast because he had to get away on the 
early train and I was afraid the girls would for- 
get." In the meantime she was carrying on her 
work at the Institute, and was supporting herself 
by tutoring. 

Having been admitted to the Institute as a special 
privilege, she set about making herself indispen- 
sable. "I hope in a quiet way," she wrote on 


February 11, 1871, "I am winning a way which 
others will keep open. Perhaps the fact that I am 
not a Radical or a believer in the all powerful 
ballot for women to right her wrongs and that I do 
not scorn womanly duties, but claim it as a privi- 
lege to clean up and sort of supervise the room and 
sew things, etc., is winning me stronger allies than 
anything else. Even Prof. A. accords me his sanc- 
tion when I sew his papers or tie up a sore finger 
or dust the table, etc. Last night Prof. B. found 
me useful to mend his suspenders which had come 
to grief, much to the "amusement of young Mr. C. 
I try to keep all sorts of such things as needles, 
thread, pins, scissors, etc., round and they are 
getting to come to me for everything they want 
and they almost always find it and as Prof. 
said the other day "When we are in doubt 
about anything we always go to Miss Swallow." 
They leave messages with me and come to expect 
me to know where everything and everybody is 
so you see I am usefiil in a decidedly general 
way so they can't say study spoils me for any- 
thing else. I think I am making as good progress 
as anyone in my study too They say I am going 
ahead because Prof. Ordway trusts me to do his 
work for him which he never did anybody else 
the dear good man I am only too happy to do 
anything for him." (Professor Ordway had a large 
practice as consulting expert in technical chemistry.) 


"They are even daring to joke a little. The 
other day I found a letter on my desk there with 
the A.B. crossed out and A.O.M. written. What 
do you suppose they meant? I couldn't get it from 
them. Prof. Ordway whom I privately consulted 
said it must be Artium Omnium Magistra. I inter- 
preted it old maid." 

Mrs. Stinson, who became her faithful friend and 
ally, and who was "happy if she could just hear 
her voice," told many stories of her helpfulness 
during these early days. One of these stories would 
have shocked Mrs. Richards herself in later days 
when she was advocating scientific methods of clean- 
ing, but it shows how quick she was to see and to 
meet a need. One day a professor of Chemistry 
was preparing for a lecture in a room which had 
not been swept or made ready for the class. Shortly 
before the time of the lecture the janitor entered, 
but detecting an odor like that of rotten eggs, due 
to the escape of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, he 
fled precipitately and refused to return. What was 
to be done? The class would be in in a few moments 
and the room was still unswept. Recognizing the 
emergency, Miss Swallow seized a broom, and start- 
ing at one end of the room while Mrs. Stinson 
started at the other, they had it swept before the 
class arrived. 

To understand the difficulties which Ellen Swal- 
low overcame during that first year in order to hold 


to the course she had laid out for herself, one must 
know something of her home life. Early in March 
her father was struck by an engine in the Union 
Station at Worcester and so badly injured that he 
died four days later. She wrote on April 30 to 
Mrs. Hughes: ... "I was sick about the first 
of March and came up here for a few days. While 
here, just able to lie round on the sofa, word was 
brought to us one morning that father who had left 
home an hour before was being brought home, his 
right arm crushed by the cars. 

"Oh, Flora, imagine if you can the horrible 
scene the amputation, the terrible agony he suf- 
fered 'in the arm that is gone,' the anxious watch- 
ing and care which all came upon me, as he looked 
to no one else, trusted all in my hands, night and 
day for four days, a few hours' delirium, then sleep, 
and a glorious awaking in Heaven. 

"I had strength to go thro all, calm, cheerful, 
without a tear, but it almost took reason, when 
the strain was removed, and I've not recovered 
yet. I sometimes fear I shall give up before the 
spring is thro. So many things I have to do 
which almost kill me, business which calls him up 
to me, seeing people who want to talk of him, and 
yet I will not allow myself to shirk. I could not 
leave mother alone tho it is torture for me to be 
here and so I go back and forth to Boston every 
day. I have tried thro April and shall one month 


more then the Institute closes and I hope to go 
back to Boston in September to live. Mother will 
still live here. I am succeeding quite well in my 
work and the future looks well. What special 
mission is God preparing me for? Cutting off all 
earthly ties and isolating me as it were." 

A few months later she wrote to a friend who 
was in trouble : " . . . When you feel an indica- 
tion of a certain morbid feeling resolutely set 
your mind in another direction, and don't give 
up easily. Let the mind know there is a will 
power to control it in a measure. This is pos- 
sible. I never could have lived thro these sad 
months if I had for an instant allowed my mind 
to dwell on the terrible scenes of my father's death. 
I turn my attention by something and so success- 
fully that I've not dreamed of him as crushed or 
dead but once and that was a few nights ago after 
sitting here mending a dress all the evening and 
thinking of things at home. Now when the thought 
comes to my mind I shut the doer tight and run 
to the other side and take a book or pencil or 
plan something for the future and so turn the 
attention which is a very child to please so 
easily is it diverted." 

Thus during the last few months of that first 
year of her work at the Institute she was sup- 
porting herself, was settling her father's estate, 
and was making daily a trip to Boston and back, 


which even in these days of rapid transit takes 
more than an hour each way. And yet, in spite 
of the shock, the sorrow, the worry, and the 
weariness, she held her place in the Institute, 
keeping the door open for other women. 



THE next four years, from 1871 to 1875, were 
spent by Miss Swallow at the Institute of Technol- 
ogy, first as student, then as student assistant, and 
finally as assistant in the chemical laboratories. If 
these years were to be considered only as they of- 
fered opportunity for self-expression, the record 
might be made up from her letters, for she repeat- 
edly wrote of pleasure in her work, of satisfaction 
that she was able to "do real things of value to 
people," and of pride that "her opinion was getting 
to be of consequence on chemical analysis." But 
during this period, as at previous times in her life, 
preparation for work and work itself overlapped, 
and her student labors gradually took the form 
of professional services in sanitary chemistry. It 
seems best, therefore, to connect these years with 
that part of her subsequent life which was given 
to systematic scientific work, even though this may 
somewhat disturb the sequence of the narrative. 
Such a treatment has another advantage also, for 
it is only against the background of her scientific 
labors that her other varied and ever-changing 
activities can be seen in their true proportions. 



Mrs. Richards's public activities, numerous as they 
were, fall rather naturally into two groups, those 
of leadership and those of expert service in sanitary 
science. To compare these two kinds of work, and 
to try to say of one or of the other that it was her 
greater contribution to the life of her times, would 
be idle; and to seem to be making such comparison, 
or to be laying undue emphasis upon one or the 
other, would be unfortunate. Yet in the written 
record it is almost inevitable that the work which 
she did as leader should loom larger and more 
prominent than the other. For so multiform were 
the activities of this kind, so wide the territory over 
which they carried her, and so many the people with 
whom they brought her in contact, that they must 
necessarily form a large part of any written record 
of her life. It is well, therefore, to see them against 
the background of that patient work which she did 
day after day and year after year, in the quiet of 
her laboratory and classroom. And all the more so 
because those w r ho were closest to her feel that the 
authority with which she spoke on matters of public 
interest and her very wide influence were due to the 
fact that she had painstakingly made herself master 
of a certain field, restricted though it may be con- 
sidered. An eminent chemist who heard her speak 
upon a platform with several other women expressed 
this idea when he said that her speech carried more 
weight than the others because she was herself a 


Fachmann, her training and her work being behind 
every word which she spoke. 

Considering the service which she was destined 
to render in the line of public health and the train- 
ing of sanitary chemists and engineers, the time of 
her entrance into the Institute was most opportune. 
On April 16, 1869, less than two years before she 
began her work, the Massachusetts legislature had 
passed an Act providing for the establishment of a 
State Board of Health. This board, to which 
Mrs. Richards gave some of the best working years 
of her life, became a leader in the public health 
movement of America. In its first report, its gen- 
eral principles of action were set forth in the follow- 
ing words : " No board of health, if it rightly perform 
its duty, can separate the physical from the moral 
and intellectual natures of man. These three quali- 
ties of man are really indissoluble, and mutually act 
and react upon each other. Any influence exerted 
to the injury of one, inevitably, though perhaps 
very indirectly, injures another. As in the physi- 
cal world there is a correlation of forces, so that 
no force is ever lost but only interchanged with 
another, so do these various powers and qualities 
of man act upon each other, and act and are acted 
on by the physical forces of nature that surround 
him." We may well believe that this statement and 
the plea which follows for an ethical purpose in pub- 
lic health work met a responsive chord in the soul 


of the woman who during her college life had said, 
"I must keep the body in good condition to do the 
bidding of the spirit." 

Very soon after the organization of the State 
Board, the question of the pollution of streams by 
industrial establishments and by the sewage of towns 
was brought to its attention, and it decided to in- 
vestigate the matter, selecting Professor William R. 
Nichols, of the Institute of Technology, to make 
the chemical analyses. Water analysis being at that 
time a new branch of chemistry, Professor Nichols 
wisely decided to begin by a very thorough exami- 
nation of the waters of a limited district, and chose 
Mystic Pond for this intensive study. He began 
his work in April, 1870, and made his report in 
September of the same vear. As a result of the 
conditions shown, the legislature issued an order in 
April, 1872, instructing the Board of Health to 
make an extensive inquiry into matters connected 
with sewerage and water supply. In doing this it 
followed the example of England, whose Rivers Pollu- 
tion Commission had made its first report in 1870. 
In undertaking this larger task, the Board again 
intrusted the chemical work to Professor Nichols, 
and this time he chose Miss Swallow as his assistant. 
"He thus availed himself," to use Miss Swallow's 
own words, "of the technical skill of hand gained in 
using instruments of precision under the tutelage 
of Maria Mitchell." This was doubtless the work to 


which she referred in a letter dated August 14, 1872: 
"Now a new work has been put into my hands which 
will tell, and that by a Professor who does not believe 
in women's education." In November of the same 
year she wrote: "The record since I wrote might 
almost be summed up in one word 'Work.' I have 
made about 100 water analyses and that is only part 
of my daily duties. I have been studying with the 
classes since October 9th. I have to prepare my 
lessons evenings." 

While this work was going on, Professor Nichols 
was making frequent trips to England and to the 
Continent in order to learn what was being done 
abroad, and during his absence was directing the 
work of the laboratory by correspondence. In writ- 
ing of him after his death, Mrs. Richards said: 
"He accepted nothing short of absolute accuracy, 
as if under oath. Each new assistant was put 
through a vigorous process of testing as to the 
accuracy of work no matter at what cost of time 
and money." Miss Swallow, as Professor Nichols's 
pupil and assistant, therefore had the advantage 
not only of being in touch with some of the most 
advanced work in sanitation which was being done 
in the world, but also of having a most rigorous 
training for the part which she was to take in later 
work. In his report made to the Board in 1874, 
Professor Nichols said: "Most of the analytical 
work has been performed by Miss Ellen H. Swallow, 


A.M., under my direction. I take pleasure in ac- 
knowledging my indebtedness to her valuable assist- 
ance and expressing my confidence in the accuracy 
of the results obtained."' 

Her student life at the Institute, through good 
fortune as to the time when it began and the men 
with whom it brought her in contact, led toward 
what was probably the greatest direct contribution 
of her life to public health her part in the ex- 
tensive sanitary survey of the waters of the state, 
which began in 1887. This work was great in its 
conception and great in its consequences. The 
survey itself lasted for nearly two years, and con- 
sisted in monthly analyses of samples from all parts 
of the state, representing the water supply of eighty- 
two per cent, of the population. 

Before this survey began, a separate laboratory 
for sanitary chemistry had been established at the 
Institute of Technology, the first of its kind in the 
world. This laboratory, which was opened in 1884, 
was in charge of Professor Nichols, with Mrs. Rich- > 
ards as an assistant. Professor Nichols died in 
1886 and Dr. Thomas M. Drown was appointed his 
successor. Dr. Drown planned the great survey 
and placed Mrs. Richards in charge of the labora- 
tory and of the corps of assistant chemists. After 
the completion of the investigation many prob- 
lems were left to be solved, and Dr. Drown and 
Mrs. Richards remained in charge of the water 


laboratory of the state until it was transferred to 
the State House in 1897. 

In a work of this magnitude, it will be seen that 
the success depended very largely upon system and 
regularity in the management of the laboratory. 
The samples were collected and transported at large 
expense. Upon their arrival at the laboratory it 
was necessary to examine them within a few hours 
or they became useless. If a sample was spoiled by 
delay it was not replaced, and in order that there 
might be no gaps in the record, Mrs. Richards 
worked not only all day, but frequently late into the 
night, and on Sundays and holidays. "I have been 
under water since June 1 of last year," she wrote 
in March, 1888, to a friend, "and I suppose it will 
be the same another year. We are testing all the 
public supplies once a month and we are up to 2,500 
samples already. I am on constant duty from 
8 o'clock to 5.30 or 6 every day, Saturday included/' 

In a letter written in 1904, she referred to the 
strain of this work, saying: "I worked fourteen 
hours a day on five and sometimes seven days of 
the week. If the day was too hot for analyzing 
water the work was done at night." In the course 
of this investigation more than forty thousand 
samples of water were analyzed, either wholly or 
in part by her. During all this time laboratory and 
experimental methods were being perfected and new 
forms of apparatus devised. In the splendid co- 


operation which brought the survey to a successful 
issue, there was little thought of where the credit for 
specific parts of the work lay, but it is generally 
recognized that, as Dr. Drow r n said in his report to 
the Board, "the accuracy of the work and the no less 
important accuracy of the records were mainly due 
to Mrs. Richards's great zeal and vigilance." 

The very large number of analyses, showing as 
they did the condition of the water of all parts 
of the state at all times of the year, were in them- 
selves a valuable record, and made possible many 
important generalizations. One of these found ex- 
pression in what is known as the Normal Chlorine 
Map, which has become a model wherever sanitary 
surveys are being made. Upon this map all the 
places whose natural unpolluted waters contain the 
same amount of chlorine were connected by lines 
very much after the fashion in which places with 
the same barometric pressure are connected in a 
weather map. To these lines the name of isochlors 
was given. When the map was completed, it was 
discovered that the isochlors ran in a general way 
parallel to the line of the seashore, and that the 
distances between them and the shore corresponded 
very closely with differences in the amount of normal 
chlorine present, thus revealing the fact that for all 
places the same distance from the sea the chlorine 
in the natural waters might be considered the same. 
By means of this map, it is possible with very little 


trouble to tell of a given place in Massachusetts 
(except of places on Cape Cod, which is washed on 
all sides by the sea) how much of the chlorine found 
in its waters is due to its nearness to the sea, and 
how much is due to pollution. This suggested to 
other states and countries that there might be a like 
uniformity in the chlorine content of their waters, 
and consequently served as a valuable starting point 
for the examination of w r aters in many parts of the 

As in the case of the work of general water 
analysis for the state, so in the case of the making 
of the chlorine map, it was a great piece of work 
to which a large number of faithful workers con- 
tributed. Whether the important deduction from 
the large number of figures at hand first occurred 
to Mrs. Richards or to some one else, no one seems 
to know, but one thing may be said, if it had not 
been for the vast number of reliable figures which 
had been secured through her generalship and her 
management of the laboratory, the chlorine map 
would never have been made. 

/ In 1873 Miss Swallow received the degree of 
Bachelor of Science (in Chemistry) from the Insti- 
tute of Technology, becoming its first woman grad- 
uate. The same year she received the Master's 
degree from Vassar upon the presentation of a 
thesis and after a long and searching examination. 
At this time she hoped to go on with investigational 



work and to secure a Doctor's degree. But while 
there were many to make use of her skill as an 
analyst, there were few to realize what the oppor- 
tunity to do original work would mean to her, and 
there were few to encourage her and help her to 
surmount the difficulties which at that time lay in 
the way of a woman's securing such an honor. 

In spite of the fact that the times were against 
her, she traveled far enough in independent work to 
look over into the promised land that only those 
may enter who make contributions to knowledge. In 
1872 she came into possession of a small piece of a i 
rare mineral, samarskite, which others had analyzed \ 
without discovering anything unusual about it. After 
analyzing it with great care, she reported in a paper 
published by the Boston Society of Natural History 1 
that there was an insoluble residue which could not 
be accounted for. To those who were working with 
her in the laboratory she repeatedly said that she 
believed it to contain elements not then known. A 
few years later two new elements, samarium and 
gadolinium, were isolated from this mineral. 

After her first experience as water analyst under 
Professor Nichols, Miss Swallow entered upon a X 
large private practice in sanitary chemistry, includ- 
ing the examination not only of water, but also of 
air and of food, and the testing of wall papers and 
fabrics for arsenic. In 1878 and 1879 she examined 
a large number of staple groceries for the state, 


the results of her investigation being published in the 
first annual report of the Board of Health, Lunacy 
and Charity, which had succeeded the earlier Board 
of Health. 

Her work as an expert in sanitary chemistry 
constituted a most important and at the same time 
a unique form of public service, even when it was 
done for fees. But frequently she chose to give 
her expert knowledge without remuneration. For 
example, a friend might be choosing a site for a 
country home or a camp or a summer cottage. 
Mrs. Richards's contribution, or shall we say her 
part of the housewarming, would almost invariably 
be a thorough investigation of the water supply. 
When we consider how many people fall victims 
to typhoid fever during their summer outings, we 
realize how valuable this contribution was. Or the 
question of the water supply for a school would 
arise. Mrs. Richards was always ready to offer her 
services without cost, if she felt that the enterprise 
was in a struggling financial condition or if she 
had a personal interest in it. As alumna trustee of 
Vassar she performed invaluable services in testing 
the drinking water of the college, in order to deter- 
mine the efficiency of a sewage disposal plant which 
had been installed. The half of what she did to pro- 
tect human life from the danger of impure waters 
will never be known by any one person, and for that 
reason its complete story can never be written. 


During the time that Miss Swallow was study- 
ing at the Institute, she was assistant not only to 
Professor Nichols, but also to Professor Ordway, 
whose specialty was industrial chemistry and who 
carried on a large amount of work as consulting 
expert for various manufacturing establishments. It 
was through her association with him that she was 
appointed, in 1884, chemist for the Manufacturers' 
Mutual Fire Insurance Company. In this capacity 
she did much valuable work bearing upon the danger 
from spontaneous combustion of various oils in com- 
mercial use. This was pioneer work, and it is said 
that in the course of it Mrs. Richards often prophe- 
sied that the time would come when every material 
used in building would be thoroughly tested. The 
great underwriters' laboratories of today show that 
she had true prophetic vision. 

It was in the course of her work on oils that she 
became acquainted with Mr. Edward Atkinson, econ- 
omist and philanthropist, who invented the Aladdin 
Oven and with whom she later worked out many 
problems in the application of heat to food materials 
under a grant from the Elizabeth Thompson Fund. 
For him, too, she evolved several methods of deter- 
mining the impurities in lubricating oils, with special 
reference to cottonseed oil, and devised what was 
known as the "evaporation test" for non-lubricating 
volatile matters. She also made an investigation of 
the possibilities of recovering wool grease which 


attracted world-wide attention, and a study of the 
composition of cottonseed hulls which proved of 
great commercial value. In 1877 she devised a new 
method for determining the amount of nickel in vari- 
ous ores, and as a result she became an authority on 
the subject and frequently acted as referee on dis- 
puted points. 

It was her special joy to be chosen to help those 
in the business world whose faces she believed to be 
turned toward a future of better living* conditions. 
She was keenly in sympathy with certain progressive 
commercial enterprises started by college women in 
later years, such as the Sunshine Laundry of Brook- 
line and the Laboratory Kitchen of Boston. Shortly 
before her death, Mrs. Richards gave a course of 
lectures to the employees of the Laboratory Kitchen 
upon the general subject of the relation of personal 
cleanliness to safe food. 

Not the least important of Mrs. Richards's chem- 
ical work was that which she did in connection with 
Professor Richards's researches. She spent the sum- 
mers of 1881 and 1882 with him in the copper regions 
of Northern Michigan, where he was making investi- 
gations into methods of concentrating and smelting 
copper. During these summers she acted as his 
chemist, and Professor Richards says that her ex- 
treme accuracy and wonderful promptness contrib- 
uted largely to the value of the experiments. 

In 1876 she became instructor in the Woman's 


Laboratory connected with the Institute, whose 
history will be told in a later chapter. In 1884 
she was appointed Instructor in Sanitary Chemistry 
in the Institute of Technology itself, a position 
which she filled until the time of her death. During 
the twenty-seven years in which she was in charge . 
of this laboratory, she trained a large number of A 
young men, who went out to every part of the United 
States and to many foreign countries to take charge 
of similar laboratories. It was for her classes inl 
Sanitary Chemistry that she wrote "Air, Water and 
Foody" with the cooperation of Assistant Professor 
A. G. Woodman. 

In 1890 there was inaugurated at the Institute 
of Technology the first systematic and comprehen- 
sive course in Sanitary Engineering to be established 
in any seat of learning in the world. Much of the 
prestige of this course is undoubtedly due directly 
to Mrs. Richards's labors, wise advice, and coopera- 
tion. In the training of the engineers, Mrs. Rich- 
ards, who, as one of her associates has said, would 
probably have been an engineer herself if. she had 
been a man, always took a very prominent part and 
a special pride and joy. Her particular field of in- 
struction was in sanitary water and sewage analysis 
and their interpretation, and in air analysis, which 
was of peculiar value to engineering students spe- 
cializing in ventilating work. 

The laboratory of Sanitary Chemistry has often 


been called unique because of the exceptional com- 
pleteness with which it was equipped, but it was 
unique even more in this, that there went forth from 
it workers not only thoroughly acquainted with the 
technique of water and air analysis, but also inspired 
with the desire to serve their fellowmen. The facts 
of science were never to Mrs. Richards, nor to those 
of her students who caught her spirit, mere facts; 
they were above all the possible vehicles of social 
service. She sent forth from her laboratory and 
classroom "missionaries to a suffering humanity." 



DURING the four years of her student life at the 
Institute of Technology, Miss Swallow continued to 
live at 523 Columbus Avenue. At first she "boarded 
herself," for economy's sake, but as her income from 
chemical work increased she was able to pay for 
board as well as for her room, and living became less 
of a struggle. She was able also to contribute to 
her mother's support. "I have been fixing up 
Mother's house for her comfort," we find in her 
letter of November 17, 1872, "as she has to do 
without me. I go up once in two or three weeks 
to spend a night and that is all. She will have to 
pay a heavy assessment on insurance of her house 
on account of this great fire, and I may need to do 
more for her. I have been having $60 a month 
besides my evening classes and so could take care 
of myself, but I can't tell how the spring will find 
me." "I have settled the house upon her," she had 
written earlier, "and she has the life insurance 
besides, so she will not want. I have the amount 
invested in the stone speculation which may bring 
me 5 or 10 thousand or not a cent." 



The fire to which she referred was the great Boston 
fire of November, 1872. This she described in a 
letter to a friend with the terseness and vividness 
which were characteristic of her literary expression : 
"It was a strange feeling to stand out in the still 
night and see so intense and angry a monster eating 
up our stone walls." It was characteristic of her 
also that after a few days, having reflected that the 
loss was exclusively in material things, she should 
have written: "It was only property that was de- 
stroyed, and mainly the kind of merchandise that we 
put on our bodies, so we can do with less and not 
suffer. We ought to realize that as the Lord's 
stewards we ought not to wear all that He gives us 
to spend for His poor and needy." 

Out of the money which her father had invested 
in artificial stone, and which she hoped to recover, 
she used often to build, not air castles, but arti- 
ficial stone castles. "More than anything that has 
occurred for a long time," she wrote in Novem- 
ber, 1871, to a friend who was in trouble, "your 
letter made me wish that my 'Frear-Artificial Stone' 
house was built (it is to be out here on Hunting- 
ton Avenue which at present is under several feet 
of Back Bay water) and in running order. Then 
there would be a warm corner and good chance for 
you, and no end of bugs and minerals close by. I 
would gather a houseful of my wayworn friends 
and we'd have such a gay old home of it. But there 


would be plenty of work if I was round. You know 
me well enough to believe that." 

But the stone house did not materialize, and the 
home she made after her marriage and in which for 
thirty-six years her wayworn friends found rest and 
refreshment for the soul as well as for the body, 
and which more than any other one place they asso- 
ciate with her, was not on Huntington Avenue, but 
in Jamaica Plain, a beautiful outlying subdivision of 

On June 4, 1875, Miss Swallow was married to 
Professor Robert Hallowell Richards, head of the 
department of mining engineering in the Massachu- 
setts Institute of Technology. "Your Professor/' 
she had called him in her letters to her mother, 
following a pretty way she had of putting the 
good things of life away from herself with a little 
mental shove, as if of course they rightly belonged 
to some one more worthy. Miss Swallow and 
Professor Richards, differing widely in tempera- 
ment, she being quick to see, to move, and to act, 
he slow, deliberate, and judicial in his mental 
attitude, had met upon the common ground of in- 
t crest in scientific pursuits and had fallen in love 
with each other. "Cupid had appeared among 
the retorts and receivers," as Miss Swallow's 
facetious friend, Mr. Smith, expressed it. 

Professor Richards was born on August 26, 1844, 
in Gardiner, Maine, the son of Francis Richards and 


Anne Hallowell Gardiner. The families from which 
he is descended, the Richardses, the Gardiners, the 
Hallowells, and the Tudors, have all been prominent 
and have played an important part in the life of 
their times. The Richards family had at the time 
of Professor Richards's marriage been connected 
with the famous Howe family through the marriage 
of Professor Richards's brother, Henry Richards, to 
Laura Elizabeth Howe, daughter of Samuel Gridley 
Howe and Julia Ward Howe. 

The sons of the Richards family had been classi- 
cally educated as a matter of course, and there was 
no thought that Robert would be an exception. For 
seven years, five of which were spent in England and 
two in the United States, an effort was made to 
force him into the mold which such a training offers, 
the only results being anxiety to his friends and 
suffering for himself. In February, 1865, while 
at Phillips Exeter Academy studying Latin and 
Greek and looking forward to the Harvard en- 
trance examinations, he received a letter from 
his mother in Boston, saying that her cousin by 
marriage, Professor William Barton Rogers, was 
about to start a scientific school, and that perhaps 
he might want to enter it instead of Harvard. 
Professor Richards says now that he hopes he 
had politeness enough to say good-by to his head 
master, but he is not at all sure, and that if he 
did it was the only formality to which he gave 


time before leaving for Boston. Arrived there 
he immediately entered the Institute of Tech- 
nology, being the seventh pupil to matriculate. 
Admitted to classes in geology and chemistry, and 
being encouraged to relate what he had learned 
to the life about him, the scales fell from his eyes, 
and for the first time in all his life he says he "saw." 
Like Miss Swallow he had reached his life work 
through tribulation of spirit, though the tribulation 
had been of a different sort from hers. 

Before Professor Richards and Miss Swallow were 
married, they had selected a home at 32 Eliot Street, 
Jamaica Plain, about four miles from the Institute. 
To this house they went directly after a quiet wed- 
ding in Union Chapel, a mission church with which 
Miss Swallow had connected herself. To the young 
married people who lose their heads more or less on 
their wedding day, it will be comforting to know 
that even the staid professor and his learned wife 
made something of a muddle . of their prepara- 
tions. "Robert made several blunders in packing 
his things," his wife wrote the day after the wed- 
ding, "and when he got here he found he had no 
necktie but a white one. Before I had done laugh- 
ing at him, I found that I had left all my keys in 
the closet door at 523 Columbus Avenue, and could 
get at no clothes except those I had on." So the 
professor had to go in town wearing his wedding 
necktie and get the keys which would release his 
wife's work-a-day clothes. 


On June 7 they started upon a unique wed- 
ding trip to Nova Scotia, accompanied by Pro- 
fessor Richards's entire class in mining engineering, 
which he was taking out for practical work. On 
their return, a Vassar friend who was accom- 
panied by some fashionable women, strangers to 
Mrs. Richards, happened to meet her on the steps 
of the Institute. The strangers refused to believe 
that the woman in outing costume, which included 
heavy boots and a short skirt, much less familiar 
then than now, was in reality a bride, just returned 
from her wedding trip. 

The details of the housekeeping of the woman 
who organized the American Home Economics Asso- 
ciation, and who succeeded in making a home and 
carrying on a profession at the same time, are, of 
course, of general interest. This fact gives an ex- 
cuse for piercing the veil of privacy that hangs about 
the home, and for asking what manner of house- 
keeper Mrs. Richards was and how she ordered her 
home life. 

In general, it may be said that her home was not 
strikingly or obtrusively different from any other 
well-conducted home, the differences which existed 
being in the amount of attention given to the essen- 
tials, in its cleanness which was of the shining 
order so far as surfaces were concerned and which 
extended to hidden places and even to the air, clean 
air being her hobby in its freedom from fads, and 


in the intelligence with which it welcomed any new 
household utensil or furnishings or practice which 
gave promise of contributing to health and efficiency. 
When Mrs. Richards began housekeeping in the 
seventies, she furnished her house with carpets as 
every one else did. But when for the sake of greater 
convenience or safety she changed her methods; 
when, for example, she substituted rugs for carpets, 
began to use gas instead of coal for cooking, installed 
a telephone, or experimented with the vacuum cleaner 
for house cleaning, she always counted the cost, not 
only in money, but in time and steps. When she 
began to use a gas stove she had a meter placed in 
her kitchen, and with the assistance of a young engi- 
neer who was living in her home made a thorough 
study of the amount of gas required for preparing 
different dishes and for carrying on various house- 
hold processes. She carefully computed, too, the 
amount of time involved in caring for rugs and 
hardwood floors as compared with carpets. In her 
last public address, which was at Ford Hall, Boston, 
on the subject, "Is the Increased Cost of Living 
a Sign of Social Advance?" and in which she re- 
viewed her housekeeping experiences of thirty-five 
years, showing that the cost had doubled in that 
time, she gave abundant proof that she understood 
her own problems, not only in their relation to her 
family life, but also in their social bearings. 

When Professor and Mrs. Richards went to house- 



keeping, Jamaica Plain was connected with Boston 
by a very slow, one-track street railway and by 
a steam railway whose station was about three- 
quarters of a mile from the house. They made a 

The Porch at 32 Eliot Street 

sacrifice of time, therefore, in order to live in 
a place where they could have a detached house 
and a garden. A house with a roof of its own 
unconnected with other roofs Mrs. Richards always 


considered essential to the best family life. Their 
house stands on a corner lot and has air and light 
on all sides and also sun, this last because it faces 
a street which runs diagonally. 

In 1883 a small Sanitary Science Club was 
formed in Boston in connection with the newly 
organized Association of Collegiate Alumnae. Each 
member of the club made a study of her own home, 
and in addition Mrs. Richards threw open her home 
for a study by the entire club. She often said laugh- 
ingly, afterward, that that study cost her five hun- 
dred dollars because of the changes which it led her 
to make. One permanent result of the work of this 
club was a little book, "Home Sanitation," edited 
by Mrs. Richards and Miss Marion Talbot, one of 
the most helpful features of which was a series 
of illuminating questions which the housewife might 
put to herself with reference to her home. This was 
only one of the many cases in which Mrs. Richards 
put into permanent and available form work which 
other people allow to be lost to the world. 

In the summer of 1908 I was visiting at her 
house when she received from Professor John R. 
Commons an advance copy of his Score Card for 
Houses, with a request that she criticise it. She 
handed it to me and asked me to score her own 
house; and having made the necessary examination 
and measurements, I had the pleasure of handing it 
back to her with a perfect score marked upon it. 


The following prosaic details are given because 
there are young people all over the country who 
have looked to Mrs. Richards for guidance in small 
matters as well as in large, and who will value more 
minute particulars. 

The house is heated by a furnace and ventilated 
by means of a skylight in the third floor hall, which 
is kept open except in the most inclement weather, 
thus insuring the passage of clean, fresh air, even 
when the windows are closed. The extra fuel which 
this involves is not considered a luxury but a neces- 
sity. In places where the air is peculiarly liable to 
pollution there are extra provisions for ventilation. 
In the kitchen, there is not only a hood over the 
gas stove, and screens in the tops of the windows 
so that they can be lowered as well as raised, but 
also two holes cut in the very top outer walls and 
fitted with registers which can be opened or closed 
by means of cords. There is a similar ventilator at 
the highest point on the back staircase which leads 
up to a back hall separated from the rest of the 
house by a door. Thus any odors which escape 
from the kitchen when the door into the stairway 
is open find an easy means of escape. The fireplace 
in the living room has a drop for the ashes which 
leads into a closely bricked compartment in the 
cellar. Many years ago, when most people were 
going without hot water when there was no fire in 
the kitchen stove, she installed a small heater in the 


casement for summer use and a water back in 
;he furnace for winter use, which supply an abun- 
lance of hot water all the year round and with very 
ittle fuel. 

Over the chandelier in the study, where the most 
*as is burned for illuminating purposes, there is a 
ventilator designed by Professor and Mrs. Richards, 
[t consists of a cylinder with three branches, one 
jver each burner. The main pipe or cylinder is 
carried through the ceiling, then through the beams 
and side walls of the house to the attic, where it is 
connected with the chimney. This carries off the 
products of combustion and also acts as a ventilator. 

There are no curtains in the house, with the 
exception of short washable ones in the bedrooms 
and bathroom, but many of the windows are full 
of plants and vines. Shortly after Professor and 
Mrs. Richards moved into the house, they enlarged 
the dining room, making a place for plants at the 
back which serves the purposes of a conservatory, 
but which because of its accessibility is much more 
practicable for a home where little help is employed. 
This extension, which looks toward the southwest, 
is supplied with a water tap so arranged that the 
plants can be sprinkled by means of a hose without 
danger of injuring any of the furnishings of the 
room. No draperies ever gave to a room the beauty 
which Mrs. Richards's flowers gave to her dining 
room. * 


The food served at Mrs. Richards's dining table 
was always determined with reference to its effect 
upon efficiency in work. If after a fair trial a given 
food seemed to leave the brain dull and the body 
unfit for labor, it was rejected. This process of 

The Vine-Covered Dining Room 

elimination disposed, in the course of time, of most 
of what are known as "made dishes." There were 
few rich gravies in her bills of fare, few complicated 
salads, and little pastry. The bills of fare were 
made up chiefly of meat, which, however, she never 
used in very large quantities, of good homemade 
bread, fruit, and vegetables. Fruit or simple ice 


cream usually constituted the dessert. As time 
went on and life grew complicated, Mrs. Richards 
was forced to adopt what she considered unnecessary 
elaborations, but her ideal was always simplicity. 

Established in their new home, Mrs. Richards 
decided not to pass the housework over to the usual 
hired helper, but to make a home for girls who 
were anxious to get an education and to allow them 
to work for their board. For several years this 
arrangement continued, until the pressure of outside 
work made it necessary for her to have regular help. 
During all this time, however, she had the additional 
assistance of a little girl who came at first to help 
after school, and later was sent by Mrs. Richards 
to cooking school and became so expert that she 
took full charge of the housekeeping. When she was 
married, in 1884, Mrs. Richards, instead of mourn- 
ing over her loss, rejoiced that she had had a part 
in the training of a good home maker. As Pro- 
fessor Richards once said, after telling me that they 
had found it somewhat expensive to help students by 
giving them work at their home and in their offices 
and laboratories, "But we decided that that was 
"what we were here for." 

"Yes, I think my housekeeping is a success," we 
find in a letter of March 11, 1878. "My first 
young woman is now in Smith College by its means. 
I have six in the family this winter. My mother has 
come to live with us and I have two young women 


paying their way both here and in the Laboratory. 
The result is that we are doing good and the cost 
of housekeeping is not a mere outgo. We have 
pleasant people around us and willing hands and 
quick brains for any emergency." 

Mrs. Richards's second regular helper came to 
her in 1884 and stayed with her almost continu- 
ously for twenty-six years. After she had been 
there about ten years, a terrible tragedy left her 
and her mother the only members of their family. 
Mrs. Richards immediately took the mother into her 
home and gave her the room which had formerly been 
occupied by her own mother, who had died a short 
time before. 

In the autumn of 1910, when it became necessary 
for Mrs. Richards to make a new arrangement for 
her housework, her skillful management became very 
apparent. Having selected two new girls, she put 
into their hands typewritten directions, telling them 
where to find things, where to order things, and where 
to telephone in case of emergencies of various kinds 
accidents to plumbing, for example. She made 
note of the regular engagements of the family, the 
general character of the meals which she wished to 
have served, and other details of this kind. The most 
interesting fact about these directions is that they 
embodied just enough information to keep the house- 
hold running smoothly until the girls could adjust 
themselves to their new surroundings, but not enough 


particulars to be confusing. No wonder that a 
graduate of the Institute of Technology, who had 
lived for a year in Mrs. Richards's family, wrote 
of her recently: "She had mastered the principles 
of scientific management long before they became 
the subject of discussion in the industrial world." 
, One of the characteristic features of her house- 
keeping was the regular weekly program which she 
laid out and which contributed very greatly to the 
economy not only of her own but of other people's 
time. Tuesday afternoon she always remained at 
home. In the intervals between calls she brought 
her housekeeping up to date and made plans for the 
coming week. On that evening, Professor Richards's 
brother, Mr. George H. Richards, who lives in Bos- 
ton, always dined at the house. This insured a weekly 
visit with him without the necessity for correspond- 
ence or arrangement of dates. If there were dinner 
parties, they were always arranged for Tuesday 
night. Monday evenings for a great many years 
were regularly given to an uncle of Professor Rich- 
ards, Mr. Richard Sullivan, who was an invalid and 
finally became blind. He, like Mrs. Richards herself, 
was interested in the progress of science. She read 
to him popular treatises on science, periodicals, and 
books of travel. This engagement she never broke 
during all the years of his invalidism. If she were 
out of town, she wrote to him a long letter on Mon- 
day evening, telling him of her work and her plans. 


Her devotion to "Uncle Richard" makes a beautiful 
chapter of her life and one with which few people 
are acquainted. 

About twenty years after her marriage, she so far 
overcame the Puritan prejudices of her early years 
as to become interested in the theater, and Friday 
evenings were given by her and Professor Richards 
to this form of entertainment. Their friends knew 
that they would be going to the theater on that 
evening, and frequently arranged to take seats near 
them in order to get the opportunity for a short 

Not only were the weeks carefully planned for, 
but also the days. Each night she wrote out brief 
notes of the different things to be done the next day, 
and the order in which they were to be taken up. 

No description of Mrs. Richards's home life is 
complete without an account of the help which she 
constantly gave to Professor Richards in his pro- 
fessional work. It was his somewhat unusual task 
to develop a department of mining engineering many 
miles away from any of the mines. This task he per- 
formed so successfully as to make his department 
one of the strongest in the country, and in the up- 
building of the work he had not only her sympathy 
but her active help. Her quickness in reading 
extended to other languages than English, and 
by following foreign journals and books she was of 
invaluable assistance to him. 


Mrs. Richards's skillful planning of her days and 
hours left time for abundant hospitality. This 
hospitality, as it went out to friends from out of 
town, was quite her own. She never gave up her 
regular work for them, but always had them on her 
nind, and seemed to know by intuition just what 
?ach particular person would want to see in Boston 
ind just how to direct him or her so as to economize 
time. Those who have experienced this hospitality 
}f hers well remember the little maps which she used 
to draw for their convenience. These maps were 
^ike her handwriting. They had just enough lines 
3n them to serve their purpose, but not one to 
pare. In making them, as in forming a word, she 
knew what could be left out as well as what must 
3e put in. 

But there were those who shared in the hospitality 
>f this home in more intimate ways. One of them, 
i niece of Professor Richards, says: "The hospital- 
ty of her home was literally unbounded. This kind 
loor was always open. No piled-up amount of work, 
10 complication of engagements, interfered with the 
velcome that was always shining and ready. Think 
rvhat it is to be able to say of a house that there 
Dne felt that one could never come at the wrong time 
:>r be in the >Vay ! Such hospitality is hard enough 
:o accomplish in one of the great modern country 
louses, with endless guest rooms and a host of serv- 
ants ; but here more often than not the guest, with- 


out ever knowing it, had the hostess's room. I have 
known her, at the time of a family reunion, to fill 
every room in the house with relatives. 'They can 
all see each other more comfortably here, and some 
of them might find the expenses of a hotel difficult 
to meet,' she would say. After a merry evening, 
she would bid them a smiling good-night, slip in town 
herself for a bed at the College Club or elsewhere, 
and be back in time to greet her happy and uncon- 
scious guests at breakfast. 

"I think that to every one who had the privilege 
of knowing her in her own house, the thought of her 
brings with it, as a matter of course, a picture of 
that house. It was an expression of herself, and it is 
hard to find words to express at all adequately the 
sense of restfulness, of peace, which seemed a part 
of it. It was like breathing clearer air to come to it. 
The dust of non-essentials had been swept away ; and 
not only this, but the life-giving supply of oxygen 
seemed greater here than elsewhere, and one breathed 
an air at once restful and invigorating. Persons 
leading perforce a complex city life, beset with under- 
takings overtaxing time and strength, came here as 
to a refuge, not only for dear affection, but for re- 
freshment and rest for actual strength. No house 
of leisure that I know gave the sense of quiet and 
tranquillity that this house of keen and arduous work 
did work which never paused and yet was never 
hurried 'Ohne hast, ohne ruh.' Truly it showed 



* In the house of labour best 
Can I build the house of rest.' 

cannot tell how often just the thought of this 
ouse has brought to me a sense of clearness when 
have felt overdriven and harassed." 

Besides making her home a happy gathering place 
or intimate friends and relatives, and a Mecca for 
hose who were interested in the lines of work in 
r hich she was engaged, and who lived in other places, 
Irs. Richards made it a meeting place for the faculty 
nd students of the Institute of Technology. She 
ntertained the members of her own and Professor 
lichards's classes every year not at formal recep- 
ions, but at good old-fashioned suppers, where there 
as enough to eat to rejoice the heart of the boys, 
:ul always an original entertainment afterwards. In 
ddition to entertaining all of their students in this 
ay, Professor and Mrs. Richards always invited to 
inner any young man or young woman who was 
pecially introduced to them or who had any special 
onnection with them sons and daughters of their 
id schoolmates, for example, or of their old friends. 
Irs. Richards had a purpose in doing this, in addi- 
ion to that of promoting sociability. She looked 
ith great solicitude upon the growing complications 
f life and the high standards of living which made 
oung people of small incomes hesitate to marry. 
I like to show them what they can have with very 


simple means," she said once, in writing to a friend 
about the young people she invited to her house. 

At the memorial meeting held by the American 
Home Economics Association in San Francisco dur- 
ing the summer of 1911, a student of the Institute 
of Technology, who lives in California, asked the 
privilege of saying something about Mrs. Richards 
in her personal relations. Having been given a place 
on the program, he made this beautiful tribute to 

"It was in 1908 that I first reached Boston, a 
perfect stranger, with only a letter of introduction 
to Mrs. Ellen H. Richards. I took the first oppor- 
tunity to present this letter, and the impression that 
Mrs. Richards made upon me was so striking that it 
will last as long as does my memory. I would like 
to tell those who never saw her how she appeared. 
Mrs. Richards was a small woman with a thin face, 
white hair, very black eyebrows, and eyes that 
sparkled with life like gems. She was active, bub- 
bling over with energy, but most of all, she was kind. 

"The previous speakers have told you how great 
Mrs. Richards was as an educator and as a woman, 
but to us, the strangers at Tech, she was greatest 
as a friend. Every year she had at her house an 
entertainment for those who came from distant parts 
of the world. These evenings were always informal; 
the men smoked and we came to know each other and 
Professor and Mrs. Richards. After dinner, Pro- 


sssor Richards would give an exhibition of glass- 
lowing, and he always made a water hammer which 
,ter in the evening would be raffled off amidst great 

"But it was nqt only at these little parties that 
le men came to know Mrs. Richards ; we were always 
elcome at that pleasant, old-fashioned Jamaica 
lain home, and I think hardly a Sunday afternoon 
assed but what some of the boys would call. 

"In all, Mrs. Richards was a sweet and inspiring 
iend to us. Her hospitality was unlimited, and 
?r kindness is a priceless memory." 

This was the manner of the home-making of the 
mnder of the American Home Economics Associa- 
on; it may well serve as a model for other women 
ho wish to have homes and professions also. 

The Hospitable Gate 


MRS. RICHARDS'S marriage, by relieving her of the 
necessity of self-support, put her in a new economic 
position, and very much enlarged for her what she 
used to call the "region of choice." She had known 
what it was to be poor and to be obliged to earn 
her own living. Now she was to know the problems 
of decision which come to those who are free to 
choose what they will do with their time and their 

What she chose to do with part of her new-found 
time was, as we have seen, to continue her work as 
an analyst. In a letter written on February 15, 
1876, she said that in the three preceding months 
she had earned two hundred and ten dollars "in her 
old line." But having struggled hard for her own 
education, and particularly for her scientific train- 
ing, she wanted to bring opportunities for scientific 
study within easier reach of other women, and it 
was toward this end that a large part of her 
energy was directed during the next eight years. In 
November, 1876, largely through her efforts, a 
Roman's Laboratory was opened at the Institute 
of Technology. 


For the history of the movement which led up 
to the establishment of this laboratory we are de- 
pendent largely upon a letter that Mrs. Richards 
wrote in 1878. The purpose of this letter was to 
create interest in the laboratory and to raise money 
for its support; and while it was addressed to Mr. 
Edward Atkinson, it was evidently meant for the 
public. In it Mrs. Richards said that from its be- 
ginning, in 1865, the Institute of Technology had 
offered, in addition to its regular courses, the Lowell 
Free Lectures, which were open to women as well as 
to men. As early as 1867 these Lowell lectures had 
included a course in chemistry conducted by Pro- 
fessor Charles W. Eliot, who later became president 
of Harvard University, and by his associate, Pro- 
fessor Frank H. Storer. The following year labora- 
tory exercises were added to the lectures, and as time 
wont on a course in qualitative analysis was offered 
to those who had completed the course in general 
chemistry, each course, however, consisting of but 
fifteen lessons. 

During the sixties, Mrs. Richards says in this 
letter, there had been a growing demand for labora- 
tory instruction in science in the high schools and 
academies of New England, and this had been greatly 
stimulated by the publication in 1868 of Eliot and 
Storer's Manual of Chemistry. The result was that 
large numbers of women were called upon to teach 
chemistry and other sciences, and found themselves 


unprepared, particularly in laboratory methods. 
Almost their only opportunity to study science was 
in the Lowell Free Lectures. 

In the fall of 1872, without previous announce- 
ment, the Lowell courses in chemistry were omitted. 
That fall a young woman medical student came to 
Boston to get instruction in qualitative analysis, 
only to meet with disappointment. Her case was 
laid before Professor James M. Crafts, of the Chem- 
ical Department of the Institute of Technology, and 
by him before Dr. Samuel Eliot, head master of the 
Girls' High School of Boston. Dr. Eliot brought 
the matter to the attention of the Woman's Educa- 
tion Association, a society of public-spirited women 
which had been organized less than a year before 
with a big purpose stated in a few words, that of 
"promoting the better education of women." 

In an enthusiastic address before the Association, 
Dr. Eliot offered the use of the newly equipped 
chemical laboratory in his school for a class in ad- 
vanced chemistry, providing the Association would 
raise four or five hundred dollars toward the cost 
of instruction and of materials for experiment. To 
this the Association agreed, and the class was formed 
in February, 1*873, with Miss B. T. Capen, of the 
Girls' High School, and Miss Swallow, of the Insti- 
tute of Technology, as instructors. According to 
the records of the Association, the class "consisted 
of sixteen young women who, with perhaps two or 


three exceptions, were rather over than under twenty- 
two years of age. Fully half of them were actually 
engaged in teaching at the same time." 

All these seem like small events when viewed from 
this distance, and at the time they probably passed 
almost unnoticed by the public; but the result of 
them was to bring to the attention of a strong 
organization the meager opportunities for scientific 
study offered to women, to acquaint this organiza- 
tion with Miss Swallow's ability as a teacher, and 
to win for its work her lifelong interest and support. 

The following year the Lowell lectures in chem- 
istry were resumed, but in view of the growing de- 
mand for teachers, their inadequacy became yearly 
more apparent. Realizing the increasing injustice 
of the situation, Mrs. Richards appeared before the 
Woman's Education Association on November 11, 
1875, and in an address which made a deep impres- 
sion set forth the needs of women. She expressed 
the belief that the governing board of the Institute 
of Technology would give space for a woman's 
laboratory if the Association would supply the 
necessary money for instruments, apparatus, and 
books. Scholarships also would be almost indispen- 
sable, she said. The Association appointed a com- 
mittee to enter into communication with the Institute 
of Technology, with the result that the Institute 
offered space for a laboratory in a small frame build- 
ing it was about to erect for a gymnasium, and the 


Woman's Education Association agreed to raise 
money for equipment. 

How much all this meant to Mrs. Richards, and 
how eagerly she followed each step, we learn from 
her personal letters. One dated February 15, 1876, 
shows the project just begun. "Now I need only 
two thousand dollars to have a special room fitted 
up for ten or twelve women," she wrote. "I am 
making a strong effort to interest people in it, and 
hope to see it accomplished before I leave for Europe 
in June." On May 11, success was assured. The 
government of the Institute had only the day before 
passed a vote "that hereafter special students in 
Chemistry shall be admitted without regard to sex." 
It had authorized a space to be fitted up for women, 
to be ready for use in' October. Under the date of 
June 1, there is a happy letter reading: "We sail 
for Europe June 3. Miss Capen and I expect to 
spend lots of money in Jena for instruments. I am 
to purchase for the Woman's Laboratory, which is 
a sure thing now. All has prospered beyond my 

The new laboratory was opened in November, and 
was placed in charge of Professor John M. Ordway, 
of the Institute of Technology, with Mrs. Richards 
as assistant. In April, 1877, Mrs. Richards re- 
ported to the Association the success of the work, 
saying that twenty-three students, most of whom 
were teachers, had been admitted. This report the 


president of the Association supplemented "with 
several important facts that Mrs.Richards's modesty 
rendered her reluctant to mention." These included 
the devotion of her whole time to the service of the 
students, "with no compensation whatever," the gift 
of two hundred and forty dollars for instruments, 
and last, but not least, "the payment of fifty dollars 
for sweeping the laboratory." We see incidentally 
that while the time had passed when Mrs. Richards 
was obliged to sweep her laboratory herself, she still 
found it necessary to reach down into her pocket 
for money with which to have it cleaned according 
to her standards. It should in fairness be said that 
the Institute of Technology was at this time passing 
through a financial crisis which threatened its very 
existence. Professor Ordway, too, gave all his avail- 
able time to the laboratory without remuneration, 
and contributed several hundred dollars. 

During the next seven years, Mrs. Richards not 
only worked in the Woman's Laboratory without 
salary, but gave an average of one thousand dollars 
yearly to its support. 

But money was the least of all that she gave to 
make the laboratory a success. In those days it was 
necessary to help women and girls to prepare them- 
selves to take advantage of educational opportuni- 
ties, as well as to create the opportunities. We need 
only read letters written at the time to be reminded 
that what may b.e called the habit of ill health had 


taken hold of a large portion of the people, espe- 
cially the women. This condition of affairs was due 
in part, no doubt, to helplessness in the presence of 
sickness ; for many diseases tuberculosis in particu- 
lar which have now come under control were then 
quite unchecked, and there was little known and con- 
sequently little taught about sanitation or hygiene. 
But whatever the cause, weakness and not health 
was considered the normal condition of women. It 
was Mrs. Richards's task, therefore, to help those 
who were really sick and weak, and at the same time 
to inspire with courage and ambition those who had 
fallen into the prevailing habit of thought. In doing 
this she showed to a very unusual degree the power 
to maintain the highest standard for the average 
women, without failing to sympathize with the suffer- 
ings of the individual woman. She advised with the 
students about their health, cared for them when 
they were sick, and took one of them, a helpless vic- 
tim of tuberculosis, into her home and nursed her 
until her death. To another who suffered a serious 
nervous breakdown she gave an opportunity to go 
about the state and collect samples of groceries for 
analysis, a work which kept her much in the open 
air. Thus wisely did she fit special help to special 

Besides being handicapped by ill health, women of 
those days were hindered even more than now by lack 
of money. Parents seldom thought it so necessary 


that girls should be educated as that boys should be, 
and besides, when a girl tried to earn money for her 
own education she was handicapped by the smallness 
of her pay. Seeing the financial burden, therefore, 
under which many ambitious young women labored, 
Mrs. Richards set about securing assistance for 
them. We have already seen that many of the young 
women who studied in the laboratory during the 
early days were taken into her home. Several of 
them, too, were given opportunities to help in her 
professional work. In addition to this, she was con- 
stantly placing before the Woman's Education 
Association and before philanthropic individuals 
cases of special promise or urgent need. As time 
went on several scholarships were established and 
large sums of money were given to Mrs. Richards 
to be used in paying the expenses of the students. 
Among her papers have been found receipts for 
sums amounting to several thousand dollars which 
had been used for the tuition of students in the 
Woman's Laboratory and later for women students 
in the Institute of Technology itself. 

But there were some students who needed neither 
financial help nor advice about their health, for the 
opportunities of the laboratory were sought by 
women of leisure as well as by teachers. One of 
these women who came into the Woman's Labora- 
tory after having graduated from college tells a 
story which shows how Mrs. Richards adapted to 


circumstances the assistance that she gave. One day 
this student was carrying on a long series of weigh- 
ings when she became conscious that Mrs. Richards's 
eye was on her. Finally Mrs. Richards came to her 
and said, "You are wasting motions." She had no- 
ticed that the student's hand was making two trips 
between the balance and the box of weights when one 
would have been sufficient. It was a lesson that was 
never forgotten, and another proof that Mrs. Rich- 
ards early understood the principles of efficiency. 

There were still other forms of assistance which 
women students of science needed in those days. 
It is difficult for us who live in these years of com- 
parative freedom to realize how women who chose 
to walk new paths were looked upon in the days of 
the Woman's Laboratory. To illustrate: When, in 
1876, a Boston branch of the organization now 
known as the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College 
, was formed, it was thought unwise to have the meet- 
\ ing for organization in a hotel, because the story 
\that college women, who were already looked upon 
as a strange order of beings, had held a meeting in 
Jt public place might get into the newspapers and, 
by bringing added reproach, endanger the new pro- 
ject. As there was no private house available, it 
was finally decided to meet in a building which had 
been a private residence, but which had passed into 
the hands of a person who was renting it for enter- 
tainments. But even this place was semi-public, and 
for that reason secrecy was maintained. 


In view of the attitude toward college women 
shown by this incident, it was necessary for those 
who were interested in securing the admission of girls 
to the Institute of Technology to proceed most cau- 
tiously, for through a little carelessness all the 
privileges that had been won might be forfeited. 
Mrs. Richards was therefore always on guard, not 
so much to prevent misconduct as to prevent the girls 
from being misunderstood and misrepresented. Her 
papers show that she was constantly working, often- 
times in such ways as to conceal her own connection, 
to keep the students from attracting unfavorable 
attention. The fact that such watchful care must 
have been extremely irksome to a person of her inde- 
pendent spirit indicates the magnitude of the sacrifice 
that she was willing to make in the cause of women's 

In October, 1877, Mrs. Richards made the follow- 
ing report to the Woman's Education Association: 
"Greater results have already accrued from the 
opening of the laboratory than could have been 
thought possible a year ago, since every department 
of the Institute of Technology is open to young 
women and any one who can pay her fees and pass 
the test examination can there obtain scientific edu- 
cation." As a result of this action on the part of 
the authorities of the Institute, several of the special 
students in the Woman's Laboratory entered regular 
courses and graduated, and from that time on women 


have been on the roll of students. But from all parts 
of the country women, particularly teachers, were 
coming to get special help. Partly for this reason, 
and partly because the other laboratories were 
crowded, the Woman's Laboratory was maintained 
until the year 1883, when a new building which had 
been erected by the Institute gave space for all the 
students, women as well as men. 

From the circumstances under which the Woman's 
Laboratory was started, it was natural that the 
students whom it drew should need much individual 
attention. There was little uniformity either in the 
character of the preparation that they had received 
or in the amount of time they were able to devote 
to the work. In the letter of 1878 to which refer- 
ence was made early in this chapter, Mrs. Richards 
stated that she believed that such conditions must 
exist for many years. She wrote: "The methods of 
instruction are at present adapted to the individual 
and to the length of time at her disposal. For the 
next ten years the teaching must be largely of this 
special and unusual character if it is to do the most 
good. Women of twenty-five years of age have 
missed the scientific education of the present day, 
yet they ask for and must have the knowledge of the 
present. The laboratory was opened to meet this 
very want, and while it will strive to create new and 
wider fields for women's work in the professional 
branches of applied chemistry, it will hold as its first 


duty the teaching of those who cannot go back into 
the schools and colleges." 

The following letters show how valuable the labo- 
ratory was to the teachers of that time. 

Miss Cora Pike, formerly of Wheaton Seminary, 
writes: "During the sixties, the study of chemistry 
at Wheaton Seminary was mostly confined to the 
text-book, supplemented once a year by a course of 
lectures from an itinerant expert, who with his tanks 
of various gases produced highly spectacular effects. 

"It was during the seventies that news of Mrs. 
Richards's laboratory for women reached the Semi- 
nary. The teacher of chemistry at once appealed 
to Mrs. Richards for advice. She cordially invited 
her to come to Boston on Saturdays, offering all 
assistance possible. Mrs. Richards must have felt 
it an additional tax upon herself, for the laboratory 
was filled to overflowing with regular students; but 
there were no intimations of the kind, and a course 
of independent work was planned with special refer- 
ence to the classes at Wheaton. 

"So much, indeed, was interest in experimental 
science awakened by work with Mrs. Richards in 
Boston and at the Seminary, that in 1878 it was 
decided to build a chemical laboratory for the school. 
Plans for it were suggested by Mrs. Richards, and 
her enthusiastic interest in all the natural sciences 
led to the construction of a room where classes in 
chemistry, mineralogy, botany, physics, and biology 


could be equally well accommodated. After a few 
years, the old order at Wheaton Seminary was 
changed by Mrs. Richards's guiding hand, and nat- 
ural science was studied in the light of individual 

Miss Anna George, who at the time of Mrs. Rich- 
ards's death was eighty-six years old and had been 
blind for many years, wrote: "It was during the 
seventies, while I was a teacher in the Brighton 
High School, that it was my great privilege to study 
chemistry with Mrs. Richards. How memory leaps 
over the years as I try to recall her as she then was, 
so alert and enthusiastic and so kind and friendly! 
To her 'life was real, life was earnest,' and how she 
strove to impress upon us the importance of turn- 
ing to good account all the knowledge we gained! 
My experience in teaching chemistry was a very 
happy and successful one, and I am sure this was 
largely owing to the inspiration as well as to the 
excellent qualities of the instruction received from 
my teacher." 

Miss Mary Evans, for many years president of 
Lake Erie College at Painesville, Ohio, says: "The 
connection of Mrs. Richards with Lake Erie College 
began during the early years of the Woman's Labo- 
ratory. I was deeply interested in new opportuni- 
ties in science for women, and the interest was tak- 
ing a practical form, for we were building, in 1876, 
our first addition and were planning space in it for 


a chemical laboratory and a museum. We were en- 
larging all our courses, and in 1878 our teacher of 
chemistry and botany was given leave of absence 
to study at the Institute of Technology. Through 
letters from her we had our first glimpse of 
Mrs. Richards as a woman of broad vision and 
executive ability, and of the home at Jamaica Plain, 
with its cordial welcome to students, its flowers and 
pets and atmosphere of ordered peace, a type and 
prophecy of homes to be influenced hereafter by the 
voice and pen of Mrs. Richards. Later others of 
our teachers studied at the Institute of Technology, 
and our admiration for Mrs. Richards deepened and 
her name became a household word in later years." 

Among the other institutions to which teachers 
went out from the Woman's Laboratory were Welles- 
ley College, Smith College, Pennsylvania College, the 
Framingham Normal School, Bradford Seminary, 
Quincy Mansion School, the Mary A. Burnham 
Classical School, and high schools in Boston and 

The Woman's Laboratory having been established 
and put upon a firm basis so far as standards of 
instruction were concerned, the attention of the stu- 
dents was directed towards women's special problems. 
It was Mrs. Richards's hope that many of them 
would devote themselves to the analysis of foods and 
of cleaning materials. She herself was doing some 
work in this line at the time, the result of which was 


the publication of two small books, "The Chemistry 
of Cooking and Cleaning," and "Food Materials 
and Their Adulterations." In preparing these books, 
Mrs. Richards was so farsighted that although they 
were published in 1881 and 1885, there is after 
thirty years an increasing demand for them in re- 
vised editions. 

It would be unwise, of course, to hazard an opinion 
as to what might have happened if this work in 
household chemistry had been taken up by a large 
number of women and pursued with that enthusiasm 
which Mrs. Richards felt for it at the time. It is 
safe to say, however, that if the work had extended 
as she hoped it would, upward as well as downward 
in the schools, the practice of sophisticating foods 
which has owed its baneful success largely to women's 
ignorance would never have reached its present large 
and wasteful proportions. As a matter of fact, so 
far as knowledge of food materials is concerned, 
women are not far in advance of the position they 
held at the time when Mrs. Richards was making this 
strenuous effort to lead them to do serious scientific 
work upon their own problems. 

With the action of the Institute of Technology 
taken in 1878, by which girls were admitted to 
the Institute on exactly the same footing as boys, 
Mrs. Richards was not in full sympathy. She be- 
lieved that it would be wiser not to admit them until 
the third year. She was overruled, and wisely per- 


haps, but her objections, though based on an en- 
thusiastic overestimate of the demand for scientific 
education, were very characteristic of her attitude 
of mind. 

Her first objection had its root in her fixed belief 
that it was unwise for women to demand special 
privileges. "Military drill is required for the first 
and second years. No one would wish the women to 
drill, and the presence of any favored class in any 
institution is unprofitable." 

Her second objection was based on an apprecia- 
tion of the dangers of intermittent coeducation. 
Then, as now, girls and boys were separated in the 
grammar and high schools of Boston. "7 believe 
most heartily in coeducation from the earliest child- 
hood, but have seen enough to convince me that it 
must be continuous and not have an interregnum 
of the years from seven to fifteen and then begin." 
It is significant that more than thirty years after 
she made this statement, the same arguments were 
brought up in Boston with reference to bringing the 
boys and girls together in the high schools after 
they had been separated in the lower grades. 

"Finally," she said, "and to my mind the most 
fundamental of all, though it grieves me to say it, 
the present state of public opinion among women 
themselves does not give reason to believe that, of 
one hundred young girls of sixteen who might enter 
if the opportunity was offered, ten would carry the 


course through. It is demoralizing to have such re- 
sults in the early stage of scientific education for 
women." Exactly what Mrs. Richards meant by 
"the present state of public opinion" cannot be 
known, but it is probable that she had in mind not 
only the accepted belief that women had little physi- 
cal endurance, but also the fact that unreasonable 
demands upon their time and foolish social conven- 
tions were allowed to interfere with their opportu- 
nity to make systematic preparation for professional 

In 1882, when a new building for the chemical 
laboratory was finally assured, Mrs. Richards wrote 
the following letter, most of which was afterwards 
embodied in a circular: "The question of space in 
the new building for the suitable accommodation of 
women students has been weighing upon my mind for 
the last two or three weeks, and after consultation 
with General Walker, Miss Crocker, Miss Abby May, 
and Miss Florence Gushing, we have made ourselves 
a self-constituted committee to obtain subscriptions 
from women interested in the education of women 
toward a small sum, say eight or ten thousand dol- 
lars, which may be put into the hands of the cor- 
poration, in order that they may feel justified in 
including in the plans suitable toilet rooms in con- 
nection with each of the laboratories and a reception 
room somewhere in the building which shall be for 
their use only. If this can be done, the Institute 


can then say that it is in a condition to receive 

Before the necessary sum of money was raised, 
one of the first and most promising students of the 
Woman's Laboratory, Miss Margaret Cheney, the 
only child of Mrs. Ednah D. Cheney, a great-souled 
woman of Boston, interested in every phase of the 
battle for human freedom, died suddenly. In her 
honor the rest room in the building was named The 
Margaret Cheney Room. Money was contributed by 
many people, but the work of planning the room, 
of selecting its pictures and furnishings, and of 
carrying on the voluminous correspondence which 
always attends cooperative undertakings, fell to 
Mrs. Richards. The Margaret Cheney Room has 
ever since been the center of the life of the women 
students of the Institute of Technology. 

In 1883, the Woman's Laboratory building was 
torn down, and the special service which Mrs. Rich- 
ards did in superintending its work came to an end. 
On July of that year, weary from her overwhelming 
labors, she wrote this pathetic letter: "I feel like a 
woman whose children are all about to be married 
and leave her alone, so that she is to move into a 
smaller house and a new neighborhood. You see it 
is quite a change for me, and though I knew it was 
coming, I cannot at once fit all the corners. My 
work is done and happily done, but the energy will 
have to be used somehow and that is the question. 


The case is this: We women have raised ten thou- 
sand dollars and given to the Institute to make suit- 
able provision for women students in all depart- 
ments. The new building, equal in size nearly to the 
old, is to be ready in October. In that are to be 
the chemical laboratories, the ladies' parlor and read- 
ing room, etc. Our present women's laboratory will 
be torn down and my duties will be gone, as I shall 
not go into the new laboratory. Now I would not 
mind if I was away at the Lake out of it all or if I 
knew where to store my apparatus, but everything is 
so unsettled, owing to the uncertainty, as I do not 
know that I shall have anything to do or anywhere 
to work. Professor Richards is to have a new min- 
ing laboratory and Professor Ordway a new indus- 
trial chemical laboratory and I shall have some sort 
of work between them, but that will not be this 

"Then changes always disturb me. Professor 
Richards's work this summer is on an electrical proc- 
ess and I cannot help him much, and he can't give me 
time to go to drive or to look over the library papers 
and drawers and my day does not seem to amount to 
anything. ... I should be perfectly happy anywhere 
if I could have him with me, for we always harmonize ; 
but to have him charged with electricity so that he 
cannot think of anything else and to have no definite 
plans and heaps of things to do and no life to do 
them is a little hard. . . . Everything seems to fall 


flat and I have a sense of impending fate which is 

Soon afterward Mrs. Richards was given a place 
on the faculty of the Institute of Technology, and 
from that time on she performed, in addition to her 
instructional work, all the duties of Dean of Women, 
although she was never given that title. Nor did she 
ever wish it. She has left on record her belief that 
"a Dean of Women is out of place in a coeducational 
institution." She continued, however, to watch over 
women students in sickness and in health, in their 
work and in their pleasures. She sought financial 
aid for them and opportunities for them to earn 
money; chaperoned their parties, often remaining 
far into the evening after a long day's work, and, 
more often than they suspected, paying all the ex- 
penses of the entertainment; raised money for a 
woman's gymnasium and superintended its construc- 
tion; watched the papers for unfavorable criticism 
of the students and sought every means of bringing 
their work to the attention of the people in helpful 
ways; secured positions for them and advised them 
after they entered upon their professional work. 
She was, in short, as one of them has said, "their 
elder sister and their foster mother." 



WHAT Mrs. Richards did for the education of 
those who were able to go to college or who needed 
only a little encouragement or a little financial as- 
sistance to enable them to do so is but a fraction of 
what she did for women's education. She herself, 
as we know, had remained at home in a small country 
town until she was twenty-five years of age, longing 
for a broader view, hungering and thirsting after 
knowledge. It was not surprising, therefore, consid- 
ering her early experiences and her missionary spirit, 
that when shortly after her marriage she was asked 
to take part in the work of a society for the en- 
couragement of studies at home she gladly accepted 
the opportunity. It may be, too, that the newness 
of the venture and its novelty, at a time when teach- 
ing by correspondence was almost unknown, appealed 
to her adventurous spirit, and offered her an alluring 
chance to pioneer. 

The Society to Encourage Studies at Home, which 
came to be known among busy people as Studies at 
Home, or merely by its initials, S.H., was founded 
in 1873 chiefly through the instrumentality of Miss 



Anna Eliot Ticknor, daughter of the historian, a 
woman to whom much had been given in the way of 
educational advantages and contact with intellectual 
people, and who recognized her own obligations to 
give much to others in return. The headquarters of 
the society were for many years in the Ticknor 
home, a historic building which, though now trans- 
formed into a business block, still stands at 9 Park 
Street, in one of the most conspicuous situations on 
Beacon Hill. 

Papers from an English organization called The 
Society for Encouragement of Home Study fell into 
Miss Ticknor's hands at a time when the intellectual 
needs of isolated women and those who were neces- 
sarily kept much at home were uppermost in her 
mind. She was quick to act, and the result was 
the organization of the American society which for 
twenty-five years proved a source of help and en- 
couragement to thousands of women. Miss Ticknor 
acted as secretary until the time of her death, in 
1896, when the society was discontinued. 

The American society differed from the English 
in not confining its benefits to rich women of leisure. 
In fact, it sought chiefly to help busy women by 
showing them how to make profitable use of the small 
amount of time at their disposal for systematic read- 
ing. Nor did it make the mistake of supposing that 
isolated women are to be found only in rural districts. 
"The craving mind," said Mrs. Richards in one of 


her annual reports, "may be as isolated in a city full 
of all the advantages which it desires as if it were 
far from books, museums, and kindred minds." 

The organizers of the society, ten in number, were 
themselves women of broad education, and they had 
the benefit of advice and assistance from many prom- 
inent educators. When Mrs. Richards associated 
herself with it, therefore, she found it doing thor- 
ough, systematic, scholarly work. This was, how- 
ever, chiefly in the subjects that can most easily be 
taught by correspondence history, language, and 
literature. It was for her to devise a plan for teach- 
ing those subjects that demand laboratory methods. 
The organization of its work in science was her most 
important contribution to the society. In this, as in 
every other line of education, she exhibited a remark- 
able combination of high ideals and standards for 
the work itself and of sympathy with the trials, 
shortcomings, and failures of individual students. 

The beginnings of the Science Section are thus 
described in a memorial volume published after 
Miss Ticknor's death: "In view of the fact that 
in 1873 science was only partially recognized as an 
element in a liberal education, and the laboratory 
method was yet in its infancy, it seems an almost 
prophetic insight which included science in the list 
of topics upon which courses were offered. It is un- 
doubtedly due to the influence of that great teacher, 
Louis Agassiz, that this forward step was taken, and 


it was by his advice, and with his persuasion, that 
the charge of the course was taken for the first two 
years by the woman who was at that time a most 
ardent advocate of the study of science as an ele- 
vating and enriching factor in education. Miss 
Lucretia Crocker had imbibed deeply of the spirit 
of Agassiz's teaching, and from the first adopted 
his watchword, 'Study from specimens, not from 
books.' " 

The Science Department came into Mrs. Rich- 
ards's hands in January, 1876, after Miss Crocker 
had been appointed Supervisor of Schools in Boston, 
and in September of the same year, upon the re- 
organization of the work, she became head of what 
was known as the Science Section. She taught geol- 
ogy, mineralogy, and physical geography, and had 
general supervision of the teaching of botany, geol- 
ogy, and mathematics. 

Books, microscopes and other apparatus, labora- 
tory material minerals and herbariums were sent 
by mail. With these in the students' hands the corre- 
spondence opened. "We aim to unclasp for our 
students the book of nature," Mrs. Richards said 
in one of her annual reports, "and bid them look 
within. We hope to inspire a love for the truths of 
nature, as well as stimulate a search for facts. In 
method, the study of science might be defined as the 
art of asking questions not as the spoiled child 
asks, for the sake of getting answers; and, while 


students are taught to question the things them- 
selves, the teacher always leaves an open door for 
questions on ways of investigating and on the mean- 
ings of observations." 

Into the teaching of science and "the unclasping 
of the book of nature" for others, Mrs. Richards 
seems to have entered with all the enthusiasm with 
which she had entered upon her own studies. The 
great majority of the students in the society were, 
of course, in the sections devoted to the humanities, 
but the science students, though few in number, 
caught their leader's spirit. "I took up this new 
study (mineralogy)," wrote one of them in 1883, 
"because I wanted to know something about it and 
also that I might be one of the enthusiasts in the 
'science corner' at the annual meetings of the soci- 
ety. The enthusiasm of the few in your department 
was so inspiring that I have wanted for two years 
to join the band, and now find leisure to do so." 

"I received the portfolio on Saturday," wrote 
another. "... It has supplied a want I had to see a 
herbarium started." And another, "This year every 
bud was interesting, and I shall hope to continue 
next year." And still another: "What a revelation! 
The horse-chestnut had never been a favorite of 
mine, and now every little twig has a meaning." 

A student who has since made a name for herself 
and contributed much to the solution of problems 
of public health wrote: "The explanations you sent 


me were very clear and just what I wanted, and I 
am very much obliged for them. Indeed I cannot 
tell you how very grateful I feel for this help you 
give me. To take so much interest in a complete 
stranger and to give up so much time and trouble 
to me ! I only hope I shall some day know enough to 
be able to help some girl as you are helping me, for 
that is the only way I could ever pay off my obliga- 
tion to you." 

One woman who, because of the unconventional 
mode of life adopted by her family, was completely 
ostracized during the years of her young woman- 
hood writes: "For a number of years I corresponded 
with her. How could she ever have spared the time ! 
Bless her ! Her correspondence and interest were 
my mainstay through the most difficult years of my 
girlhood and lasted into middle life." 

Another student, a clerk and bookkeeper in a 
general backwoods store, who wrote when she joined 
the society, "It is no use to go on geological trips, 
for there are not any rocks about here (you must 
remember that I live in the woods)," sent on a little 
later twenty specimens, among which were several 
varieties of fossil corals. In her subsequent letters 
she often spoke of "something new" which she had 
found while walking or riding. Still another stu- 
dent found fossils in a marble mantelpiece. Another 
wrote, "I have eyes to see now what I have never 
seen before." 


There was apparently no limit to the help which 
poured from Mrs. Richards's study in Boston to 
struggling, perplexed women. She drew diagrams 
of convenient house plans and of sanitary arrange- 
ments for drainage and plumbing. She helped them 
to plan their dress. "If it is a relief to take your 
clothes off at night," she wrote to one after giving 
specific directions for healthful dressing, "be sure 
that something is wrong. I know of no better rule 
to go by. Clothes should not be a burden. They 
should be a comfort and a protection." And to 
others : 

"As to dress, I find - - a very helpful publi- 

cation. It is much more suitable than most such 
papers, and the letters from Paris give one an idea 
of the general principle of dress often a year before 
they are seen on the street ; and while there are few 
costumes that I should want to wear, yet hints can 
be gleaned which with a little adaptation serve to 
keep one from going so far from the usual way as 
to be remarked. I believe in using materials one likes 
and in keeping one's self comfortable, but it is very 
wise to go unremarked in a crowd." 

"You are quite right to give up a parlor. I think 
it is the mistake of our country people to shut up 
one room for company. You can easily manage 
your dining room to serve as a sitting room, and if 
people come at meal time, well, let them. What 


matter such trifles after all. They won't mind if you 
don't. There is the point do what you think wise 
and stick to it; never mind. If you keep your 
feathers well oiled the water of criticism will run off 
as from a duck's back. Write again, please." 

In addition to help in these specific problems, she 
sent cheer and encouragement. To one who had 
passed through harrowing trials she wrote: "Your 
notes are very good indeed, and even though you 
may feel that they do not represent much work done, 
yet a little is something, and often an occupation of 
the mind helps the body. I know that we cannot 
always overcome physical weakness; indeed, I have 
had experience this winter; but we can avoid many 
troubles by a proper mental condition. I do not 
wonder you are not strong now, and you must re- 
member that when the mind has been strained it 
loses its control of the body, and the way to come 
back is to bring the body into as good a condition 
as possible. A little change is the best thing, but 
with Baby to care for, that is not easy to get. Still, 
if possible, get it after a fashion. Now that spring 
is here, get out of doors." 

To another whose work had been interrupted by 
weeks of illness, and who sent a regretful explanation 
instead of her usual monthly report, she wrote: 
"The Society for Home Study is to encourage, not 
to urge. You must not get discouraged. I often 


think that all the difficulties we encounter only give 
us the more strength if we keep hold of our work, 
and we must not now give up while in the prime of 
life. It is best to keep trying, and by and by the 
opportunity will come. If we have given up, then 
we shall not be ready for it when it does come." 

To others she sent such cheering messages as 
these : 

"I do not see why you should give up. What if 
you get only three afternoons in the month to work ; 
is that not something? If I have an expectation of 
hearing from you once a month, will not that be a 
help? It is only two months more, and it seems 
a pity to quite give up. You know our society is 
for just such people, to give what aid and sympathy 
is required." 

"We never can tell how our lives may work to 
the account of the general good, and we are not wise 
enough to know if we have fulfilled our mission or 
not. How do you know that your unsatisfied long- 
ings may not be so transmuted in your little daugh- 
ter as to make her a pioneer or a leader in some 
great work for the good of mankind? If you had 
had all you wanted, you could not have given her 
the wish, the strength perhaps, to be what she may 
be now. Most heroes and heroines have sprung from 
such homes as yours. I have just been reading 
Besant's 'Inner House,' and I have been especially 


struck with the thought there brought out that all 
progress and even all enjoyment is dependent upon 
the frailty of human life and human desires that 
if we were to have all we want and to live forever, 
all enjoyment would be gone." 

It must be remembered that this work was carried 
on without a stenographer. The mere physical effort 
must have been a severe drain upon her strength, 
but there is no suggestion that explanation or advice 
was ever curtailed to save herself. 

In looking over Mrs. Richards's papers I contin- 
ually found references to people living in regions 
remote from Boston, in Canada and the far West, 
some of them in isolated mountain regions or on 
ranches, and I wondered what had brought them to 
her acquaintance. Many of them proved to be 
friends whom she had made on the trips taken with 
Professor Richards in connection with his engineer- 
ing work, but a surprisingly large number proved 
to be students in Studies at Home. In a majority 
of the cases, the friendships thus started were kept 
up, and Mrs. Richards did much to cement them by 
seeking out her former pupils as she traveled from 
place to place. 

Miss Margaret Sheppard, of Philadelphia, who 
came to be an intimate friend, writes: "For nearly 
eight years it was my privilege to be an instructor 
in the Society for Home Study, with Mrs. Richards 


as my chief. Warmly interested, from its start, in 
the success of the society, it was wonderful how, 
amid her many claims, she made time to put so much 
of herself into its work. The teachers under her 
found her an ever-ready helper, and the student's 
problems she made her own. The Boston girl who 
discovered crinoid stems in the marble mantel de- 
lighted her ; and she was equally interested in the 
woman on a farm who propped her book open to 
study while scrubbing the floor. 

"At that time I had pupils also in a Philadel- 
phia Society for Home Culture which admitted 
young men to its ranks. One of these, a Western 
farmer with unique experiences, strongly attracted 
Mrs. Richards, and frequently when we met she would 
ask, 'How is A No. 1?' Once when I was at a loss 
how to give this youth the instruction in blowpipe 
work which he desired, she generously wrote nearly 
six pages of diagrams and explanations, showing 
where the flame was hottest and how the blowpipe 
could be used to best advantage." 

But the joy that was brought into homes by means 
of the teaching of science or of nature study, if you 
will, was not confined to the older people. In 1881 
a student wrote: "I find the little I have learned a 
great delight to the children, twelve, six, and three 
years of age. The six-year-old boy pores over the 
specimens with the glass, and often insists upon my 
leaving my work to 'come and see this remarkable 
thing God has made.'" 


In many cases the students were " shut-ins. " One 
of these, writing to Mrs. Richards, said: "I am 
grateful for your kind, interesting letter received a 
few days ago. I will try to give you some idea of 
my life as you wish. ... I have been an invalid, con- 
fined to the house a greater part of the time, for nine 
years. I do not go out at all through the winter, 
but am able to go around the yard and fields some 
of the time through the summer." 

As time went on, the same difficulty arose in con- 
nection with the Society to Encourage Studies at 
Home that had arisen in connection with the higher 
education of women. Few were able to do continu- 
ous work, and excuses on the ground of ill health 
came with almost every letter. This troubled every 
one interested in the welfare of the society, and the 
result was the publication of a carefully prepared 
tract on Health, which, though it does not bear 
Mrs. Richards's name, was written by her. Those 
who were connected with the earlier work of the 
society say that this tract, as it left her hands, was 
much more extended and much more plainspoken 
than it was when it finally appeared. While it may 
not, therefore, have been in its completed form all 
that she would have had it, it carried helpful sug- 
gestions and valuable advice to thousands of homes. 
It was sent to every student who was enrolled, and 
had a somewhat extended sale outside of the society. 
It treated not only of the external conditions for 


right living, of fresh air, sunlight, good food, and 
healthful dress, but also, and in a way which was 
much in advance of the times, of certain mental con- 
ditions affecting health, as the following extracts 
show : 

"By nature the nervous organization of women, 
particularly of American women, is more sensitive 
than that of men, and many things in the present 
system of education and of living tend to make it 
still more so. 

"Contrast the lives of schoolgirls and schoolboys 
out of school hours. A boy, not only by his own 
instinct, but by command of those who wish to get 
rid of his restless presence in the house, is out of 
doors every free moment, and usually in active 
motion. A girl, after school is over, is apt to be 
told, 'You must have some exercise, I suppose, so go 
now and take a walk, but do not be gone long; and 
remember you have an hour's practicing to do, and 
then you must work on the trimming for your dress, 
or it will not be finished in time.' The girl naturally 
returns to her lessons with nerves a little more weary 
than when she left them. 

"After school days are over, the girls, whom the 
present system of education, culminating in public 
exhibition and competition, has left to suffer from 
reaction, find no natural connection between their 
school life and the new one on which they enter, and 
are apt to be aimless, if not listless, needing external 


stimulus, and finding it only prepared for them, it 
may be, in some form of social excitement. 

"Schoolgirls, then, need out-of-door life; girls 
after leaving school need intellectual interests, well 
regulated and not encroaching on home duties. 'We 
must suppress the inordinate desire for acquiring 
knowledge from books and schools in infancy and 
childhood, and stimulate those who have passed their 
youth to apply themselves with great vigor to mental 

"There are women in middle life, whose days are 
crowded with practical duties, physical strain, and 
moral responsibility, who need this last injunction; 
for they fail to see that some use of the mind, in 
solid reading or in study, would refresh them by its 
contrast with carking cares, and would prepare 
interest and pleasure for their later years. Such 
women often sink into depression, as their cares fall 
away from them, and many even become insane. 
They are mentally starved to death. 

"There is still an extremely important division of 
the subject to be touched upon," she said toward 
the close. "This is the study and acceptance of 
personal limitations. For want of this grasp of 
one's individual situation, many a life is wasted. By 
a quiet and sensible appreciation of it, man} 7 feeble 
lives and narrow abilities have been made useful, 
some even distinguished. ... A mistaken view of 


duty is also to be guarded against. It is cowardly 
to fly from natural duties and take up those that 
suit our taste or temperament better; but it is also 
unwise to take an exaggerated view of personal 
duties, which shuts out the proper care of the mind 
and body entrusted to us. 

"Lest these remarks sound vague, let us illustrate 
them: A woman, busy with the cares of her family, 
fails to study and to place at their true value her 
duties to her mind as well as to her body and to 
her household. She makes no mental progress as the 
years go on, loses the power of companionship with 
her children, grows discontented and fretful, and 
passes the last years of her life in dull, ignorant 
unhappiness. Had she seen the limitations and laws 
of her physical and mental nature, she would have 
known that it was not selfish to snatch a half-hour 
every day for the refreshment of her mind in a 
botanizing walk, or a quiet time for thinking in the 
open air, or to lock her chamber door while she read 
two or three pages of a good author. . . . 

"In short, if we would be and do all that as a 
rational being we should desire, we must resolve to 
govern ourselves ; we must seek diversity of interests ; 
dread to be without an object and without mental 
occupation; and try to balance work for the body 
and work for the mind." 

In 1886 a new section, Sanitary Science, was 
established in the society. The plan of this course 


was an original idea with Mrs. Richards. It was 
at a time when household conveniences employing 
water, gas, or electricity were becoming general, but 
housekeepers seldom understood what dangers and 
difficulties attended the ignorant use of the new 
arrangements. She saw that instruction was needed, 
and was glad to make the society a means to that end 
and to spread abroad knowledge of the possibilities of 
organizing the house on truly scientific principles. 
The subject at once aroused .great enthusiasm. A 
student wrote that she found it so full of interest 
that she dropped all other studies in order to devote 
herself to Sanitary Science in its most practical 
applications. Another, already at work along these 
lines in her home city, found books recommended by 
her correspondent of greatest help in her study 
groups organized in every ward of her city. Many 
other students became centers from which started 
widening circles of intelligent interest in right living. 
If we were to try to sum up Mrs. Richards's con- 
tributions to the society, we should find included 
not only her work of planning and teaching, and 
her unmeasured and immeasurable acts of kindness 
to individual students, but also wise advice given as 
a member of the Executive Committee in the coun- 
cils of the society. - Here she always insisted on high 
standards of work. "It seems to me," she said to a 
fellow-instructor, "that influence which is exerted 
in so many centers ought to be the best possible. We 


ought to be scientific in our methods, and we ought 
to require scientific execution on the part of students. 
I am now ready to make more strict plans. My stu- 
dents have shown themselves capable of good work, 
work of which I am not ashamed. Shall we not 
endeavor to bring our standards a little higher?"' 

It was through her advice that the work of the 
society was so modified and extended as to make it 
meet the needs of college graduates. In 1883, when 
the recently organized Association of Collegiate 
Alumnae was endeavoring to promote graduate study 
among its members, there were few opportunities for 
such study in the colleges themserves, and Mrs. Rich- 
ards laid before the association a plan for inducing 
alumnse to join the Society for Encouraging Studies 
at Home; to the society itself she proposed certain 
changes in the routine of its work which would adapt 
it better to this purpose. As a result, a Correspond- 
ence University was started in connection with the 
society. This soon passed beyond its usefulness 
because of enlarging opportunities offered by uni- 
versities, but for a time it met a great need. 

At every step in the work, whether it involved a 
change in methods of teaching or the adoption of 
a new text-book, Mrs. Richards consulted the very 
best authorities on the subject in the country. In 
her own work on minerals she was in constant corre- 
spondence with Richard H. Dana, the geologist. No 
opportunity to gain information was ever lost. The 


woman who wrote to her from Germany to know of 
the work of the society received abundant assistance, 
but she must have soon become aware that she had 
entered into correspondence with a woman as eager 
for information as herself, for Mrs. Richards plied 
her with questions concerning the conditions of 
correspondence work in her own country. 

In 1893, when Mrs. Richards had charge of the 
Rumford Kitchen at the World's Fair in Chicago, 
she accepted the added work and responsibility of 
arranging an exhibition of the work of Studies at 
Home. "Your letter came this morning," wrote 
Miss Ticknor on September 5, 1893, "and I look 
with awe at nil your preparations and the work be- 
fore you at Chicago. It is fine that you can accom- 
plish so much and so serenely. The work of S. H. 
goes on well, but we do not feel quite made up and 
shall not until you come back." 

But work and workers always react, one upon the 
other, and as I have studied Mrs. Richards's connec- 
tion with this correspondence work, it has been with 
a growing sense of its important bearing upon her 
own later activities. For many years after she left 
home to attend college, her life was spent chiefly in 
academic institutions and among highly educated 
people. To a certain extent it had tended to shut 
out the problems of the cvery-day life with which the 
great masses of the people were struggling. Her 
teaching by correspondence doubtless served to bring 


before her in very vivid manner the needs of the 
average home. May it not be that in Studies at 
Home lay the foundation of her great work of later 
years ? 



CONVICTION that the world was full of unneces- 
sary sickness, and that men and women were falling 
far short of the joy of living and of doing which 
ought to be theirs, grew upon Mrs. Richards with 
her experiences in the Woman's Laboratory and 
with her insight through correspondence into tho 
home life of America. With the conviction came the 
desire to have a part in removing this deplorable 
handicap. " We must see to that," she once wrote in 
her diary, after recording a grievous social injustice 
which had been brought to her attention. "See to 
it" she did in the matter of preventable disease, for 
from the moment of her own conviction she labored 
unceasingly wherever and with whomsoever she saw 
an opportunity to improve the material conditions 
of living. She came in the course of time to be 
prominently identified with the Home Economics 
movement. But this was only part of the great, ab- 
sorbing interest of her life, which included the bet- 
tering of conditions in the community, in the school, 
and in the factory, as well as in the home. This 
larger and more inclusive interest, though neither 



named nor defined by her until shortly before her 
death, early took full possession of her powers, and 
the last thirty years of her life were given to devel- 
oping the "science of controllable environment," for 
which she coined the name "Euthenics." 

Her preparation for leadership in this work had 
been begun in the careful training that she received 
from her mother in the household arts. This physi- 
cal education she considered an essential element in 
the control of external things, and repeatedly dur- 
ing her later life she attributed the failure of individ- 
uals to reach their highest efficiency to the fact that 
they had not received in early life the necessary 
muscle training. In speaking of college women who, 
when they become housekeepers, expect that tasks 
involving manual dexterity will come easy to them 
because of what they consider their comprehensive 
preparation for life, she said: "The head can save 
the heels only when the heels have had practice 
young and remember without telling what to do at 
the slightest hint. In other words, housework is a 
trade to be prepared for by manual exercise, as 
housekeeping is a profession to be prepared for by 
mental exercise." Again she said in connection with 
an abortive attempt to train educated and intelli- 
gent but inexperienced women as "Household Aids," 
and thus to dignify domestic service, "Intelligence 
did not make up for lack of early muscle training." 

As a result of the great importance which she at- 


tached to the early education of the hand, she be- 
came one of the first advocates of manual training 
in the public schools, and throughout her life she 
was interested, not only in the introduction of such 
work, but in the improvement of its methods and in 
its adjustment to other departments of school work. 
As early as 1881, when the Associated Charities of 
Boston was urging the introduction of manual train- 
ing into the schools, its secretary submitted to her a 
list of questions. These questions and her unequiv- 
ocal and farseeing answers follow : 

Question. When should industrial education begin ? 
Answer. As early as anything is taught. Children 
are always eager to do something. The girl of four 
or five years tries to cut out her dolFs clothes or 
to do anything that she sees done. The boy of the 
same age is always eager for a jackknife and a 
hammer. It would seem as if Nature pointed the 
way in this instinct to use the hands first. It is 
cruelty to children to keep five-year-olds sitting still, 
gazing into vacancy even for one hour at a time. 
We have little idea of the torture we thus inflict. 

Question. With what methods, the "Russian" or 
a more direct plan? Answer. The principle of the 
Russian method, to use whatever will train the hand 
and eye without regard to the product, seems to be 
the only one adapted to children from five to ten 
years of age. No finished product can be expected 
from the little hands, and they should be allowed 


free scope, not scolded and punished because they 
spoil the material. Do not older people learn most 
by their mistakes? Hence the end of first instruc- 
tion should be the child's own improvement regard- 
less of the material used. After these four or five 
years of training, particular branches may well be 
taught. Experience only can answer just when this 
teaching can best begin, for in the first step in 
manual training the work must be subordinate to the 

Question. Might not some of the more purely 
scholastic studies be profitably eliminated in favor 
of eye and hand training? Answer. At first they 
may need to be at least postponed, but it is my firm 
conviction that the industrial training from five to 
ten years of age will so quicken the powers of body 
and mind that the studies now deemed irksome will 
be carried on with great ease and pleasure in con- 
junction with manual exercises. 

Question. Would a supplementary course be de- 
sirable, or should it be a part of the regular course? 
Answer. I believe that it should form an essential 
part of the regular course. This is the view from 
a purely educational standpoint, without consider- 
ing the trouble of moving the present elaborate 
structure of our schools. A supplementary course 
may be the wiser plan to begin; it would be wiser 
than none. 


This earnest plea for the training which enables 
the body to do the bidding of the mind, and which 
tends to bring it under subjection to the will, was 
in line with her steadfast belief that education 
should make man master of his environment. But 
she urged also, and from the very first of her inter- 
est in schools, that scientific education which teaches 
how natural forces may be directed toward chosen 
ends was also essential to the control of material 
things* This conviction had its beginning, no doubt, 
in the instruction which she received at Vassar under 
Professor Farrar. Hardly a week of her college life 
passed when she did not record some interesting 
connection which she had discovered between the 
facts and discoveries of science and the phenomena 
and problems of common life. 

One letter showed that she had discovered why 
fresh bread was indigestible, and another why it is 
possible to beat the whites of eggs into a foam. The 
lectures on air, too, found an appreciative listener. 
"Professor Farrar has been telling us some interest- 
ing and startling facts with reference to air and the 
subject of ventilation. . . . He had a bedroom with 
glass sides about three feet high and wide, in which 
he put six people to bed (six wax tapers at different 
heights), one in a trundle bed near the floor, another 
a little higher, and so on, up to a high bed near 
the ceiling. He shut all the windows to keep out the 
night air. They lived from one-half to one minute. 


Then he opened the windows at the top, as people 
generally do, and they lived only a minute at the 
bottom, though the highest ones lived some time 
longer. Again he shut the top windows and opened 
the bottom; about the same result, only the lower 
one lived longest. With a current of air from top to 
bottom, all lived indefinitely. 

"Consumption is the result of the tight building 
of the present day. We should all die if people could 
succeed as they wish. A fireplace is better than life 
insurance. . . . Dr. Bell, of Boston, found that every 
one of the people in Massachusetts who was over one 
hundred years old was brought up in an open fire- 
place. (When the girls laughed, Professor Farrar 
said he could say so, for the favorite corner of the 
children used to be in the chimney corner, where they 
could study astronomy.)" 

But even more important than this awakened 
interest in the relation of science to practical affairs 
was a realization of the possibility of controlling 
external conditions in a large way and for the benefit 
of all the people. This came a little later through 
the analytical work which she did upon air and food 
for the State Board of Health. The chain was now 
nearly complete; she was almost ready to set forth 
as teacher and preacher. Toward this end the con- 
stant challenge which came to her from friends and 
associates to prove the value of the knowledge which 
she was accumulating may have contributed. About 


two years after she entered the Institute of Tech- 
nology, her old friend and teacher at Westford 
Academy, Mr. Addison Smith, wrote: "I suppose 
you are at work in the dirt yet" (referring doubt- 
less to her mineralogical work). "You will turn out 
a professor of dust and ashes, I presume, and be 
glad some time to accept an offer to keep some old 
widower's premises clean with the aid of a broom, 
dustpan, mop, etc. Then you can analyze the 
contents of the dustpan and be able to solve some 
problem in the chemistry of cuisine." The follow- 
ing year he wrote: "Haven't you nearly learned 
out? Can you analyze a loaf of bread yet? I bet 
you can't make a good loaf." Of course the joke 
was the other way, for she was an efficient house- 
keeper as well as a chemist, and the only effect on 
her of these pleasantries was to make her search 
more deeply for the connection between the facts 
of science and the needs of life. 

The time had, in fact, come when neither more 
knowledge nor a clearer understanding of conditions 
was necessary to her preparation for leadership, but 
a motive strong enough to compel her to formulate 
her own ideas and plans. This came in the winter 
of 1879, when Maria Mitchell invited her to give 
an address before the women of Poughkeepsie on 
"Chemistry in Relation to Household Economy." 
The address was delivered before three hundred 
women in March of that year, and so successfully 


that Maria Mitchell used often to say, "I discov- 
ered Mrs. Richards." The following is the sub- 
stance of this lecture, which though given more 
than thirty years ago might have been acceptably 
given yesterday: 

"It may interest some of your number, those who 
like to follow out the evolution of thought, to know 
how and why this idea of the application of science 
in general, and chemistry in particular, came to take 
so strong a hold upon my mind. You will see that, 
as is often the case, it was partly due to contrari- 
ness. We often overlook the bearing of our work 
until some one who does not believe in it shows us 
how much we might do. One day some one said to 
me, 'What good do you expect this will do in the 
kitchen?' I have never succeeded in banishing the 
ring of that question from my ears. Indeed, it has 
been repeated in other forms so many times since 
that I have had little opportunity to forget. 

"A few weeks since, the door of the laboratory 
opened to admit two women a little past middle life, 
though not old. They came in with wondering looks, 
as they saw several young women at work in the 
room. ... I attempted to satisfy their curiosity by 
speaking of those who studied chemistry for the 
purpose of knowing something of its principles and 
applications. They did not seem to understand this 
motive, and I proceeded to tell them of the teachers 
who were now required to teach science and who 


must learn laboratory work in order to secure better 
salaries. This fact appealed to them somewhat, but 
one immediately asked, 'What good is it going to do 
for domestic women?' To this question, which doubt- 
less comes first to many when the subject of scientific 
teaching for girls is discussed, 'What good will it 
do for domestic women?' I shall try to suggest an 
answer, at least in part. 

"Now it is often stated that our educational sys- 
tem unfits the girls for their work in life, which is 
largely that of housekeepers. It cannot be the 
knowledge which unfits them. One can never know 
too much of things which one is to handle. Can a 
railroad engineer know too much about the parts 
of his engine? Can the cotton manufacturer know 
too much about cotton fiber? Can a cook know too 
much about the composition and nutritive value of 
the meats and vegetables which she uses? Can a 
housekeeper know too much of the effect of fresh air 
on the human system, of the danger of sewer gas, 
of foul water? 

"It cannot be the knowledge of things which unfits 
the youth to handle the things themselves. It must 
be that some sort of false logic has crept into our 
schools, for the people whom I have seen doing house- 
work or cooking know nothing of botany or chemis- 
try, and the people who know botany and chemistry 
do not cook or sweep. The conclusion seems to be, 
if one knows chemistry she must not cook or do 


"If we look narrowly at the teaching of botany 
and chemistry and the other so-called natural sci- 
ences in most of our public schools, we may wonder 
less that this reasoning has gained a foothold. 
(Then follows an arraignment of the schools for not 
teaching the application of the sciences.) 

"Scientific facts are taught, to be sure, but in just 
the same way and often by the same teachers as 
historical facts are taught. Girls, and boys too, may 
learn that there is such a thing as a soluble oxalate 
of iron, without learning that because ink contains 
iron, oxalic acid will therefore form a soluble com- 
pound with ink stains. The trouble lies in the lack 
of actual knowledge of things, and the attempt to 
supply this lack by certain theoretical ideas which 
have no more relation to every-day life than the wars 
of the Crusaders now have. 

"Girls may learn that rice is a carbohydrate, and 
that peas and beans are not only carbohydrates but 
also albuminoids, without learning the connection of 
these facts with every-day life. The best authorities 
who have studied the nutritive value of various foods 
state that a strong working man requires, per day, 
420 grams of carbohydrates to keep up the animal 
heat and 120 grams of albuminoids to repair the 
waste of tissue. Two pounds of peas or beans will 
much more than furnish these constituents at a cost 
of about ten cents at ordinary prices. Six or seven 
eggs and one pound of rice will come near furnish- 


ing both, but at an average cost of fourteen cents 
to twenty-one cents. Three-quarters of a pound of 
cheese will give the albuminoids at a cost of, say 
eighteen cents. Four pounds of potatoes will give 
the starch, but twenty-five pounds of potatoes will 
be required for the albuminoids. Hence potatoes are 
very insufficient for nutrition and also very costly, 
from twenty-five to fifty cents' worth giving only the 
value of ten cents' worth of beans. Is this sort of 
science of no value to the girl who is to be a house- 
keeper? Does it not aid in impressing on her mind 
all the other more abstract truths? The true value 
of science teaching, the knowing for certainty, the 
investigation for one's self, in contrast to mere belief 
or blind acceptance of statements, is missed in much 
popular teaching. 

^"We must awaken a spirit of investigation in our 
girls, as it is often awakened in our boys, but al- 
ways, I think, in spite of the school training. We 
must show to the girls who are studying science in 
our schools that it has a very close relation to our 
every-day life. We must train them by it to judge 
for themselves, and not to do everything just as their 
grandmothers did, just because their grandmothers 

did it 

, . "But you are asking, what has all this to do with 
domestic economy? Everything, I answer, because 
if you train the young housekeeper to think, to 
reason, from the known facts to the unknown results, 


she will not only make a better housekeeper, but she 
will be a more contented one; she will find a field 
wide enough for all her abilities and a field almost 
unoccupied. The zest of intelligent experiment will 
add a great charm to the otherwise monotonous 
duties of housekeeping. 

"So much for the educational side of the question. 
We must now consider the field itself. You will at 
once call to mind the great advance in the few years 
past in all mechanical devices which render travel 
comfortable, communication easy and rapid ; also the 
great advance in metallurgy, which has given us 
Bessemer iron or steel, and rendered much possible 
that before seemed impossible. Chemistry has given 
us new fabrics, new dyes, and has been the right 
hand of metallurgy. 

"We must say that of the improvements that 
affect our daily life, the most result from the appli- 
cations of mechanics and chemistry. Now let us 
consider how much these have contributed to house- 
hold economy. We have our carpet sweepers, knife 
scourers, clothes wringers, too often, alas, rendered 
almost useless by the ignorance of those into whose 
hands we put them; we have sewing machines and 
their accessories. 

"Where are the fruits of chemical science? In 
self-raising flour, in bread powders, in washing 
powders, in glove cleaners, and in a hundred patent 
nostrums ; but where are the substantial advantages 


commensurate with the improvements in manufac- 
turing establishments and metallurgical works? Is 
housekeeping any easier, any more scientific, than 
it was thirty years ago? Our cooking is proverbially 
bad. The ventilation and drainage of many of our 
houses could not well be worse. Why is it? Why 
do not our housekeepers keep pace with our machine 
shops? Why do we notice such a pleasant contrast 
when we enter the wards of a well-ordered hospital? 
Why has not the knowledge of sanitary laws filtered 
down through the community as rapidly as the knowl- 
edge of mechanical laws ? Go where you will into the 
country and you will find the sewing machine uni- 
versal, but alas! just as poor bread, just as much 
fried pork, just the same open sink drain under the 
kitchen window, just the same damp, dark cellar, 
just as much fear of fresh air, as you would have 
found thirty years ago. And in the cities, how much 
better is it ; rather, how much worse? The architects 
have learned to build houses with fewer cracks to 
let in air, with furnaces and no open fires, with a 
sort of plumbing system peculiarly sensitive to use. 

"If, then, we grant, as we must, that chemical 
and sanitary science has not borne its due fruits 
in household economy, we must also grant that it 
must be because women have not, as yet, availed 
themselves of its possibilities. 

"There is no place into which chemistry might 
not be profitably introduced. Let us consider in 


what respects there is an opening for improvement. 
Three reasons occur to me why science should be 
brought into household affairs. 1st. It would bene- 
fit health. 2d. It would save labor and the wear of 
material. 3d. It would show us how to obtain the 
most for our money of the staple articles of daily 

"In the first case, a few r words will suffice. The 
housekeeper is the one person who visits all parts 
of the house daily. She alone is in a position to 
detect the first trace of the escape of sewer gas, 
to notice the neglected corner of the cellar, to test 
the cream of tartar if the biscuits come to the table 
yellow and alkaline, and she should know enough of 
science to do all this and more. 

"In the second case, the saving of labor and wear 
of material. The management of washing is the 
best illustration. If we go into any grocery and 
ask for a cleaning soap or washing powder, an array 
of perhaps a dozen different kinds is spread before 
us, each kind claiming perfection. The cleaning soap 
may be eighty per cent firie sand pressed into a cake 
with sal-soda (washing soda). The washing powders 
are either crude soda with sometimes a pinch of 
borax, or a mixture of hard soap and washing soda. 
Some of the latter articles are very white hard soap 
with the soda, and are really very nice. But if the 
laundress reads the label of her washing powder and 
finds on it an emphasized caution against the use 


of sal-soda, as it injures the clothing, she naturally 
concludes that this powder is innocent of any such 
harmful property. Hence she uses it with unsparing 
hand, to the detriment of her washing. 

"The third case, that of economy, will be most 
readily appreciated. If the housekeeper knows that 
she is paying twelve or fourteen cents a pound for 
brown soap and sal-soda, when she might purchase 
the same things for four or five cents, will she go 
on paying double price, rather than take a little 
pains to instruct her servants in the use and abuse 
of sal-soda? 

"Perhaps the day will come when an association 
of housekeepers will be formed in each large town 
or city, with one of their number as a chemist. Some 
similar arrangement would be far more effective in 
checking adulteration than a dozen acts passed by 

"The power of chemical knowledge is appreciated 
by manufacturers. They take advantage of every 
new step in science. The housekeeper must know 
something of chemistry in self-defense. If the dealer 
knows that his articles are subjected to even the 
simple tests possible to every woman at the head of 
her house, he would be far more careful to secure 
the best articles. Then the housekeeper should know 
when to be frightened. 

"What an economy it would be if we could have 
our houses built and our utensils made on scientific 


principles. If women in general understood mechan- 
ical and physical laws, would they long endure the 
present style of architecture found even in the 
suburbs of Boston, which requires the coal to be 
shoveled down cellar only for the servants to bring 
up again to the kitchen range, and necessitates the 
carrying of the ashes down, only for somebody to 
bring up again? Other examples will occur to you, 
of ways in which labor is wasted about a house in a 
manner which would ruin any business or workshop. 
No wonder that living is so expensive. Men do not 
often think about these things, and it is for women 
to institute reforms. 

"If, then, science introduced into our houses will 
enable us to live comfortably, if it will enable us to 
save in the wear and tear of furniture, to avoid great 
outlay of time or money in the repair of inevitable 
damages, to save cost on the various materials of 
daily use, the sum of these savings will be an amount 
worth considering in household economy, to say 
nothing of the improvement in the comfort and 
temper of both mistress and maids. 

"The first question that will occur to any one 
will be, how can all this saving be accomplished? 
My answer is the proverbial Yankee one, another 
question. How have the many economies in the 
machine shops and metallurgical works been accom- 
plished? I think the answer to the last question will 
be: first, by the introduction of systematic manage- 


ment of every detail ; second, by the employment of 
skilled labor. 

"An English writer recently made the statement 
that the chief reason why the American inventions 
were coming upon the world with such startling 
rapidity and perfection was that a better class of 
workmen are at co'mmand here. If American men 
have been able by their perseverance, energy, and 
ingenuity to outstrip the world in the management 
of their shops, shall American women be less success- 
ful in the management of their houses? 

"It is not an easy task that we have before us. 
We have been making great improvements in our 
front halls, drawing rooms, and dining rooms within 
the past few years, but we have not yet invaded the 
kitchen and pantry. We must have the careful sys- 
tem and the skilled labor of the shop in our kitchens 
before we can have the beneficial results which the 
shops produce. 

"So long as we are content with ignorance in our 
kitchens, so long we shall have ignorance; but when 
we follow in the footsteps of our brothers and de- 
mand knowledge, because we know the value of knowl- 
edge, then we shall succeed in obtaining skilled labor 
as they have succeeded; and let it not be said that 
American women have less energy and perseverance 
in their department than American men have shown 
in their business." 

This was the first of hundreds, I might almost say 


thousands, of lectures that Mrs. Richards gave dur- 
ing the remaining years of her life. It has special 
significance for this reason, and also because it shows 
how clearly she foresaw, back in the year 1879, the 
dangers that were to arise from the adulterations 
of food. 

Mrs. Richards was firmly convinced, and even 
more firmly as time went on, that if women were 
finally to get control over the conditions of their 
own lives, a beginning must be made in childhood. 
She interested herself actively, therefore, in the in- 
troduction of science instruction in the public schools 
of Boston. The opportunity to do this came through 
an acquaintance which she formed in the course of the 
Studies at Home work with Miss Lucretia Crocker. 
Miss Crocker was one of the first women to be elected 
a member of the Boston School Committee. She was 
elected in 1875, but soon afterward resigned to be- 
come Supervisor of Schools. As we have seen, she 
was a friend of Agassiz's and an enthusiast for the 
introduction of Nature Study in the schools. This 
enthusiasm Mrs. Richards came to share. At a time 
when she had a comparatively large amount of 
leisure, just before she was appointed instructor 
in Sanitary Chemistry, she made an experiment in 
teaching mineralogy to public school children. In 
this she cooperated closely with Miss Crocker. 
Mrs. Richards prepared the material and got to- 
gether the apparatus, while Miss Crocker made 


suggestions from her pedagogical experience as to 
methods of presentation. In 1884, Mrs. Richards 
wrote a small pamphlet called "First Lessons in 
Minerals," which was published by the Boston 
Natural History Society as a companion volume to 
similar treatises on plants and animals. 

During the time when Mrs. Richards was teaching 
mineralogy, she made the interesting experiment of 
giving the same set of lessons to public school chil- 
dren and to a class of undergraduates at Harvard. 
The results were rather surprising, though probably 
not so much so to her as to others. The children 
trusted to their own observation instead of turning 
to books for their conclusions, and were able much 
sooner than the older pupils to identify and classify 

In speaking before the Woman's Education Asso- 
ciation about the value of scientific work for young 
pupils, she said, "If the only object is to make the 
child quick to observe, sure to remember, keen in 
reasoning, send him into the streets as a bootblack 
or a newsboy ; but if we consider the moral effect as 
well, we shall choose the classroom. 

"But we do not wish to make a dull, sullen boy 
where the streets would have made a wide-awake 
business man. When we think of the fascination of 
the city thoroughfare, the motion, the noise, the 
amusing incidents, we do not wonder that the bright 
boy chafes at being cooped up in a close room and 


made to do sums or to learn the names of the cities 
of Europe while the sunshiny hours are passing. 

"The unwilling mind is not a teachable mind. 
Tasks are always irksome. How can the schoolroom 
be made as fascinating as the street and at the same 
time teach its moral lessons ? If a guest in the family 
attempts to amuse the child with his watch, he does 
not say, 'I have a curious round object in my pocket 
with wheels inside/ etc., but he shows it and explains 
it as a text for what else he says. 

"So, in school, the child should have some pegs 
driven into the wall of memory upon which he may 
hang a line of objects more or less distinctly com- 
prehended, but which the association of ideas will 
bring out years after. Now some of us believe that 
the introduction into the schoolroom of natural 
objects, flowers, minerals, shells, stuffed birds, dried 
insects, fibers, etc., furnish these pegs upon which 
the facts of geography and history and the exercises 
in speaking and writing English may be advanta- 
geously hung. We believe that the time gained in 
the readiness of comprehension and clearness of ideas 
will more than compensate for the time taken in 
observing, and also that the child's innate curiosity 
will be wisely directed and his reading influenced." 

To the development of the course in mineralogy, 
and also to the Teachers' School of Science con- 
ducted by the Boston Natural History Society, 
Mrs. Richards gave much time in the early eighties. 


In 1885 came the opportunity to combine sci- 
ence with manual training. In this year two school 
kitchens were established in Boston, one by Mrs. 
Quincy Shaw at North Bennet Street School, and 
another by Mrs. Mary Hemenway at the Tennyson 
Street School. Two years later the latter was taken 
over by the School Committee, and became Boston 
School Kitchen No. 1, while the former remained an 
experiment station for working out new ideas in 
practical education. Mrs. Richards's hope for this 
kind of teaching was that it would hold its immedi- 
ately practical value and at the same time gradually 
be transformed in a systematic course of training in 
applied science. Toward this end she worked and 

In a monograph entitled, "Domestic Economy in 
Public Education," published- in 1889 by the New 
York College for the Training of Teachers, she 
wrote : 

"While sympathizing heartily in the work of the 
cooking schools so successfully established, the writer 
fears lest they come to be considered an end instead 
of a means, as has been the case in schools of car- 
pentry. In a word, they should 'not teach how to 
make a living, but how to live.' To do this effec- 
tually, the foundation should be broadened. Just as 
the course in carpentering has developed into the 
manual training school, so should the eminently 
successful cooking school develop into a course in 


domestic economy. All the work of the schools 
should be in harmony, and the cooking should no 
longer be considered an outside affair, an interloper, 
a crowder-out of more important studies, but all the 
teachers should cooperate to make most effective the 
practical lessons." Significant words, considering 
they were spoken at a time when the world recog- 
nized only the immediate practical utility of courses 
in cooking, and not their broad educational value. 

She was keenly appreciative of the difficulties 
under which the pioneer teachers of these subjects 
labored, and it was apparently in recognition of 
the very meager literature available for them that 
she published in 1885 her book, "Food Materials 
and Their Adulterations," which brought together 
the results of the work that had been done in the 
Woman's Laboratory. When Mrs. Hemenway, in 
1888, started a Normal School of Household Arts, 
she gave the lectures on Food and Nutrition. 

After Miss Crocker's death, in 1885, a strong 
effort was made to induce Mrs. Richards to leave 
her position in the Institute and become Supervisor 
of Schools. In a letter written about this time, she 
said: "I have been a little worried by an attempt 
to make me think it was my duty to accept the nomi- 
nation to fill the vacancy made by Miss Crocker's 
death, on the Board of Supervisors in the Boston 
Schools. A political place with no power, only in- 
fluence, is not to my taste." She preferred to remain 


outside the public school organization, free to give 
help and encouragement at every point, pressing 
workers into the service, giving them faith in their 
own powers, and holding before them high ideals. 
How significant she considered this work in the pub- 
lic schools is shown by a letter written to a young 
woman who was considering a position to teach 
cooking : 

"We are trying to make real homes for the chil- 
dren of our land. We are trying to stem the tide 
of intemperance by giving good food; we are try- 
ing to save the resources of our country by showing 
how cheap food may be good food. We are right 
on the threshhold of this work. The children are 
ready ; the public is ready with support ; we are wait- 
ing for a true philanthropic teacher to work out the 
best way of making it available to girls of our land. 
To me the question appeals so much tVat I am ready 
to make any sacrifice for it." 



WHEN Mrs. Richards was graduated from Vassar, 
in 1870, college women were too few and too widely 
separated to have a collective influence in any com- 
munity ; but as women's colleges multiplied and as 
the size of their classes increased, the graduates 
grew in number and began to feel their class power. 
Then came the thought of increasing their influence 
through organization. The first associations of col- 
lege women brought together the graduates of one 
college only. In 1871 Vassar women united them- 
selves into the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College, 
and four years later a Boston branch of this society 
was formed. 

"We had a breath of Vassar in the holidays," 
Mrs. Richards wrote in January, 1876; "twenty 
old graduates met and founded the Boston Alumnae 
Association. The main object was to awaken an 
active interest in Vassar's present state and to start 
scholarship funds so that poor but bright girls could 
be sure of an education." 

To tell the story of what Mrs. Richards did 
through this organization for the girls of Vassar 



would be to repeat the story of what she did for the 
girls of the Institute of Technology. Her work was 
of course less direct and personal, because she was 
separated from them by distance, but it was based 
on the same broad comprehension of their needs. To 
provide them with scholarships, to protect their 
health, to broaden their opportunities, to shield them 
from undesirable publicity, and to bring them into 
public notice in helpful ways was her untiring en- 
deavor. She " always had time for Vassar." 

Her hope for Vassar students, as well as for other 
educated women, is expressed in a paper of hers, 
entitled "The College Woman in 1950": 

"This young woman will have an understanding 
of the main forces which are man's servants, not 
because she is in college, but because she learned 
them in the elementary schools, in the fitting schools, 
all through her preparatory courses; for by that 
time it will be essential that every child shall know 
the world he lives in, whether he knows anything else 
or not. 

"This young woman will not run at the sight of 
a cow, scream at the sound of a mouse, or get off 
an electric car backward (it may be that the cars 
will pass each other the other way by that time). 
She will have learned to carry bundles on her right 

"Instead of mental gymnastics practiced for the 
sake of showing mere prowess, there will be a posi- 


tive power of control of mind to do what is demanded 
of it, but more noticeable will be the perfect control 
of the body and the perfect poise of the health. The 
college woman of 1950 will join with Maria Mitchell 
in being ashamed to be ill ; it will be a mark of low 
intelligence in those days. 

"I do not think she will 'do her own sewing,' as 
was the vogue in 1870, or even her own mending. 
She will know plenty of persons who can do it for a 
consideration and her time will bring more money. 
She may be her own milliner, for in that day more 
attention will be paid to shape of bonnets and ar- 
rangement of ribbons and shades of color especially 
suited to the wearer and to the rest of the dress. 
So also the small details of the toilette will be more 
expressive of the individual, and therefore the indi- 
vidual must give thought to them. 

"The well-educated young woman of 1950 will 
blend art and science in a way we do not dream of; 
the science will steady the art and the art will give 
charm to science. 

"This young woman will marry yes, indeed, 
but she will take her pick of the men, who will by 
that time have begun to realize what sort of men it 
behooves them to be. 

"Each will be a center the pin of a concretion 
around which will grow all society. She will not 
have need to resort to subterfuge before her boys. 
A sense of power is the most intoxicating stimulant 


a mortal can enjoy; power over other powerful 
forces, over other persons ; and power used for the 
general good brings its own reward in satisfaction 
as well as pleasure not always the same thing. 

"Freedom to live out her life will bring with it a 
new zest in life, a new wish to make it of service. 
Instead of the vain kicking against the pricks (and 
how vain and how prickly some of us could tell, with 
the sense of the utter senselessness of it) there will 
come a radiance which will transform the face and 
ennoble the expression. 

"Her share of the work will be well done, care- 
fully done, but she will not be a slave to circum- 
stances. A worse slavery than the world knows em- 
bitters the lives of thousands of women today, and 
they never let it be guessed because they see no way 
out, and they take all kinds of petty ways to revenge 

"She will be so fair to look upon, so gentle and 
so quiet in her ways, that you will not dream that 
she is of the same race as the old rebels against the 
existing order, who, with suspicion in our eyes and 
tension in our hearts, if not in our fists, confront 
you now with the question, 'What are you going to 
do about it?'" 

In June, 1894, Mrs. Richards was chosen alumna 
trustee of Vassar College. At the time when she 
came upon the board the question of sewage disposal 
was pressing. The custom had been to throw all the 


sewage, with little previous treatment, into Casper- 
kill Creek at a point about six miles from the Hud- 
son River. But as time went on the authorities of 
Poughkeepsie objected to this method of disposal, 
and the project of building a sewer to the Hudson 
River was considered, at a cost which was variously 
estimated at from $37,000 to $50,000. While this 
matter was under consideration in the trustees' 
meeting, Mrs. Richards, being a new member, sat 
silent. Finally, when her opinion was asked, she said 
that it had always seemed to her that educational 
institutions should lead and not follow in the matter 
of sanitation, and that for Vassar College to dispose 
of its sewage by allowing it to flow into the Hudson 
would be mediaeval. When asked to suggest an alter- 
native she outlined fully and from intimate knowl- 
edge of the newest and most reliable methods a plan 
for a sewage disposal plant. This plant was later 
installed at a cost of $7,500. But economy was the 
least advantage that Mrs. Richards saw in the plan ; 
to her it was an opportunity to make an experiment 
of great value to the world, and she believed this to 
be the business of every institution of advanced learn- 
ing. In order to help the project along, she herself 
gave her professional services for many years, ana- 
lyzing the drinking water of the college frequently 
in order to make sure that it was not being contami- 
nated. She was proud to have a part as a graduate 
in what she believed to be a contribution of her col- 
lege to public health. 


It was not until 1882 that graduates of different 
colleges were brought together into one organization. 
That year saw the founding of the Association of 
Collegiate Alumnse. Strangely enough, the idea of 
this organization, whose membership consists exclu- 
sively of college women, was conceived in the mind 
cf a woman who had not been to college. This far- 
sighted woman, Mrs. Emily Talbot, of Boston, was 
the mother of two daughters, one of whom, now Dean 
Marion Talbot of the University of Chicago, had 
just graduated from Boston University, while the 
other "was soon to follow out into the social world 
handicapped by that strange, new thing, a college 
education." As Mrs. Talbot looked forward into 
the future, she saw "an ideal organization of college 
women for practical educational work, a body ready 
to lend aid, counsel, and encouragement to all who 
desire to fit themselves by sound education for the 
duties of life," and she wanted to give her daughters 
to the work of founding such a society. 

Of course she consulted Mrs. Richards ; every one 
did in educational matters. Mrs. Richards seems to 
have hesitated at first. Perhaps this was because the 
plan of work was not definitely outlined, for she 
always feared to set in motion the time-consuming 
machinery of organization except for big purposes. 
She was willing to make the experiment, however, 
and she cooperated with Miss Talbot in issuing a 
call for an informal meeting. This meeting, which 


was held on November 28, 1881, brought together 
seventeen women from eight different colleges and 

A letter written by Mrs. Richards on January 4 
says: "We are starting a new project here which 
you will be pleased to hear about. It is a general 
association of college graduates. We got together 
at a caucus on short notice, graduates of seven or 
eight colleges. We are to have a meeting for organ- 
izing January 14. I do not know what good will 
come of it, but Mrs. Talbot, of Boston (the one who 
engineered the Girls' Latin School through) sug- 
gested the idea, and as we see no objection and some 
possible advantages, we are going into it. We shall 
be a sort of a bureau of information, at any rate." 

On January 14 the Association of Collegiate 
Alumnae was organized, at a meeting over which 
Mrs. Richards presided. Efforts made to reach all 
the graduates in New England and New York of 
the eight colleges which had been represented at the 
first conference Oberlin, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, 
Michigan, Wisconsin, Cornell, and Boston resulted 
in bringing together only sixty-five people. 

Of Mrs. Talbot's influence on the association, 
Mrs. Richards said long afterwards: "The fact that 
the organization was successful from the start was 
due to the counsels of one who had had much experi- 
ence in other organizations and in working by men's 
methods, for from the first it has been characterized 


by cool deliberation and has been free, we flatter our- 
selves, from feminine fads. To have a right start in 
life is a great advantage, and our godmother saw 
to that. She gave us our watchword Work, and 
practical work. We were not to meet for amusement 
nor to pass an idle hour. She impressed upon us 
that where much is given much shall be required. 
She called us to service in the cause of all educa- 
tion for the state and for the better life of the 

The plan of the association has always been to 
accept for membership only the graduates of certain 
approved colleges of high standing. To the original 
eight, four were added during the first year. These 
were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
Wesleyan University at Middletown, Syracuse, the 
University of Kansas. During Mrs. Richards's life, 
Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, Northwestern, 
Leland Stanford, Western Reserve, and the Univer- 
sities of California, Illinois, Chicago, Minnesota, 
Missouri, and Nebraska were added, and the individ- 
ual membership increased to fifty-two hundred. 

The general organization has been chiefly con- 
cerned with raising the standard of scholarship in 
colleges admitting women and with providing fellow- 
ships for advanced study in this country and abroad. 
The branches which have been formed in forty-seven 
cities and towns, East and West, have been interested 
chiefly in local educational problems. From the first 


Mrs. Richards was active in the work of the general 
association and in the Boston branch, and was wel- 
comed as a speaker at the conventions and at the 
meetings of the various branches. 

Dean Talbot, who, as we have seen, was with 
Mrs. Richards from the first in this work, says: "It 
was characteristic of her that after the association 
was successfully started she should decline to accept 
conspicuous official positions and should serve rather 
as a 'high private' wherever opportunity offered or 
duty called. She was, however, a director during the 
first year and vice-president in 1886 and 1890. As 
first vice-president she was in charge of the first 
meeting held west of New York State." 

The records of the association show that the first 
subject considered was the health of college students. 
Mrs. Richards was in part responsible for the first 
circular issued, which presented very clearly the low 
standards of the colleges in regard to physical edu- 
cation, and made a very strong plea for greater 
attention to the physical basis of college students' 
life. Later she prepared a leaflet, "Health in Pre- 
paratory Schools," with blanks to be filled by teach- 
ers and parents. These were widely distributed by 
the association, and although no statistics were com- 
piled from the returns, there is much evidence that 
the pamphlet proved useful by suggesting lines of 
investigation which might be entered upon and 
improvements which might be introduced into the 


Soon after the organization, the need of oppor- 
tunities for graduate study became apparent. Here 
again for many years Mrs. Richards was a constant 
source of inspiration. She proposed and outlined a 
circular on graduate study, and served several years 
as chairman of the committee. She was a member 
of the council to accredit women for advanced 
work in foreign universities and of the committee on 
a national university. 

Mrs. Richards's first paper before the association 
was read in 1890, its subject being, "The Relation 
of College Women to Progress in Domestic Science." 
In this paper she said: 

"The college-bred woman is a comparatively mod- 
ern product. Twenty years ago one could almost 
count on one's fingers the women who were so edu- 
cated and who were old enough to impress their 
individualities on any community. It is only just 
now, when there are two thousand or more mature 
women who have known what a college training is in 
their own experience, that we can begin to talk ot 
their influence or lay out work for them as a class. 
As individuals, they find their own work ; but in some 
respects it seems to me that they have obligations 
laid upon them as a reward or penalty for their 
position as pioneers, as the most observed class of 
the present day. We have been treated for some 
years to discussions from eminent men as to our 
mental ability, our moral and physical status, our 


predilection for matrimony, our fitness for voting 
or for the Presidency; but the kind of a home we 
should make if we did make one, the position we 
should take on the servant question, the influence 
we should have on the center and source of political 
economy, the kitchen, seem to have been ignored." 

From this beginning she went on to advocate the 
thorough study of domestic economy in all our col- 
leges for women, summarizing her arguments in this 
way: "First, and, from an educational point of view, 
foremost, to broaden the ideas of life with which the 
young woman leaves college, to bring her in touch 
with the great problems which press more closely 
each year. 

"Second, to secure a solid basis for improvement. 
Those of us who have had a hand in reforms know 
how much work is wasted for want of knowing what 
has already been done." 

In October, 1911, at the first annual meeting to 
be held after Mrs. Richards's death, the association 
seriously considered the subject which she had pre- 
sented to it twenty-one years before. 

One of the most delicate and difficult tasks of the 
association has been to extend the corporate mem- 
bership without injustice to individual colleges, on 
the one hand, and without, on the other hand, lower- 
ing the standards set by the association for the very 
purpose of giving the weaker institutions an incen- 
tive to strengthen their courses. In the task of 


selection, Mrs. Richards's intimate knowledge of col- 
leges and universities in all parts of the country came 
to be of great service. When she advised the accept- 
ance or the rejection of an institution, the informa- 
tion which she gave the special committees was not 
second-hand, but was based upon intimate personal 
knowledge of existing conditions. The president of 
one of these debated colleges wrote to an officer 
of the association: "The one who knows most about 
us has been our strongest supporter. Mrs. Ellen H. 
Richards has been here, and she is our friend." 

Her interest, too, in educational institutions of 
all types and her understanding of the value of the 
work done by the smaller colleges, even those which 
were not of such grade as to permit of membership 
in the association, made it possible for her to make 
an adverse decision the opportunity for coopera- 
tion and helpfulness. The president of one of these 
smaller colleges says : 

"I remember a characteristic interview in Mrs. 
Richards's study at the Institute on a day of steam- 
ing heat at the beginning of our summer vacation 
in 1889. We were both tired and I was in perplex- 
ity at the attitude of the Association of Collegiate 
Alumnae toward our college. Mrs. Richards stood 
firm by the definition of a college as laid down by 
the association, while I contended for a much more 
generous interpretation, knowing, as I did, how all 
the germs of development in arts and sciences had 


existed in such institutions as mine, even before the 
foundations of some of the colleges in the association 
were laid. It is pleasant to remember how then and 
always we have been able to sink our differences in 
our desire to serve the general good. She became 
one of the most helpful friends our college has ever 

Mrs. Richards's last work for the general Asso- 
ciation of Collegiate Alumnae was in connection with 
a committee on Euthenics, whose work was barely 
outlined at the time of her death. The intention of 
the association had been to form a committee on 
Eugenics, or the science of human improvement 
by better breeding; but because of Mrs. Richards's 
urgent pleading, it decided to give its attention to 
the science of controllable environment. The dis- 
cussion in the association followed the lines of a 
friendly controversy which had been going on be- 
tween Dr. C. B. Davenport and other scientists, 
on the one hand, and Mrs. Richards, on the other, 
as to whether Eugenics was the parent of Euthenics 
or vice versa, the supporters of Eugenics contend- 
ing that the best results for the race were to be 
obtained through the careful selection of parents, 
Mrs. Richards that improved environment would 
improve the physical condition of future parents and 
bring quicker results in race development. 

The activities in which the Boston branch engaged 
were many, and in all of them Mrs. Richards had an 


active part. It maintained for some time a Fellow- 
ship in the School of Housekeeping connected with 
the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of 
Boston. The Fellowship was held by Miss Gertrude 
Bigelow, and the result was the preparation of a 
monograph on "The Relation of Cost in Home 
Cooked and Purchased'Food," which was published 
in 1901 as Bulletin No. 19 of the Massachusetts 
Bureau of Labor. This study, which was the first 
of the kind to be made in this country, was sug- 
gested by Mrs. Richards, and was in line with her 
belief that housewives should have the benefit of all 
the knowledge obtainable about ways of reducing the 
amount of labor involved in maintaining a home. 

Another important work which Mrs. Richards 
did in connection with the Boston branch was an 
investigation of the sanitary condition of the public 
school buildings of the city. This work was in 
charge of a committee of which Mrs. Alice U. 
Pearmain was chairman and Mrs. Richards an 
active member. The committee secured as an expert 
Mr. S. Homer Woodbridge, Professor of Heating 
and Ventilation at the Massachusetts Institute 
of Technology, and he and his assistants made a 
scientific investigation of the heating and ventilat- 
ing apparatus and of the plumbing in all of the 
buildings used for school purposes. The cleanliness 
of the buildings and the provisions for exit in case of 
fire were also noted. The results of this investigation 


it would be unfair to give here. They form a dark 
chapter in the history of school administration in 
Boston, which has a correspondingly dark chapter 
in the history of school affairs in every great city of 
the country. Boston, therefore, must not be singled 
out and made to suffer before the public because it 
happened to have, or was so fortunate as to have, 
an exceptionally enterprising and public-spirited 
branch of the Collegiate Alumnae. 

It is sufficient to say that the results of this in- 
vestigation have been very far-reaching. It served 
to arouse public opinion to the belief that responsi- 
bility for the condition of the schools was altogether 
too much divided. In 1897, a committee of citizens 
of which Mrs. Richards was a member started an 
agitation for the purpose of getting through the 
Legislature a bill providing for certain important 

Mrs. Richards prepared for this agitation by 
entering upon a correspondence with prominent edu- 
cators in all parts of the country, and when she felt 
that her plans were sufficiently well laid she arranged 
with a committee of the Woman's Education Asso- 
ciation, of which she was chairman, to send out invi- 
tations for a mass meeting in Huntington Hall for 
the purpose of considering proposed changes in the 
school committee. This meeting was most cleverly 
planned. Instead of advertising it in a general way, 
the committee sent invitations to members of the 


Legislature, city officials, superintendents of schools 
in all parts of New England, members of associations 
interested in education, and to many others. Each 
invitation contained a note saying that upon the re- 
ceipt of an acceptance a ticket for a reserved seat 
would be sent. This made it possible to judge from 
the returns the extent and also the distribution of the 
interest. It served, also, to make it seem a privilege 
to be invited to be present. The outcome of the 
meeting was the appointment of a committee to 
prepare a bill for presentation to the Legislature 
the following session. This bill, as it was finally 
drafted after much discussion by a committee of 
which Mrs. Richards was a member, provided for a 
reduction of the school committee from twenty-four 
members to twelve, for placing the responsibility for 
all educational matters, including the selection of 
teachers, with the superintendent, for placing the 
responsibility of all financial matters with a business 
agent, for the creation of a school faculty to give 
the teachers a voice in the educational policy, and 
for the creation of a voluntary committee in each 
ward of the city to act as an intermediary between 
the parents and teachers. 

In the rough notes which Mrs. Richards left of 
the speech she made during this campaign, she said 
in connection with the centralizing of educational 
authority in the superintendent: "A man can say 
'No' in an hour where a committee is likely to dis- 


cuss for weeks. It has been happily said that 'if 
the children of Israel, in their passage through the 
wilderness, had been governed by a committee instead 
of by a leader, they would probably be wandering 
around the wilderness today.' ' 

The committee having the bill in charge was con- 
vinced of the desirability of enacting the bill as a 
whole, but after several years of unsuccessful effort 
it was obliged to abandon the project. There re- 
mained no evidence of its prolonged agitation except 
an educated public opinion. A few years afterward 
a bill was passed which embodied some of the pro- 
visions for which Mrs. Richards had worked so hard. 
The school committee was reduced in size, not, how- 
ever, to twelve, but to five members, and a school- 
house commission was created. But the provisions 
which might have served to democratize school affairs 
the creation of a school faculty and a citizens' 
committee were not embodied. There is a wide- 
spread opinion in Boston that if they had been, much 
friction between the teaching force and the schools 
might have been averted. 

The work of the Sanitary Science Club formed by 
the Boston branch has already been mentioned. 

It would be impossible to review Mrs. Richards's 
work in connection with the Association of Collegi- 
ate Alumnae without being convinced that her influ- 
ence was due largely to the fact that she was more 
than a college woman and that she was able to bring 


this organization into connection with other and 
varied activities and broader interests. Some one 
has spoken recently of the "cross fertilization" of 
the sciences. A "cross fertilization" of good works 
was always going on where Mrs. Richards was in- 
volved. To illustrate: Her travels in connection 
with Professor Richards's work as a mining engineer 
carried her often into the Southern States and had 
familiarized her with its educational problems. She 
saw a need there of an organization similar to the 
Collegiate Alumnae Association, and when, in 1902, 
such an organization was formed, she was not con- 
tent to lopk on, but became one of its most earnest 
and helpful members. The Southern Association of 
College Women includes the graduates of many 
Northern colleges, but almost without exception they 

are residents of the South ; and Mrs. Richards was 


one of the very few Northern women who saw the 
chance to give the newer society the benefit of the ex- 
perience of the older organization. The catholicity 
of her interests was never more apparent than when, 
at the jubilee celebration at the twenty-fifth anni- 
versary of the founding of the Association of Col- 
legiate Alumnae, she, a New England woman by birth 
and training, offered the greetings of the Southern 
Association of College Women. 

She was always interested in creating for women 
opportunities for advanced work. She had an im- 
portant part in the founding of the Hyannis Marine 


Laboratory, which later became the Woods Hole 
Laboratory, and she was actively interested in the 
association which was formed for the purpose of 
securing entrance for women into Johns Hopkins 
Medical College. In 1898 she became one of the 
charter members of the Naples Table Association 
for Promoting Laboratory Research by Women. 

The history of the Naples Table Association, like 
that of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, is of 
interest here only as it shows a phase of her untiring 
labors. In the spring of 1898, a small group of 
women gathered in Cambridge to discuss the forma- 
tion of a society to support a table for American 
women at the zoological station in Naples. This 
station had been founded in 1872 by Professor Anton 
Dohrn, then of Jena, for the purpose of doing some- 
thing of lasting benefit for the science which he loved. 
He had already opened, at his own expense, a small 
laboratory at Messina, but this was but the incentive 
to greater things. Dedicating his own private for- 
tune to the enterprise, winning the interest of lead- 
ing scientists, securing substantial aid from Euro- 
pean governments, he persevered until his dream 
became a reality. On the shore of the beautiful Bay 
of Naples rose the white marble building of the 
Stazione Zoologica di Napoli. 

From the first, Dr. Dohrn admitted women to the 
station on equal terms with men; and when the sci- 
entists of the world were uniting to celebrate the 

' ^ 


twenty-fifth anniversary of the station, the sugges- 
tion came from Dr. Ida Hyde, who had enjoyed the 
privileges of the station, that American women show 
their appreciation of the position he had taken with 
regard to women students by annually contributing 
to its support. 

The organization was completed in April, 1898, 
and from the outset Mrs. Richards was an interested 
and valued member. "Much that she did for the 
work," one of her associates says, "no one could 
have done better, much of it no one else could have 
done at all. She saw what ought to be done and 
could be done, and she saw how to do it. The work 
of the Naples Table was peculiarly congenial to her, 
and she was naturally consulted on every detail of 
the organization and scope. This association had 
the unusual distinction of an income larger than its 
needs, and it was decided to offer a prize of one 
thousand dollars for an original paper of high grade 
embodying the results of research in certain fields. 
Mrs. Richards was chairman of this committee on 
award from the first, and to her more than to any 
one is due the remarkable success of the competition. 
She knew the field and the workers in science so well 
that it was possible for her to appeal personally to 
the men of science and the teachers whom it was 
necessary to interest. They, on the other hand, had 
perfect confidence in her wisdom and her sanity of 
judgment, and they were willing and glad to help. 


"To Mrs. Richards were intrusted the theses pre- 
sented for competition. How zealously she guarded 
them ! She, better than any one else on the commit- 
tee, could appreciate the labor that had gone into 
them, and she handled those pages of typewritten 
matter and carefully prepared drawings almost with 
love. When it was necessary to submit them to the 
decision of the board of examiners, Mrs. Richards 
often personally carried the papers to the study door 
or even to the very office desk of the busy professor 
who was to pass judgment upon them. The very 
last work she did for this association was in connec- 
tion with the essays submitted for the fifth prize to 
be awarded at the annual meeting in April, 1911. 
Even at the time of her death some of the seventeen 
essays submitted in competition were locked in her 
safe, while careful memoranda showed in whose hands 
others had been placed for examination." Before 
the time for the meeting arrived, Mrs. Richards's 
life had come to a close. The meeting, therefore, 
took the form of a memorial to her, and the follow- 
ing resolution was passed: 

Voted, That "this Association express its appre- 
ciation of the devoted service of Mrs. Richards as 
the continuous chairman of the prize committee since 
its formation in 1900, by naming its prize in her 
honor the Ellen Richards Research Prize." 



IN January, 1890, Mrs. Richards entered upon 
an undertaking which, to use the words of a popular 
English writer, was "an interesting failure, but a 
failure which had all the educational value of a first 
reconnaissance into unexplored territory." This 
experiment was the famous New England Kitchen 
of Boston, and the "unexplored territory" was the 
willingness of the poor to be scientifically fed. 

The opportunity to make this experiment came 
through a somewhat remarkable and a most happy 
combination of circumstances. The first was the 
gift of a large sum of money by Mrs. Quincy Shaw, 
of Boston, Louis Agassiz's daughter, for the purpose 
of "making a thorough study of the food and 
nutrition of working men and its possible relation 
to the question of the use of intoxicating liquors." 
Mrs. Shaw selected Mrs. Richards to make the study, 
leaving the character of the investigation and of the 
practical work to be determined by her. She did 
not try to dictate as to the scope of the experiment 
or as to the manner in which it was to be carried 
on. She supplied the money and left Mrs. Richards 
to do the work. 


A second event which led indirectly to the estab- 
lishment of the New England Kitchen was an offer 
made in 1888 by Mr. Henry Lomb, of the Bausch 
and Lomb Optical Company, through the American 
Public Health Association, of a five hundred dollar 
prize for the best essay on "sanitary and economic 
cooking adapted to persons of moderate and small 
means." Seventy essays were submitted in competi- 
tion for the prize, and Mrs. Richards was a member 
of the committee of award. The essay on "The Five 
Food Principles Illustrated by Practical Recipes" 
was found to be "not only preeminently the best of 
the seventy, but also an admirable treatise on the 
subject. It is simple and lucid in statement," the 
report went on to say, "methodical in arrangement 
and well adapted to the practical wants of the class 
to which it is addressed. Whoever may read it can 
have confidence in the soundness of its teachings and 
cannot fail to be instructed in the art of cooking 
by its plain precepts, founded as they are upon the 
correct application of the scientific principles of 
chemistry and physiology to the proper preparation 
of food for man." 

The following year, at a meeting of the American 
Public Health Association in Brooklyn, Mrs. Rich- 
ards met the writer of this paper, Mrs. Mary Hin- 
man Abel, who had just returned from a residence 
of several years in Europe. In speaking, many years 
afterwards, of Mrs. Richards's relation to people in 


general, Mrs. Abel said: "I think she was always 
attended by the joy of possible discoveries of people. 
Any hour might come the great adventure/' Look- 
ing back to that meeting in Brooklyn and to its 
consequences, we feel that Mrs. Richards must have 
recognized "the great adventure," for she lost no 
time in persuading Mrs. Abel to join her, and there 
was thus secured for the New England Kitchen, in 
its first half-year, the benefit of the thorough knowl- 
edge of the Volks Kiiche, Fourneau Economique, and 
other forms of public kitchens which Mrs. Abel had 
gained during the years spent in Europe. 

A third circumstance leading to the opening of 
the Kitchen was an invention by Mr. Edward Atkin- 
son of the Aladdin Oven, a device by which he hoped 
to revolutionize culinary methods and greatly de- 
crease the cost of preparing food. Mr. Atkinson, 
as we have seen, had availed himself of Mrs. Rich- 
ards's services long before, by making her consulting 
chemist for companies with which he was connected. 
When, therefore, he wished to have his new oven 
tested, it was natural that he should have turned to 
her. Though this oven was not the only cooker 
tested in the Kitchen, it became of great value in 
the preparation of the cheaper cuts of meat and 
of many other low-priced foods which require long, 
slow cooking. 

Mr. Atkinson's interest in the New England 
Kitchen, however, was valuable chiefly for the enthu- 


siasm which he injected into the work because of 
his zeal for solving some of the economic problems 
connected with food, and also because he was able, 
through his business relations with wealthy men, to 
secure large sums of money for experimental work. 
Under auspicious circumstances, therefore, un- 
hampered by lack of funds and having the benefit 
and advice of many specialists, the New England 
Kitchen was opened at 142 Pleasant Street, Boston, 
on January 1, 1890, with Mrs. Abel in immediate 
charge. From the beginning an attempt was made 
to serve cooked food for home consumption and to 
give the largest possible amount of nourishment for 
a given amount of money. In order to do this, it was 
necessary to take into account all available knowl- 
edge concerning the composition of foods, current 
prices, and possible methods of applying heat in 
cookery. Those who were connected with the work 
hoped to be able to work out recipes for a few stand- 
ard foods so exactly that the food value of a given 
weight of the finished product would always be the 
same. Dr. Drown, Professor of Chemistry in the 
Institute of Technology, had said that if one food, 
beef broth for example, could be made of the same 
flavor and strength day after day and as unvarying 
in its constituents as the medicine compounded to 
meet a physician's prescription, that result alone 
would justify the proposed expenditure of time and 
money. By the help of repeated chemical analyses 


the methods of preparing this dish were brought to 
such perfection that the result was a food which 
differed only in slight degree from day to day and 
which had very nearly the same composition as milk 
without fat. It was welcomed by the physicians of 
Boston, and the New England Kitchen, which had 
been founded for the purpose of helping the poor 
working man, had its first triumph in meeting the 
needs of the well-to-do sick. 

After a long series of studies, the following foods 
were placed on sale by weight or measure : beef broth, 
vegetable soup, pea soup, corn meal mush, boiled 
hominy, oatmeal mush, pressed beef, beef stew, fish 
chowder, tomato soup, Indian pudding, rice pudding, 
and oatmeal cakes. These foods were intended to 
supplement those prepared in the homes of the 
people. The restaurant which was later opened was 
not a part of the original plan. 

From the beginning every part of the New Eng- 
land Kitchen was open to the public, in order that 
its methods might be demonstrated and that its 
cleanliness might serve as an example. In this con- 
nection it is interesting to note that there is just 
now, twenty years later, a movement among people 
who realize the menace of dirty restaurants to make 
it obligatory for restaurant keepers to disclose their 
kitchens to the public by having transparent parti- 
tions between them and the dining rooms, or in some 
similar way. 


Through Mr. Atkinson a grant of three hundred 
dollars had been obtained for the Kitchen from 
the trustees of the Elizabeth Thompson Fund. 
This money was used in the purchase of scientific 
instruments and to pay for the frequent chemical 
analyses necessary in the course of the work. The 
report made by Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Abel to the 
trustees of this fund was presented by Mr. Atkinson 
at a meeting of the Association for the Advancement 
of Science in August, 1890, and may be found in the 
published proceedings (Volume 39). 

Other kitchens after the model of the original 
were established in the West and North Ends of 
Boston, at Olneyville, a suburb of Providence, Rhode 
Island, at 341 Hudson Street, New York, and at 
Hull House, Chicago. They were all failures as far 
as their original purpose, that of persuading the 
poor of the advantage of low-priced and nourish- 
ing food, was concerned. "Their death knell was 
sounded," to quote Mrs. Richards, "by the woman 
who said, 'I don't want to eat what's good for me; 
I'd ruther eat what I'd ruther.' ' The man, too, 
from Southern Europe who defiantly said, "You 
needn't try to make a Yankee of me by making me 
eat that," pointing to baked Indian pudding, may 
have helped ring the knell. 

But to say that the New England Kitchen was a 
failure in any broad sense would be absurd, for either 
one alone of two important outgrowths, the Rum- 



ford Kitchen at the World's Fair at Chicago, an 
epoch-making educational experiment, and the school 
lunch project in Boston and elsewhere, disprove such 
a statement. 

The Rumford Kitchen, which was a part of the 
Massachusetts State exhibit at the Fair, was planned 
and carried on by Mrs. Richards. In a tiny building 
near the south end of the great exhibition grounds 
she established a model kitchen, which, like its pro- 
totype in Boston, laid bare all its processes to the 
public. Here, day after day, it was possible for 
visitors to the Fair to buy lunches whose food value 
had been carefully computed and noted on the bills 
of fare. The following is a sample menu : 






Volt's Standard. One-quarter 

of one day's ration 





Atwater's Standard. One- 

quarter of one day's ration 


si. a 





Baked Beans 



Brown Bread 



One Roll 










Apple Sauce 



After the close of the World's Fair, Mrs. Richards 
reported to the managers: "The intention of the 
exhibit was to illustrate the present state of knowl- 


edge in regard to the composition of materials for 
human food, the means of making these materials 
most available for nutrition, and the quantity of each 
necessary for a working ration. It was also in part 
intended as a centennial celebration of the services 
to humanity of a man of Massachusetts birth and 
parentage, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford of 
Bavaria, the first to apply the term 'science of nutri- 
tion' to the study of human food, and the first to 
apply science to the preparation of food materials. 

"Not the least valuable part of the exhibit con- 
sisted in the series of pamphlets prepared for the 
Rumford Kitchen by authorities in the several de- 
partments of science which relate to human food and 
nutrition. That such men as Professors Remsen, 
Howell, and Abel of Johns Hopkins University, 
Professor Chittenden of Yale University, Professor 
Sedgwick of the Institute of Technology, and others, 
were willing to prepare these scientific papers shows 
a great step toward placing this branch of sanitary 
science in its rightful place. 

"This series is not yet complete, though it will 
finally appear in book form as a permanent result 
of the Chicago Exposition. [The papers were pub- 
lished in 1899 under the title, "Rumford Kitchen 
Leaflets." The copyright was in Mrs. Richards's 
name.] The charts, diagrams, and books of the 
exhibit were studied with great eagerness, and can- 
not but have given impetus to the investigations 


in these directions ; while the practical outcome of 
the taste and relish of the food served was shown 
in the fact that some ten thousand people were 
served during the two months that the Kitchen was 
open, between the hours of twelve and two only, 
in a space so small as to permit only thirty people 
to be seated at the same time. 

"In order to emphasize the facts above narrated, 
the food was served in portions containing a definite 
amount of nutrition, and the menu card on each table 
gave the requirement for one-quarter of the day's 
ration, with the weight and composition of each 
dish composing the meal. A choice of two or three 
luncheons, for which the price was thirty cents, was 
given each day, each containing three or four dishes, 
though an extra price was made for a glass of milk, 
for a cup of cocoa, tea, or coffee." 

There never was so unique a lunchroom, never 
one which provoked so much intelligent discussion. 
The walls were hung with charts showing the com- 
position of foods. The exhibits included a set of 
blocks demonstrating the chemical composition of the 
human body, a miniature chemical laboratory for 
housewives, and a reference library on foods and 
hygiene. Around the top of the wall ran a frieze 
of legends including, among others, the following: 

"Nothing is so disgraceful to society and indi- 
viduals as unmeaning wastefulness." Rumford. 


"The seat of courage is in the stomach." 
"Preserve and treat your food as you would your 

body, remembering that in time food will be your 

body." B. W. Richardson. 

"A man too busy to take care of his health is like 

a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools." 

"The spirit of each dish, and zest of all, 
Is what ingenious cooks the relish call." 

"Prayer and provender delay no man's journey." 

"A man is what he eats." 

"It is an irritating, nay a deeply saddening, 
problem for a wise dyspeptic to ponder, the super- 
abundance of things cookable in this world of ours, 
and the extreme rarity of cooks." Maartens. 

"There is no pain like the pain of a new idea." 

"The scientific aspect of food must be united in 
bonds of holy matrimony with a practical knowledge 
of the cook's art, before a man can discours^ learn- 
edly of food." Fothergill. 

"Courage, cheerfulness, and a desire to work de- 
pends mostly on good nutrition." 

It is hardly necessary to add that, with crowds of 
sight-seers passing through the building at all hours 
of the day, life was not without its amusing and 
entertaining incidents. The weary excursionist asked 
to be given something for "tired leg muscles." The 
literal-minded man insisted on being told the exact 


meaning of "There is no pain like the pain of a new 
idea." The uncompromising reformer read, "A man 
is what he eats," and wanted "more often what 
lie drinks," added on to it. The family man com- 
plained that carbohydrates were expensive at thirty 
L-ents apiece when you had four or five children 
to feed. The domestic woman insisted on seeing 
Mrs. Rumford, and the jocular youth said in depart- 
ing after lunch, "I am going right over now to get 
weighed and see if I really ate the twenty ounces I 
was entitled to by the bill of fare." 

One day a representative of a scientific publica- 
tion, after examining the exhibit and taking lunch, 
expressed satisfaction that for the first time in his 
life he had been scientifically fed. The following day 
be returned to say that, while dining the evening 
)cfore, he had mentioned the Rumford Kitchen to 
i lady who sat beside him. Thinking she would be 
nterested in some of its scientific aspects, he told 
icr about the bills of fare, saying that "one could I 
see from them the amount of carbohydrates and 1 
proteids in the food, and also its value in calories." 1 
Fhe lady interrupted to say that she knew those 
things were found in food by the aid of the micro- 
scope, but for her part she would prefer not to know 
>he was eating them. 

But it all sank into the public mind, and all the 
nore deeply because the public mind was quite empty 
)f such information and ready to absorb. The 


Rumford Kitchen was the first attempt to demon- 
strate by simple methods to the people in general 
the meaning of the terms, proteids, carbohydrates, 
calories, and the fact that there are scientific prin- 
ciples underlying nutrition. At a time when laymen 
knew almost nothing as to the composition of food, 
and about foods in their relation to the human body, 
this enterprise laid the foundation for knowledge 
which we now consider almost as fundamental to a 
general education as the "three R's." 

But a still more important outgrowth of the 
New England Kitchen was a plan for serving school 
lunches in Boston. Up to the year 1894, the privi- 
lege of serving food to the high school children of 
the city had been given to the school janitors, who 
found it a valuable perquisite. Now janitors are 
useful in their place, of course, but they know little, 
as a rule, about the science of nutrition, and the time 
came when it seemed wise to place the matter of 
school lunches in other hands. Looking about for 
some one to take charge, the School Committee 
entered into negotiations with the New England 
Kitchen with a view to having food sent out to vari- 
ous schools from this as a central plant. But this 
involved a large outlay of money, and again a public- 
spirited person with confidence in Mrs. Richards 
came to her aid. Mrs. William V. Kellen gave the 
money required for buying the apparatus necessary 
for the new work, and the experiment of sending out 


lunches began. The revolution, of course, was not 
effected without difficulties, and when the New Eng- 
land Kitchen undertook the task it entered upon 
troublous times. The janitors were, many of them, 
naturally displeased and loath to give the help and 
cooperation which were almost indispensable. Then, 
too, the School Committee, for some reason, was 
unwilling to have the experiment begin in one school 
only, but insisted that it should be made in all or 
none. Never was there such quick action needed, 
never such pressing of available workers into the 
service. The rooms provided were, as a rule, in the 
basement and inconvenient, and the time allowed for 
serving the lunches very short. Shops in the neigh- 
borhood of the schools tried to hold on to their trade 
by posting such signs as this, "Here you can get 
what you want to eat, and not what the School 
Committee says you must." But success came in the 
end, and the present New England Kitchen, which 
though under entirely different management, that of 
the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, is 
a direct outgrowth of the old, and is now serving 
lunches to about five thousand high school pupils 

As a result of this experience and pioneer work, 
Mrs. Richards became an authority on school lunches, 
and was consulted on the subject by school superin- 
tendents and others interested in education in all 
parts of the country. It was at her suggestion that 


the Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Educa- 
tion, "The Daily Meals of School Children," was 
written, and her little pamphlet, "Good Luncheons 
for Rural Schools without a Kitchen," has had a 
wide circulation and has been of good service to 
country schools. 

As a result, too, of her work in the New England 
and Rumford Kitchens, Mrs. Richards was consulted 
with reference to the diet in a very large number of 
institutions, hospitals, insane asylums, and schools. 
In some cases she took actual charge, in order to 
learn conditions and suggest changes. In this work 
she had the cooperation of Miss Sarah E. Wentworth, 
who had succeeded Mrs. Abel in charge of the New 
England Kitchen. She was continually asked to 
.recommend experts in food, and it was largely 
through her influence that positions of dignity for 
educated women in connection with the preparation 
of foods in institutions were created and the new 
profession of "Dietitian" developed. Her office be- 
came a veritable bureau of information on the 

In consequence, too, of her work in the New 
England and Rumford Kitchens, Mrs. Richards be- 
came connected with the nutrition investigations of 
the United States Department of Agriculture. In 
1887, the passage by Congress of the Hatch Act 
made possible the establishment of an agricultural 
experiment station in each state and territory, and 


the establishment of the Office of Experiment Sta- 
tions in the Department of Agriculture, as a central 
agency for promoting the interests of the experiment 
stations, quite naturally followed. Professor W. O. 
Atwater, who had worked very effectively for the 
whole movement, was made first director of this 
central office. 

Professor Atwater had long been interested in 
the study of problems of human nutrition by experi- 
mental methods, and believed that such work should 
be fostered by the federal government a project 
which enlisted the sympathies and support of broad- 
minded men and women, and which culminated in 
1894 in the establishment of the nutrition investi- 
gations of the Office of Experiment Stations of the 
Department of Agriculture, with funds specially 
appropriated by Congress for the purpose. Of this 
enterprise Professor Atwater, as director of the 
Office of Experiment Stations, was given charge. 

In this same year (1894) Mrs. Richards, with 
Mr. Atkinson, prepared, at Professor Atwater's 
request, a pamphlet, "Suggestions Regarding the 
Cooking of Food," published by the Department of 
Agriculture (Mrs. Richards's contribution being a 
discussion of "The Nutritive Value of Common Food 
Materials"), which, although it was not issued as one 
of the then recently established series of Farmers' 
Bulletins, was like them in its scope, and may be 
fairly classed as one of the first of the popular bulle- 


tins of the Department of Agriculture on nutrition 
which have become such an important factor in public 

The first technical bulletin issued as a result of 
the nutrition investigations of the Department of 
Agriculture (Bulletin 21 of the Office of Experi- 
ment Stations) was entitled, "Methods and Results 
of Investigations on the Chemistry and Economy of 
Food," and contains as one of its important sections 
a summary of investigations by Mrs. Richards and 
Mrs. Abel which have to do with the essentials for 
good cooking apparatus, the cookery of meat, the 
composition of beef, beef tea, etc., pea soup, and 
the keeping qualities of broth. The data summarized 
are taken from the reports of Mrs. Richards and 
Mrs. Abel to the Trustees of the Elizabeth Thomp- 
son Fund, who in 1889 to 1890 had made a grant 
from this fund for experiments upon cooking which 
was supplemented by private gifts for the same 

Other work by Mrs. Richards, which appears in 
publications of the Office of Experiment Stations, 
is a paper entitled, "Dietary Studies in Philadelphia 
and Chicago, 1892-1893," with Miss Amelia Shap- 
leigh as joint author. This paper reports the re- 
sults of observations as to the food consumption and 
dietary customs of families with small incomes living 
in thickly congested districts, the observations hav- 
ing been made at the instance of the College Settle- 


merit Association, the primary purpose being "to 
obtain reliable information regarding the diet of the 
people of those regions, which could be used in 
the efforts to help them to improve their material 

Probably the greatest antagonism which Mrs. 
Richards aroused in the course of her life was in 
connection with her efforts to improve the quality 
of food served in public institutions, educational and 
philanthropic, and to make the diet contribute to 
efficiency. Her attitude is easy to understand. She 
saw that an enormous fraction of available human 
energy was being used in raising, transporting, pre- 
paring, and serving food, and it seemed to her intol- 
erable that, after its preparation had cost so much, 
food should again take a great toll from the people 
in sickness and in wasted and inefficient lives. In 
her own case she studied carefully the relation of 
food to working power. It is said that once when 
she was staying at a seacoast resort and apparently 
enjoying a few days of rest after a summer full of 
very engrossing work, she came down to breakfast 
one morning in a very resolute way, saying, much 
to the surprise of her friends, that she had been 
making a pig of herself. "I have just been living 
for the moment and eating what I liked rather than 
what was good for me. Now I shall confine myself 
entirely to the proper food for brain work, and I 
shall set myself to writing the paper that I ought 


to have been at work upon, and shall make myself 
do it in half the time that I should have given to it, 
to make up for my days of idleness." 

No wonder that with this strict discipline of self 
she should have been impatient at the sight of so 
much suffering caused by careless, haphazard ways 
of eating. She saw, as we all do, that the time must 
come when the problems of nutrition and food will 
be reduced to scientific principles, when people will 
use their food supply with intelligence, and will regu- 
late diet and other living conditions in order to 
maintain the highest efficiency in work. She under- 
stood, as well as other people, that the time had not 
arrived, but she knew that it could be hastened if all 
the people would work together, some in laboratories, 
some preparing foods, and all making careful studies 
of the relation of their food to the amount of work 
they were able to do. A college lunchroom, for 
example, which strove merely to appeal to the palate 
fell far short of her ideal. She wished it to be an 
experiment station. But being greatly ahead of her 
times, she needed constantly to be reminded that the 
world in general moved slowly very much more 
slowly in its thought and in its practice than she 
did and that in reality the college lunchroom which 
had reached the point of supplying palatable food 
attractively served is far ahead of its time. 

It was never, however, the time spent in making 
food attractive or palatable that troubled her, but 


rather the fact that people were content to stop at 
this point, and to have so small a fraction of the 
energy to which she believed they were entitled, and 
to do so small a part of the work which they might 
do toward making the world better. In lecturing on 
foods, she once looked up from her paper to say: 
"Do I not hear a whisper running from one to 
another of you, 'All this new-fangled talk is very 
well to preach for effect, but I have always eaten 
just what I wanted to, and I am still alive'? True, 
since you are here before me, but have you accom- 
plished all in life that you might have accomplished, 
have you had each day your full share of heat units 
converted into energy, do you know what it is to 
be full of health and life?" 

In 1899 she wrote to a woman who was greatly 
interested in the problems of institutional manage- 
ment: "I believe the greatest need of intelligent 
persons today is a right attitude of mind towards 
food and its importance to the development of the 
highest powers of the human race. I believe, with 
Professor S. H. Patten, that the well-to-do classes 
are being eliminated by their diet, to the detriment 
of social progress, and they and not the poor are the 
most in need of missionary work. This right attitude 
of mind will not be gained so long as schools, col- 
leges, and universities continue to ignore the function 
of the body in providing the machinery for the mind 
to use. At present it is like putting a highly trained 


engineer into a mill with rusty and antiquated appa- 
ratus, and then blaming him for not turning out 
good products. As I have been saying to college 
audiences all winter, I believe that one year out of 
the four could be saved if students knew how to 
make the most of themselves, but there is no one to 
teach them. I hold the colleges guilty that they 
have not seized upon the knowledge already at hand 
and applied it, in the way of physical training and 
education, instead of pursuing the present plan of 
cruelty to animals in urging on, at the point of the 
bayonet as it were, a mind housed in an under- 
nourished body, which will have its revenge. For I 
believe that education alone will bring the food ques- 
tion from the dark, secluded corners of life to the 
sunlight of right thinking, and therefore I am bend- 
ing all my energies toward public school teaching 
of the right sort. Meanwhile I am waiting for the 
authorities of some college to show that they are 
up-to-date and are willing to put the food depart- 
ment on a level with the Greek or mathematics, by 
appointing a Professor of Hygiene and Sanitation 
and teaching the student the value of a sound body 
as well as of a bright mind." 

At another time she said, in words which leave 
little room for misunderstanding, "In the twentieth 
century it will be held a criminal offense for a col- 
lege to lure students to its halls under the pretense 
of education, and then slowly poison them by bad 
air and poor food." 


It is evident from the story of the New England 
and Rumford Kitchens and of the serving of school 
lunches that Mrs. Richards early allowed her philan- 
thropic and altruistic interests to call her away from 
the pursuit of pure science. For this she was fre- 
quently criticized; but she, on the other hand, had 
her own criticisms to make. She once said: "The 
sanitary research worker in the laboratory and field 
has gone nearly to the limit of his value. He will 
soon be smothered in his own work if no one takes 
it." She wanted to make applications of the knowl- 
edge he was turning out to every problem of human 
life. Of herself she said, "Research has to step one 
side when I feel the pressure of sociologic progress." 

It is doubtful if she was ever out of sympathy 
intellectually with the painstaking methods of pure 
science, though she was temperamentally unsuited 
for the routine details of such work herself. There 
were times, however, when with her clear understand- 
ing of pressing needs she manifested some impatience 
with the slowness of scientifically trained people to 
make application of known facts. She seems to have 
had before her always, on the one hand, the vision 
of a world full of sickness and suffering, and of a 
people failing, because of preventable ills, to reach 
their highest efficiency and greatest usefulness; and 
on the other, a great mass of knowledge and facts 
which, if they could be properly used and applied, 
would serve to relieve the suffering and prevent this 


waste of energy. She saw the need of a chain of 
workers extending from the laboratory to the people, 
and she was ready and anxious to find and keep her 
place in the chain. If others had found their places 
and had filled them as unselfishly and as toilfully as 
she did, there would have been no gaps in the chain, 
no failure of science to serve humanity. 



EVENTS were now fast leading up to the organ- 
ization of the Home Economics movement, which 
may be considered the crowning labor of Mrs. Rich- 
ards's life, because it brought together her number- 
less lines of work and directed them toward a well- 
defined end education for right living. In the 
perfect foundation which she had been laying, though 
unconsciously, for leadership in this movement, travel 
as well as work had had a part. For this reason 
there have been brought together in this chapter 
extracts from letters which she wrote on journeys 
taken during the period when the many activities 
described in the previous chapters were being carried 
on. Fortunately these letters show not only how 
wide an acquaintance with people and with social 
and educational movements she brought to her later 
labors, but also her keen enjoyment of travel. They 
reveal, therefore, her serious purposes and also her- 
self, with all her boundless joy in living. 

In speaking of her journeyings she once said that 
she had traveled "only as each year had brought 
its special investigations." She seldom went to a 



place because it was a popular resort or because 
it contained things beautiful or interesting to see, 
but almost always in connection with some special 
work either of her own or of Professor Richards's. 
Arrived, she saw more than most people see, for 
she had eyes for its geological formation and its 
minerals, its meteorological conditions, its trees and 
flowers in their botanical relations as well as in their 
beauty, its water supply, its peculiar sanitary prob- 
lems, its engineering projects, and its educational 
advancement. To follow her travels, therefore, is 
to follow her in her labors, her interests, and her 

During the vacations of 1872 and 1873, while 
she was a student at the Institute of Technology, she 
took journeys which in her early enthusiasm she 
called "scientific expeditions." The first was to the 
St. Lawrence River country and the second to Nova 


August 5, 1872. 

You will wonder how I came here. . . . With the 
teacher of mineralogy in the Girls' High School, 
Boston, I have been attempting a scientific vacation 
not at all rivalling Agassiz, you know, for it's 
only "two women," but just to see whether "two 
women" could do anything. We say, now on the 
eve of our departure for home, "Yes, they can." 
We have been four weeks in Maine, Canada, New 
York visiting the mineral locations, obtaining 


specimens and studying them in their native beds. 
We have visited alone lead, copper, tin, silver, gold 
and iron mines, been courteously treated by all, 
not tenderly as ladies, but no one has put a bar in 
our way. We have taken a horse and driven about 
from place to place with hammer and chisel and 
botany press, etc. The experiment seems a perfect 
success we are strong and black as gypsies- 
being out of doors all the time. 


August 12, 1872. 

Here we are in a pouring rain, quartered in a very 
elegant apartment going to bed for a sound night's 
sleep. Yesterday we dined in a log house or what 
was very near it, unfinished boards at least, used 
only during haying for the farm hands ; the table 
unpainted, leaves not up, no cloth, old blue ware, a 
plate of three biscuit large as saucers of the "black 
bread" variety, a saucer of brown sugar for the tea, 
milk and "yarb" tea (very likely English Break- 
fast). We dined at 12. Today we dined at 6, 
small square tables covered with finest damask, 
printed bill of fare with six courses, waiters in "full 
dress," swallow tailed coats. . . . We have had varied 
experiences since I wrote, mostly very pleasant. 
Yesterday I had the pleasure of driving all day, one 
of the finest horses I ever saw, and visiting three 
copper mines, getting a fine lot of specimens and 
learning a great deal about the country and mining. 


The following year she made a scientific pil- 
grimage. In July, 1874, in company again with 
Miss Capen, she went to Northumberland, Pennsyl- 
vania, where Joseph Priestley is buried, the occasion 
being a Chemical Centennial in honor of the one 
hundredth anniversary of the discovery of oxygen. 

In 1875 occurred her marriage to Professor Rich- 
ards and the unique wedding trip with his class in 
mining engineering. 

June 13, 1875. 

We have had a prosperous week and have carried 
out all our plans. I have been resting and am very 
nicely and I think Robert is none the worse, although 
he has the care of the expedition. We have visited 
the Albert mine, the famous Joggins and the Arcadia 
Iron mines. I have been the botanist of the party. 
We are just in time for the early Spring flowers. 
In St. John the trees were just starting; here they 
are just blooming. We have not exactly lived in 
clover, but have not been very badly off yet. 

In 1876 she went abroad with Professor Richards, 
chiefly for the purpose of visiting laboratories, mines, 
and smelting works, and buying chemical apparatus 
for the Woman's Laboratory. 

ZURICH, July 16, 1876. 

We spent an afternoon and night in Interlaken 
with Professor Crafts and his wife and there saw 


sunrise on the Jungfrau. It was the finest thing I 
ever saw. It was so hard to come away and not go 
to the mountain when we were within fifteen miles. 
The Swiss wood carvers live in this village. More 
than a thousand people work at it here. The life 
is so sweet and peaceful and so beautiful in its sur- 
roundings and simplicity that Robert wished he could 
live there always. The little Swiss chalets are ex- 
ceedingly picturesque, and they look so neat and 
(Iran. The women and children are bright and smart 
and they don't waste time in fine parlors and flounces. 
They can turn hay or carve wood and speak three 

COLOGNE, July 22, 1876. 

It is so strange to be where everything has been 
made from earliest time. We cannot realize it, we 
whose grandfathers conquered the wilderness, what 
it is to live where the same houses and streets have 
hi in just the same for a thousand years and to live 
on a spot inhabited for more than two thousand 

Nature has done much for our country and man 
is rivalling nature as was perhaps natural in a coun- 
try where Nature, as it were, defied man. A new race 
is springing up to whom the labors of Hercules will 
not seem impossible. But I must not ramble on this 
way. I am an enthusiastic Yankee and I am afraid 
I am of the present age which tears away the veil to 
see what is behind. 


DRESDEN, August 6, 1876. 

We are all bewitched with Dresden. The Gallery 
of Paintings is a revelation to us, the pictures are 
so beautiful. I want so many of them in photographs 
that Robert is laughing at my extravagance. I have 
been so good until now, but now I am spending such 
a lot of money. 

LEIPSIC, Monday, August 7. 

We arrived here this evening. Walked out and 
took in the general features of the famous university 
town and remarked on the variety of its odors. 
[Mrs. Richards had what has been called an "edu- 
cated nose."] 

BRUSSELS, August 13. 

At Liege we spent one day in visiting the immense 
iron and zinc works. Then we came on to Brussels 
yesterday. There we visited the International Exhi- 
bition of Hygiene and Remedial Appliances, and saw 
surgeon's bandages, hospital cars, health clothing, 
etc. . . . On our return home we shall go to the Cen- 
tennial exhibition at Philadelphia. We shall remain 
about a week I suppose and I want you [her mother] 
to go with us. I have decided to give you that pleas- 
ure instead of the checked silk dress which I intended 
to bring you. 

No letters written from the Centennial Exhibition 
have been found; but years after she visited it, 
Mrs. Richards said in a little leaflet entitled, "Ex- 
hibits and the Home Economics Movement": "To 
the casual onlooker the growth of the domestic 


science cult may seem to have been fortuitous or 
spasmodic or sporadic even, but there is a distinct 
trail back to the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, 
when America was awakened to its own deficiencies 
in the culinary art, and in house furnishing and 
decoration among other things. These deficiencies 
clearly indicated the necessity for a wider knowledge 
of science in household management. The manual 
training idea, developed from the work of Russia 
and Sweden shown at this exposition, gave impetus 
and opportunity to American adaptation. Many 
lines of progress started in this world exposition of 


September 5, 1877. 

I expect to get my vacation in going to the 
Tennessee exhibition as juror on Education in 

In 1873 Miss Swallow had joined the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science (A 3 S 
she used to write it for short), and in 1877 she was 
elected a fellow. From that time on, many of her 
trips were to its annual meetings. 


We have just been to the American Association 
meeting at Saratoga. I appealed to the chemists 
there to help in this matter of Household Chemistry. 
I seem to have got drawn into that track now and 
must follow it out whether or no. It is an open field 


but much study will be required in it. I am to pre- 
pare a paper, on the ingredients of food liable to 
adulteration, this winter. 

During the summers of 1881 and 1882 she worked 
with Professor Richards in Northern Michigan. 

July 8, 1881. 

I have the laboratory work about started and have 
just enough to do to keep me from being lonely. I 
have a young man to wait on me and I shall find it 
hard to come back to do my own cleaning up. In 
fact it is very good fun. The only trouble is that 
it looks as though I were not going to see Robert but 
once a week. He went down to the mill at the Lake 
on Wednesday and is not coming back until Satur- 
day night. However, it is only five miles and the ore 
cars go up and down several times a day and besides 
there is telephone communication between the two 
offices. On the w r hole things are going as well as can 
be expected and we have reason to be satisfied. It 
will be good experience for both of us. I only hope 
you [her mother] will keep comfortable. . . . 

This is Yankee land even if it is so far away. 

CALUMET, June 17, 1882. 
[To her mother] 

I wish you could take one walk through these 
woods. Such a profusion of wild flowers and such 
luxuriant growth I never saw before. I have been 


out nearly every day and my room is full of bottles 
and tumblers of bloom. I have found some 25 kinds 
already ; most of them are familiar friends but two 
are new to me. 


August 20, 1882. 

Here I am enjoying my first glimpse of the West 
and of the old Rocky Mountains. Miss Gushing 
(Vassar 1874) and Miss Minns came to Calumet 
about the first of August, and staid with me two 
weeks. Then we went to Duluth, thence by the 
Northern Pacific as far as Fargo. We spent such 
an interesting day there. We rode through the wheat 
fields which extend for thirty miles and in one day 
we gathered 67 new flowers. We came down first for 
a day in St. Paul, then a day in Omaha, then on here. 
We enjoyed it all. Miss Minns and I had never seen 
the plains and we got much excited over the flowers. 
We start on Monday morning for ten days among 
these lovely mountains with the Institute of Mining 
Engineers. We shall see nearly all the nice things. 
I go directly back to Calumet to finish my work 
there. [In 1879 Mrs. Richards had been elected a 
member of the American Institute of Mining Engi- 
neers in recognition of her scientific work. She was 
the only woman ever elected to active membership.] 

September, 1882. 

I have conic back from the West with the feeling 
that our Eastern people make a mistake to go to 


Europe year after year and never to really visit our 
Western Country. The enterprise and bold venture 
of the people and the lofty mountains and deep 
canons and vast plains seem to me to be far more 
interesting than the sleepy ignorant peasant living 
on black bread with no thoughts or ideas above it, 
or than the piles of stone already crumbling at the 
base before the top is finished. When I emigrate 
from New England I think I shall go West, where 
there is a little "go" in the air. 

In 1883 she went with Professor Richards to 
Virginia, where he was holding a movable School of 
Mines. That year she went ahead of the party and 
arranged its itinerary. 


June 19, 1883. 

A good deal has happened in the last twenty-four 
hours. When I stopped writing we got on to the 
flat car and were taken down by gravity, coasting 
the three miles. It was a novel experience for most. 
Then we started up suddenly to go into a cave just 
opened in getting limestone where there were iron 
ore stalactites as well as calcite ones. It was the 
roughest trip I ever took. I went up a rope some 
thirty feet almost hand over hand and then stumbled 
over the uneven ground of the freshly opened cave. 
I got muddy from head to foot but we got some 
lovely things and it was a spicy adventure, especially 
the coming down. 


September, 1883. 

We are having a few days on the Kennebec at my 
husband's old home. I dare say I have written to 
you before from here. It is very lovely although the 
drought has left the hills brown and is taking the 
leaves from the trees very fast. Now and then we 
see some brilliant tree but I fear the colors will not 
be fine. 

Our occupation here is social gayety, strange to 
say, tea parties and dinner parties, evening after 
evening, or excursions by water or land. The family 
has a steam launch carrying some twenty-nine per- 
sons which is very convenient for excursions. We 
all went down to the sea at Booth Bay on Monday. 
It was a perfect day and we had five little girl 
cousins to enliven the older people. 

In 1884, after her appointment as Instructor in 
Sanitary Chemistry, Mrs. Richards made a trip to 
England for the purpose of attending the Interna- 
tional Health Exhibition at South Kensington and 
to get material which would be of service to her in 
her work. She was accompanied on this trip by 
Miss Alice Palmer, who had been one of the first stu- 
dents in the Woman's Laboratory. After attending 
the exhibition they made a trip to the Land of the 
Midnight Sun, which Mrs. Richards had long looked 
forward to visiting. This was probably the only 
place she ever visited in her life where the days had 
enough hours to suit her. 


The letters which she wrote about the exhibition 
and the conferences are not to be found, and very 
unfortunately, for she made constant references to 
this visit in later years, and it seems in many ways 
to have marked an advance in her thought. Years 
later she wrote: "I do hope the Chicago exposition 
can make a good showing in the educational line, for 
I have such vivid recollections of the excellence of 
the educational side of the London Health Exposition 
in 1884 that I know how much we have to do to sur- 
pass that. It has been my inspiration ever since. 
I do not believe a school in America can make such 
a showing of Domestic Economy as that in Belgium, 
nor a Normal School surpass that of Tokyo, Japan." 
And again: "In England, in 1884, I saw young men 
from the universities in the Board Schools giving 
instruction as to babies' milk. In America we have 
allowed the newspapers and the magazines to give 
the public instruction that belongs to universities." 


The grand Educational Conference at the Health 
Exhibition is to be held August 4 to 9 and I 
must be here then so we shall be off for Norway 
July 1st. Tuesday June 24 I spent solid at the 
Health Exhibition. 


July 5, 1884, 8.30 P.M. 

At the present moment the sun is nearing the 
horizon and sending to us a broad path of orange- 


red light while the gentle billows all around are 
tinged with the most beautiful shades. The moon, 
nearly full, beams upon us the other side. A vessel 
with curiously shaped sails lights up just astern. 
We have seen so many vessels today, it seems not 
at all a desert waste. The craft are all small but 
very picturesque with their colored sails. 

11 P.M., July 14, 1884. 

We are just crossing the Arctic Circle. I do not 
see any special ceremonies going on but I must write 
up today's journal on the spot. I wish you all could 
see this landscape. We are making for some high 
islands which are green nearly to their tops with 
many houses on the low shores. Directly behind there 
is a high snow-capped range of very serrated peaks. 
The quarter moon hangs large and bright a little 
above the horizon at an angle of about 45 from our 
course. On the left at about the same angle is a 
low place in the mountains which glows with the sun 
just below the horizon. It did not disappear until 
10.15. The light over all is indescribably beautiful. 
Robert will know a little how it is from our beauti- 
ful Calumet sunsets. 

1 o'clock, July 15. 

We are still sitting in the shelter of the prow 
where we were at 11. The sun is nearly rising and 
the colors are wonderful. These two hours have 
been a succession of marvels. We have been passing 
among the strangest shaped peaks and in sight of 
high mountains, snow-capped. It is all so strangely 
beautiful that it must be seen to be at all appreciated. 


1.45 P.M. 

We are still here. It has been too delightful to 
leave. The Captain either gulled the people or they 
misunderstood him for we are now just crossing the 
Arctic Circle, just as the sun is going to appeal- 
behind some high hills which have hid it. 

REDRUTH, August 13, 1884. 

We reached Truro one hour late last night about 
9 o'clock. Found the Red Lion very nice and his- 
toric, 1631. This morning we visited the museum 
and the town, saw a smelting house under repair, had 
an hour's talk with the people, got a good basketful 
of specimens and took the 1.30 train for this place, 
where we shall visit the Mining Institute and some 
smelting works in operation. 

The following letter was written to Mrs. Rogers, 
widow of the founder of the Institute of Technology, 
who had shared her husband's pioneer labors and 
retained after his death a vital interest in the Insti- 
tute. Mrs. Richards was always at pains to keep her 
informed about the work, and used often to spend a 
few restful days at her Newport home, which she 
once described as "within sound of the breakers, 
away from all sound of the Newport life." 


July 3, 1885. 

We spent a week in Denver and Boulder and a day 
in Pueblo where there are three of our graduates. . . . 


Our greatest trip was the Grand Canon of the 
Colorado river. We did not of course follow Powell 
on his journey on the river itself, which must be 
very dangerous, so we did not get the full grandeur 
of the gorge, but we saw more than we could take 
in of the mighty cliffs seamed with these rifts or 
canons, in all directions. Since the strata of sand- 
stone are left nearly horizontal the effect to the eye 
is not as impressive as the great height would war- 
rant. For instance, standing at the base of a cliff 
4,800 feet in almost perpendicular height it was very 
hard to believe it was half that height only after 
some time and after repeated comparisons with the 
shrubs and cacti could one at all realize the immensity 
of the rock enclosing us. ... 

The Yosemite Valley is a gem set in grandeur. It 
is finer than I had supposed. The photographs do 
not give an adequate idea of it. It is, like Norwegian 
scenery, on too grand a scale to be reduced to paper 
size. But I think the Trees have made the deepest 
impression upon me. California may well boast of 
her Trees, and they should be spelled with a capital 
T when they are written about. 

We have set our faces eastward and are now going 
among the mines. We visited the Quicksilver mine 
of New Almaden and we are now among the gold 
mines. The Hydraulic mines are stopped but we find 
many quartz veins still worked. 

This place is an ideal mining town. They have 
plenty of water and each house in the village has its 
garden and shrubbery, while large locust and poplar 
trees line the streets. . . . 


Robert has been for the most part quite well, but 
the long drives in the sun seem to tire him more than 
they do me. I am very strong and seem to endure 
all sorts of knocking about. 

Repeatedly during this trip she made reference 
to the strain upon Professor Richards of the travel- 
ing and of the work. The fact is that for many 
years he had been working at too high pressure. 
Between 1878 and 1883, years of financial depression 
for the Institute, he had not only directed the work 
of his own department, but filled the office of secre- 
tary, and when he gave up this extra work it was 
only to be faced by large arrears in his own profes- 
sional labors. For years he was in low physical 
condition, and the crisis came in the fall of 1887, 
when he had a long and serious siege of typhoid 

32 Eliot Street, 

December 13, 1886. 

Your letter came in the week when we dared to 
hope that Professor Richards was really coming back 
to life after three weeks of very dangerous Typhoid 
Pneumonia. So your imagination of the even tenor 
of my ways was partly correct. Robert is now down 
stairs and doing very nicely indeed but he had a hard 
time of it, the fever ran four weeks in all. I had two 
nurses, sent mother away and had a regular hospital 
with hours strictly kept so that I went out nearly 


every day for air and nerves. I found it made a 
difference and I had to keep my head level. Dr. Wil- 
liams staid in the house for eight nights so I was 
relieved of the worst strain. 

I have a very good assistant this year and so by 
going in for an hour or two I could keep the work 
going on. We also managed to plan Robert's work 
so the students have not suffered. Of course other 
outside work has been mostly put one side. 

For several years after this, Mrs. Richards seems 
to have contented herself with short trips. Pro- 
fessor Richards's sickness and long convalescence, 
the sanitary survey which was then in progress, a 
fall on the rocks at the seashore which partially dis- 
abled her for a long time, her mother's declining 
health, and the great pressure of work connected with 
the New England Kitchen and the School Lunches 
combined to prevent her from going far from home. 
This was the time, too, when she was finding joy and 
recreation with her beautiful Duchess, the horse for 
which she had an affection that in a weaker woman 
of fewer interests might have seemed unreasonable. 
A few weeks after Duchess died, she wrote: "It has 
been a delightfully warm, sunny day, but no longer 
do such days bring me pleasure. Since my beautiful 
Duchess went to the land of perpetual sunshine I 
would rather it rained. I never have been for a drive 
or walk even over the old roads." 


PROVINCE-TOWN, July 19, 1887. 

Miss Capen came down from Northampton last 
Thursday and I proposed to her one of our four day 
trips to some unexplored country of coolness and 
drives. We decided on the Cape as quite unknown 
to us although only four hours from Boston. So 
yesterday morning we left Jamaica Plain about half 
past seven and had dinner here. We walked about 
this queer old town and then were driven over to the 
life saving station across billows of sand, through 
thickets of blueberry, wild pear, beech and plums, 
over cranberry bogs and turf roads. It is all new 
and interesting, this out of the way corner town, half 
Portuguese, half old whaling population and queer 
collections of houses looking as if there had been a 
shower of houses and they had staid where they had 
fallen, as some one has remarked of them. We have 
seen the curing of the codfish and heard how the 
Nova Scotia fishermen have spoiled trade. 

This point is only sand, so the vessels coming 
home bring as ballast a load of loam for the gardens 
or of gravel for the streets so that Provincetown is 
made up of a little of everywhere. 

In August, 1888, Mrs. Richards and Miss Marian 
Talbot took a carriage trip through the White 
Mountains, during which Mrs. Richards selected a 
site for a summer cottage at Randolph, New Hamp-. 
shire. Her account of this journey written to Pro- 
fessor Richards was in the form of a narrative 
entitled, "The Adventures of Black Billv in the White 



Mountains," and was supposedly written by the horse 
which she drove. At the point, however, where 
"Madame and Mademoiselle," the two strange women 
traveling alone, chose to climb mountains, Black Billy 
was dependent upon Bruce, the collie, for informa- 
tion. Bruce reported: 

"A preliminary trial of strength was made by 
ascending Ran _, C^~^ -s dolph Hill by a 


f m 



path through the woods one and one-half miles and 
then descending by the road three miles. Madam 
selected a house lot on the Hill and she declared 
she had never seen so fine a view of the mountains." 
[Mrs. Richards bought the house lot referred to, 
but did not see it again until 1904, when she built 
on it a cottage which she named "The Balsams."] 

"At 6 o'clock on Wednesday morning the party 
started for the Mount Adams trip. The trail, for 
that is all the so-called path is, at first runs through 


a meadow across Moose river, on stepping stones, 
then through heavy woods where considerable logging 
has been done so that the guide could not 
find his own path. But after climbing 

View from " TJie Balsams " 

through many fallen trees and wading several bogs, 
a more solid ground was reached. Then every step 
was up. Four thousand feet in four miles means a 
rise at every foot, some of the way steeper than old- 
fashioned back stairs. Madam with her 155 pounds 


weight to carry took frequent occasions to admire 
the trees and moss and abundant Spring flowers 
when there was no view to exclaim over or no spring 
of clear, cold water to test. 

"Four hours brought the party out to a rock 
where there were low trees and alpine flowers but 
nothing to obstruct the view. Fortunately clouds 
tempered the heat of the sun without cutting off a 
view of the landscape. Specimens of plants had to 
be gathered and 12 o'clock found the party camped 
for luncheon at the foot of an immense snow bank 
which furnished a small river of cool water. 

"... The sharp, stony peak looked a great way 
off. A sharp scramble, however, conquered and on 
the topmost stone the eye commanded a view not to 
be forgotten. The day was a perfect success, a 
delight to all." 

The summer of 1893 and much of the following 
autumn she spent at the World's Fair, superintend- 
ing the work of the Rumford Kitchen. The Fair 
itself she described in Whitmanesque fashion as a 
"most wonderful exhibition of American brag, cour- 
age, and persistence a grand scene art archi- 
tecture in fact, everything good and everything 
bad at the same time." 

During the last fifteen years of her life, she trav- 
eled increasingly, but almost invariably her journey- 
ings were for the purpose of lecturing or of attend- 
ing conventions or committee meetings. In 1886 she 


had added the American Public Health Association, 
and about the same time the National Educational 
Association, to the list of societies whose conventions 
she faithfully attended, and in 1899 she started the 
Lake Placid Conference. The expenditure of money 
and of time involved in these journeys was enormous. 
What others spend in pleasure trips she spent in 
seeking the fellowship of people of kindred minds 
and purposes, in this way demonstrating the strength 
of her interest and faith in the organizations to 
which she had given her allegiance. 

nl Club 



THIS record, necessarily incomplete, and probably 
further from complete than even those realize who 
are most familiar with her work, will serve to show 
the discipline, the experience, the knowledge, the 
training, the acquaintance with people and with 
organizations which Mrs. Richards brought to the 
organized Home Economics movement which had its 
beginning in the first Lake Placid Conference of 
Home Economics, held in 1899. 

In reviewing the work of the Lake Placid Confer- 
ence, she once said, "The movement took rise in the 
same realization of 'the inconvenience of ignorance' 


that led John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians, to 
found a school in 1690 Ho do away with it.' " The 
form of ignorance which in 1899 had grown so in- 
convenient as to call for a united effort to "do away 
with it" was in connection with household adminis- 
tration under the new conditions which great social 
and industrial changes had brought. "The flow of 
industry had passed on and had left idle the loom 
in the attic, the soap kettle in the shed." The form 
of the home was being gradually but surely changed, 
not, however, because of intelligent direction from 
within, but through pressure from without. The 
thoughtless were content to allow the changes to 
proceed, lead where they would, but the wise were 
anxious. They began to ask, to use Mrs. Richards's 
own words: "What are the essentials which must be 
retained in a house if it is to be the home? What 
work may be done outside? What standards must 
be maintained within? How can the schools be made 
to help? What instruction should go into the cur- 
riculum of the lower schools, and what is the duty 
of the higher educational and professional schools? 
What forces in the community can be roused to 
action to secure for the coming race the benefits 
of material progress?" 

But besides great needs, the times presented great 
opportunities. These are best described, perhaps, in 
the words of another enthusiastic advocate of organ- 
ization in the interest of home life, Professor W. O. 


Atwater, who said, "The science of household eco- 
nomics is in what chemists call a state of super- 
saturated solution; it needs only the insertion of 
a needle point to start a crystallization." The 
needle point was inserted during a social visit which 
Mrs. Richards made to the Lake Placid Club in 
September, 1898. At that time she was asked to 
speak to the members of the Club on the domestic 
service problem, and out of the discussion which 
followed her address came the determination to hold 
an annual conference at the Lake Placid Club to 
consider home problems. 

Mrs. Richards's visit to the Club has been described 
as "social," but it had another purpose. As we 
know, she seldom traveled merely for her own pleas- 
ure or, except in cases of special need, in order to 
make visits among her relatives and friends. In this 
case it happened that she had been called upon to 
advise with Mr. Melvil Dewey, who at the time was 
the Director of the State Library and of Home 
Education in New York State, with reference to the 
regents' examinations. The regents had, in 1896, 
decided to give Household Science a place in the 
examination tests which the state makes for college 
entrance, and in outlining the questions Mr. Dewey 
had turned to Mrs. Richards for assistance. Lake 
Placid was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Dewey, 
and Mrs. Richards's visit, therefore, was something 
more than social, since it offered the desired oppor- 


tunity to talk over educational reforms with Mr. 
and Mrs. Dewey; it was a chance to push forward 
the battle line. 

Those who loved Mrs. Richards, and they were 
many, like to think that this crowning labor of hers 
the organized Home Economics movement had 
its beginning in a place of marvelous natural beauty, 
for during her whole life a Puritan sense of duty 
and a Spartan self-control had kept her in stud} 7 , 
in office, and in laboratory when a passion for 
natural beauty would have led her into the open 
country. The Lake Placid Club lies on the shore of 
a quiet lake, which mirrors the mountains and the 
trees by which it is surrounded. In this beautiful 
spot in the heart of the Adirondacks, Mr. and 
Mrs. Dewey had made a home for themselves, repro- 
ducing the comforts of their city life and all that 
contributes to efficiency, and leaving behind all that 
encumbers and impedes. The Club buildings, of which 
their home is one, as they have increased in number 
under their wise direction (for Mr. and Mrs. Dewey 
have for some years devoted their time to the affairs 
of the Lake Placid Club), have so found their places 
in the landscape as to enhance rather than to destroy 
its beauty. The physical features of the Club are 
therefore, because of their convenience and beauty, 
a constant object lesson in the art of right living. 

On September 19, 1899, somewhat more than a 
year after Mrs. Richards's first visit to the Club, the 


first Lake Placid Conference on Home Economics 
was held in a room over the boathouse, which may 
be described as a fresh-air library. To call it a 
"library" conveys the idea that it was full of books 
and periodicals conveniently arranged for use, which 
is correct, but it gives no suggestion of the splendor 
of its outlook over the water to the mountains, or 
of the bracing quality of its air. It was a fit place 
for the organization into a working group of those 
who were seeking to learn from Nature through 
Science how to live. 

The charter members who met on those beautiful 
September days of the first Conference were later 
described by Mrs. Richards: "Six were teachers, 
lecturers, and authors (two being pioneers in the 
means of better living and good food one with 
much practical experience as well; one wise in 
rural needs, and two in close contact with school 
work) ; there w r as one with a large heart for the wel- 
fare of the race and eager to contribute, one with 
faith in science as a cure-all, one wise with the wis- 
dom of the future, full of hope and zeal for her sex 
and its future ; one an optimist, with zeal and a belief 
that to know the right thing was to do it, and one 
who represented the intelligent housekeeper's side." 

Of those who were described by Mrs. Richards as 
"teachers, lecturers, and authors," three besides her- 
self have laid down their labors : Miss Maria Parloa, 
who was remarkable in this that while she might have 


argued from her phenomenal success as a teacher of 
cooking that the informal training which she had 
received was sufficient, always insisted that those who 
were to follow in her footsteps must have a scientific 
basis for their work; Miss Maria Daniell, pioneer 
in institutional management and enthusiast for the 
development of the work to which she had self -forget- 
fully and courageously given her life; and the one 
"wise in the wisdom of the future and full of zeal 
for her sex," Miss Emily Huntington, widely known 
as the originator of the Kitchen Garden method of 
teaching housekeeping to children. The other teach- 
ers were Miss Anna Barrows, who was "wise in rural 
needs" because of her successful connection with 
Grange and Farmers' Institute work; Mrs. Alice 
Peloubet Norton, then supervisor of Domestic Sci- 
ence in the public schools of Brookline, Massachu- 
setts, but soon to be chosen head of the department 
of Household Science in the School of Education 
connected with the L T niversity of Chicago ; and Miss 
Louisa A. Nicholass, of the State Normal School, 
Framingham, Massachusetts, who had organized one 
of the first normal courses in household arts. The 
one representing the intelligent housekeeper's side 
was Mrs. William G. Shailcr, president of the 
New York Household Economic Association, a state 
branch of a society which shortly afterwards became 
incorporated in the Household Economics commit- 
tee of the General Federation of Women's Clubs; 

I \ 


and the one described as "having a large heart for 
the welfare of her race," Mrs. William V. Kellen, 
of Boston, who had made the School Lunch project 
possible. The person with "faith in science as a 
cure-all" was, of course, Mrs. Richards, while 
Mrs. Dewey was the optimist with "zeal and a belief 
that to know the right was to do it." 

This Conference, which had opened so auspiciously 
as far as place and membership are concerned, con- 
tinued for ten years a semi-private organization, with 
attendance by invitation of the Lake Placid Club, 
through either Mrs. Dewey or Mrs. Richards. The 
meetings were always held before the first of July or 
after the fifteenth of September, when the Club was 
not likely to be crowded. Through the generosity 
of Mr. and Mrs. Dewey, speakers and members of 
committees were entertained. Others were given spe- 
cial rates at the club, without which it would often 
have been difficult for them to meet the expense of a 
long journey to the mountains. 

The record of the work of the Lake Placid Con- 
ference of Home Economics has been preserved in 
annual reports which are a valuable contribution to 
the literature of the subject. The story has been 
twice told in brief; first, in an address given by 
Mrs. Richards on the occasion of the tenth meeting, 
when preparations were being made for the formation 
of a national organization; and second, in a carefully 
formulated letter of appreciation from the Confer- 


ence to its leader. The first is valuable because it 
gives Mrs. Richards 's own point of view and her own 
estimate of the value of the proceedings of the Con- 
ference, though it leaves her connection with the 
work to the imagination of the reader. The second 
gives the members' own estimate of the usefulness of 
her connection with the organization. 

After outlining in her report the conditions which 
led to the movement, Mrs. Richards goes into de- 
tails of the work, telling first how the Conference 
set about securing for its subject a place in library 
classification which would provide for development 
along right lines. In the Dewey Decimal Classifica- 
tion they had found it entered as one of the useful 
arts, but, as Mrs. Richards said, that put it under 
"Production," and the home was no longer an im- 
portant industrial center, while it had great respon- 
sibilities in connection with the use of wealth. The 
Conference therefore insisted that Home Economics 
should be classified under "The economics of con- 
sumption." This may seem a little matter, but in 
that experimental period it meant very much to give 
readers and students a suggestion that Home Eco- 
nomics involves vital matters connected wuth social 
economy as well as the arts of cooking and sewing. 

But much more important was the way in which 
the subject of Home Economics was being presented 
in the schools. Concerning this, Mrs. Richards said, 
in a report referring to conditions in the year 1898 : 


"Ten years ago domestic science meant to most 
people lessons in cooking and sewing given to classes 
of the poorer children supported by charitable peo- 
ple, in order to enable them to teach their parents 
to make a few pennies go as far as a dollar spent in 
the shops. To do this, common American foods were 
cooked in American ways, regardless of the nation- 
ality of the children, and usually failed to please 
the inherited foreign tastes. But complacent philan- 
thropists felt happy in having offered bread to the 
starving, as they were pictured to be, and pretty 
bad bread it often was, judged by European stand- 
ards. . . . 

"So also the tradition of the valuelessness of a 
woman's time kept the plain sewing to the front, and 
classes were taught seams and ruffles and cheap orna- 
mentation in the false assumption that it was econ- 
omy. As late as the St. Louis Exposition, in 1903, 
the work of the public schools of this country was 
almost without exception bad from an ethical point 
of view, showing waste of time and material and the 
inculcation of bad taste. The work of the American 
public schools must have an ethical quality if it is 
to give us good citizens. 

"Almost all the early work in sewing as well as 
cooking done in the country was wrong, and a plea 
for a fuller acknowledgment of the economic and 
ethical was made in the name adopted by the Lake 
Placid Conference after much thought and a full dis- 


cussion home economics: home meaning the place 
for the shelter and nurture of children or for the de- 
velopment of self-sacrificing qualities and of strength 
to meet the world; economics meaning the manage- 
ment of this home on economic lines as to time and 
energy as well as to money. Lake Placid stood from 
the first for a study of these economic and ethical 
problems, let them lead where they would. And they 
have certainly led very far from the earlier ideals 
of domestic economy. Real progress is often re- 
tarded by trying to make the new fit into the old 
scheme of things. It has been the endeavor of the 
program committee to secure speakers and writers 
with a penetrating vision of the future as fore- 
shadowed by the tendencies to be felt if not seen. 
Just as the dark end of the spectrum so long disre- 
garded has proved to be of the greatest importance 
in cosmic interpretation, so the obscure indication 
of social movements is leading us to clearer concep- 
tions of the goal whither society is tending; and 
right in the conditions of home life is found the 
strongest indicator. 

"Such topics as the following are found in the 
programs of these early years : training of teachers 
of domestic science; courses of study for grade 
schools as well as colleges and universities ; state, 
agricultural, evening, and vacation schools; exten- 
sion teaching; rural school work; home economics 
in women's clubs with syllabuses to aid such study: 


manual training in education for citizenship. All 
these lead toward higher education in better living, 
the new science of Euthenics, as an essential pre- 
liminary to the study of the better race, a study 
to which Mr. Francis Galton has given the name 
Eugenics. From the very first special emphasis was 
laid on the educational possibilities of the work. 

"Domestic science at farmers' institutes, simpli- 
fied methods of housekeeping, standards of living in 
the conduct of the home and in relation to sanitary 
science, household industrial problems, labor saving 
appliances, cost of living, standards of wages and 
the ever irritating question of tips and fees, have 
all been discussed. 

"Programs have included the food problem in its 
many phases, from fads and fancies to protein metab- 
olism and mineral matter required by the human 
body ; nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, progress in 
work for public health represented by the work of 
the Health Education League and the Committee 
of One Hundred on National Health, leading to 
efficiency as the keynote of the 20th century. 

"Economics in trade and professional schools, 
home economics in training schools for nurses, the 
hospital dietitian and the status of institution man- 
agers, recent dietetic experiments at Yale Univer- 
sity, cooperation with the work of the United States 
Department of Agriculture at Washington, reports 
from the American School of Correspondence, even 


psychic factors affecting home economics and cost 
of living have been considered. 

"The interest of the educator, the schoolman and 
the woman teacher was no less difficult to arouse 
than that of the housewife. The school curriculum 
was sacred to the usual academic subjects. 

"Only this past week has seen the fruition of the 
efforts made by the conference annually to have 
the subject brought before the National Education 

"The teaching section of the Lake Placid Con- 
ference, organized in New York in December, 1906, 
held a full meeting in Chicago, December, 1907, and 
has collected valuable data for use in further work. 
It has been the means of uniting the workers of all 
sections and of making known some of the good work 

"But after all it is the economy of human mind 
and force that is most important, and so long as 
the nurture of these is best accomplished within the 
four walls of a home, so long will the word Home 
stand first in our title." 

Such was the work of the Lake Placid Conference 
as Mrs. Richards saw it; her own connection with 
it is not made evident by her. It was set forth, how- 
ever, in an address prepared to honor Mrs. Richards, 
which was presented during the meeting of the Con- 
ference in 1905. It was signed by all those who had 


received the benefits of the meetings, and later it was 
engrossed, illuminated, bound, and presented to her 
as a permanent expression of appreciation: 

"Every movement for social betterment is made 
up at its beginning of apparently diversified unre- 
lated forces. Their common ground of agreement, 
their possible rallying point for combined effort, may 
be hidden from the ordinary observer, but stand fully 
revealed to the born leader. To such a one, pos- 
sessed of imagination and enthusiasm, it is granted 
to see how this rich variety of experience and sugges- 
tion may be used in building up a unity which is yet 
various, and whose different parts when nourished 
and grown strong may establish their separate activi- 
ties. There comes a time in the history of every 
social and educational movement when the need 
for thus unifying the work of individuals is so great 
that without it further progress is difficult, if not 

"Such an organization, Mrs. Richards, was effected 
by you in the Lake Placid Conference, which held its 
first meeting in 1899. It was instantly recognized 
as offering inspiration and practical help to workers 
in many different fields, to all those, in fact, who were 
laboring directly or indirectly for the betterment of 
the home and for good citizenship. It appealed to the 
student of practical hygiene; to the teacher of sew- 
ing and cooking in the public schools ; to the kinder- 
gartner and manual training teacher seeking to 
establish the relation to brain development of the 


training of hand and eye; to the educator engaged 
in outlining the purposes and methods for training; 
to the adult as housekeeper, as matron of public 
institutions, as teacher or nurse ; to the club worker 
desirous of finding out the best ways of serving her 
fellow-citizen; to the thoughtful woman, interested 
primarily in the well-being of one home, but seeing 
that many forces must work together for that end. 
All these students and workers have received help 
from the Lake Placid Conference in fuller measure 
than could have been foreseen at its inception. By 
able committees whose work has extended over sev- 
eral years, it has built up a consistent course of 
study for elementary, high, collegiate, and tech- 
nical schools; by the help of another committee, it 
has obtained through the catalogue system of the 
American Library Association the proper place for 
books on Home Economics, thus smoothing the path 
of the students in this and kindred lines; it has 
simplified the nomenclature and defined the use of 
terms formerly employed with different meanings in 
different schools and localities ; it has furnished well- 
formulated syllabuses for school and club study on 
Food, Clothing, Shelter, and the Expenditure of the 
Family Income; it has preserved, in a permanent 
form in the annual report, discussions by specialists 
on a large range of topics; it has thrown light on 
all of these subjects through the cooperation of edu^ 
cators, not only of our own land, but of England, 
Canada, and Australia; it helped to increase the 
number of free government bulletins at the disposal 


of students, by petitioning Congress for additional 
grants to the Department of Agriculture to be used 
in nutrition investigations ; it has suggested and 
made possible the establishment of summer schools, 
evening classes, and courses of lectures in many 
localities; it has helped in building up the corre- 
spondence in Home Economics; it has brought to 
the knowledge of members the best books on special 
topics, and has suggested the need and the scope of 
new ones, such as that valuable series on The Cost 
of Living, The Cost of Food, and The Cost of 
Shelter, all of which have been written since the 
Conference was organized. 

"One of the chief functions of the Lake Placid 
Conference has been to put in touch with each other 
persons of like interests and pursuits from widely 
separated parts of the country. This has often re- 
sulted in bringing to a given work the very worker 
who could successfully carry it forward and has 
made it possible to bring together students of special 
subjects for the giving of valuable courses of lec- 
tures. At these conferences the brave and enter- 
prising West has come to learn of the more experi- 
enced East, and the East has in turn learned of a 
vast and prosperous region where home life and 
farm life still have the old, close relation which has 
furnished ideal conditions for character building. 
"The dominant note in the deliberations of this 
Conference, that which has given it its distinctive 
character, is the ever present sense of the end for 
which all this educational machinery exists, 'the 


promotion of healthful, moral, and progressive home 
and family life, the indispensable basis of national 
prosperity.' The Conference has repeatedly pointed 
out that 'no person has a better opportunity to 
separate convention from good living than the 
teacher of housekeeping methods.' That there may 
be 'standards of living,' and that light may be thrown 
on them by acknowledged principles of economic and 
social science, and that these standards should be 
treated from the point of view of their relation to 
physical and moral health, are doctrines which have 
taken form in this Conference with clearness and 
force. It has been recognized that the home cannot 
adjust itself to the rapidly changing conditions of 
modern times without help from trained people work- 
ing through the only medium, the school, hence the 
importance of placing courses in Home Economics 
on a sound educational and scientific basis. 

"Best of all, this Conference has been character- 
ized by a sunny atmosphere of courage, helpfulness, 
and enthusiasm. It has been especially full of in- 
spiration to the young teacher. 'For two years,' 
said one, 'the Conference gave me all the help I had.' 
'What I learned that others had done nerved me to 
the task of starting practical courses in the rural 
schools of my state,' said another. 

"It is impossible to give due credit to all the 
different factors that have united in producing this 
whole, making of it an educational influence which 
it is believed will be a power for good in the land. 
The name and place of meeting suggest the debt of 


the Conference to Mr. and Mrs. Melvil Dewey, who, 
not only by their generous hospitality, but by their 
wise counsel and encouragement, have made the Con- 
ference possible. But there has been no doubt in the 
mind of even the most casual observer of the Con- 
ference that you, its Chairman, were the inspiring 
genius and leader of it all. It is you who have drawn 
around you these workers from far and near and 
given them quickened thought and a vision of how 
'all things work together'; it is you who have ever 
seen the main issue clear through confusing details 
and have pointed out not only ideals but the open 
way to their realization. But we who love and honor 
you can give no better proof of our feeling than to 
obey what we know would be your wish, and leave 
unwritten the volume of your good deeds. 

" 'Our chief want in life is some one who shall make 
us do what we can. There is a sublime attraction in 
him to whatever virtue is in us.' ' 

Never was there such a leader as Mrs. Richards. 
Before she came to a meeting of the Lake Placid 
Conference she had her plans all fully laid in accord- 
ance with her idea of what was due to the busy people 
whom she was bringing together. She had provided, 
too, for reports in newspapers and periodicals, and 
had decided how she herself would use every hour, 
almost every minute. Arrived on the scene, she was 
up at daybreak preparing for the day's work. In 
some way she succeeded in making every one want 
to be on hand at the right moment and to fill his or 


her part in the program creditably, whether it was 
in speaking, in committee work, or the recording or 
reporting of proceedings. She could cut off fruit- 
less debate without injuring any one's feelings, and 
could bring out all of value that the members had 
to contribute, and at the same time suppress all that 
was irrelevant. A certain prosperous business man 
who was a guest at the Lake Placid Club used often 
to come to the door of the room where the Confer- 
ences were held and stand for a few moments watch- 
ing and listening intently. The cause of his interest 
was for a long time a mystery, but finally he was 
heard to say: "I always like to see that little woman 
conduct a meeting. It is an education in itself." 
But he could see only how she was directing those 
forces which she had in hand at the moment. He 
little suspected that her generalship extended beyond 
the time and the place of the Conference, and that 
the effective ordering of the programs was only one 
manifestation of her organizing ability. 

She always insisted on the subordination of social 
features to the real work of the Conference. An 
early morning climb to the top of "Cobble," a hill 
near the Club, might clear the brain for a day's 
work, and she would enter into such an expedition 
with enthusiasm. But upon festivities which took 
time and energy that ought to go into the work to 
make it effective, she looked with disapproval. 

As a means of "getting things done," the Lake 


Placid Conference was a working body which might 
well stand as a model, particularly in these times 
when conventions, even of learned societies, are too 
often given over so largely to social functions. 

Although the Lake Placid Conference retained 
for ten years the name of the place where it was 
organized, it held two meetings elsewhere; one in the 
year 1903 in Boston, where a joint session with 
the Manual Training Section of the National Edu- 
cation Association was held, and one in 1908 at 
Chautauqua, New York. It was at this last-named 
meeting that plans were laid for changing the Con- 
ference into a national organization. Mrs. Richards 
had always had in mind that such a change must 
come in time, but she believed that it would be most 
unfortunate if the larger organization came into 
being before the smaller one had been effectively 
organized and its work thoroughly systematized. 
Sla- believed firmly that good work was to be pre- 
ferred to large size and wide public notice. At the 
ninth Conference at Lake Placid, in 1907, in reply 
to a question why a larger organization should not 
be formed, she replied: "We have started a separate 
Teachers' Section which will bring together teachers 
from all over the country and which for this reason 
is planning to meet at other places than Lake Placid. 
Let us see what it will accomplish ; the national asso- 
ciation will come in time when we are ready for it." 

Early in the Conference of 1908, w r ith character- 


istic method, she asked that written suggestions be 
handed in at a later session as to (1) the most im- 
portant work for the Conference for the next ten 
years, and (2) the desirability of organizing into a 
national body. She had questioned some individuals 
in advance by correspondence and was apparently 
herself convinced by the enthusiasm evinced in the 
Teachers' Section of the advisability of reorganiza- 
tion, but she would proceed only if the members 
desired and if they could show that they had a large 
program for the years to come. A preliminary com- 
mittee on national organization brought together 
suggestions from various quarters and reported its 
conclusions that the time had come for a national 
society with state branches and for the publication 
of a journal. It recommended that a committee be 
appointed to report at the meeting of the Teachers' 
Section which was to be held in Washington in 
December, 1908. 

In the fall of 1908, Mrs. Richards published two 
Bulletins to further the organization of the new asso- 
ciation, for which she herself provided the material 
and took the financial risks. The first contained 
eight pages, and stated succinctly the purpose of the 
new organization and asked the cooperation of all 
who were engaged in trying to solve home and educa- 
tion problems housekeepers, teachers, physicians, 
architects, health officers, economists, sanitarians. 
The Bulletins also contained news notes, queries, 


bibliographies, and advertisements, the purpose being 
to indicate the various ways in which a journal pub- 
lished by the new organization might prove useful. 
The second Bulletin, which was twice as large as 
the first, opened with the program of the meeting 
for reorganization to be held in Washington. Thus 
passed the Lake Placid Conference, but only in name, 
for its spirit and work were to contitiue and in a 
much larger field. 



ON December 81, 1908, the American Home 
Economics Association was organized in the city 
of Washington, at a meeting held in the auditorium 
of the McKinley Manual Training School, under the 
auspices of the recently organized Teachers' Section 
of the Lake Placid Conference, and Mrs. Richards 
was chosen as its first president, an office which she 
continued to hold until the annual meeting in Decem- 
ber, 1910, when she insisted on retiring and was 
made honorary president. 

Into the work of the Home Economics Associa- 
tion she entered with all her great enthusiasm, be- 
lieving that though its field was not very exactly 
outlined, nor very clearly marked off from that of 
any other applied science, it was sufficiently well 
defined to warrant bringing together a band of work- 
ers into a separate organization. So far as there 
was a distinct field for the work and a definite body 
of knowledge, the credit is due to her. On this point 
Dr. C. F. Langworthy, of the Office of Experiment 
Stations of the United States Department of Agri- 
culture, says: "To Liebig belongs the credit more 



than to any one else for bringing together isolated 
facts and for so adding to them as to produce the new 
subject of Agricultural Chemistry, which is almost 
the same as saying Agriculture, as we understand 
it at the present time. In the same way Mrs. Rich- 
ards did more than any one else to bring together 
a great many known facts and to add a new member, 
Home Economics, to the group of subjects which a 
man or a woman may select for serious study or for 
practical application." 

To the details of organization she gave her care- 
ful attention. She realized that she had of necessity 
dominated the older organization, rendering con- 
stitution and by-laws of little importance, and that 
there was little in the way of precedent to guide. 
In her care for the working machinery of the new 
association, she seemed to be looking forward to 
leaving the work, and may have had a premonition 
of her death which was so soon to come. 

The Association has developed rapidly since its 
foundation ; as now organized it includes many dis- 
trict and state branches, which cover a territory 
extending from New England to California. These 
branches as they grow in membership and awake 
communities to their local needs divide and sub- 
divide, and thus multiply in number. Besides the 
local branches there are two sections which bring 
together special classes of workers the Teachers' 
Section, which usually meets with the National Edu- 


cation Association, and the Administration Section, 
chiefly interested in institutional housekeeping, which 
has so far met at the Lake Placid Club. Signs now 
point to the organization of a third or Housekeepers' 

At the first convention plans were laid for 
the publication of a journal, and soon afterwards 
Mrs. Mary Hinman Abel, of Baltimore, was chosen 
editor. It was decided to publish five times a year, 
in February, April, June, October, and December. 
The financial burden of the enterprise, or at least 
the burden of financial responsibility, fell upon 
Mrs. Richards, and it was no small weight. Since 
Home Economics is concerned with the fundamental 
needs of human life with food and clothing and 
shelter and these needs are at the foundation also 
of great commercial enterprises, keen after profits, 
the publication of a journal such as the Association 
wanted presented some great and unusual problems. 
Mrs. Richards's wide experience and connections 
were of greatest value in steering the new publication 
around the many danger points. 

As the organ of a society which brings together 
widely different groups teachers in all grades of 
schools from the kindergarten to the university, 
housekeepers, lecturers, lunchroom managers, and 
institutional housekeepers the Journal of Home 
Economics presents other puzzling problems ; what 
interests one does not interest others ; what one needs 


another does not. At the last executive committee 
meeting which Mrs. Richards attended, about a 
month after her retirement from the active presi- 
dency, she said that such time in the future as she 
could give to Home Economics would be spent upon 
the development of the Journal. 

To forward this work by a periodical was no new 
idea with Mrs. Richards. When in 1894 she was 
approached by an advertising agent who wished to 
use the name "New England Kitchen" for a maga- 
zine that he planned to start, she quickly appreciated 
this means of reaching more people, but she con- 
sented only on condition that she choose the editor. 
The promoter soon withdrew from the enterprise, 
and it was managed by a board of editors who took 
up the work through Mrs. Richards's influence. 

The magazine outgrew the narrower title and 
became the American Kitchen Magazine. During the 
ten years of its publication Mrs. Richards, though 
never directly responsible, aided it by advice and 
in securing financial support. The revision of one 
of her books, "The Chemistry of Cooking and Clean- 
ing," in which Miss S. Maria Elliott collaborated, 
was published in its pages, and there were few num- 
bers that did not contain some article that she wrote 
or suggested. She also gave courses of lectures in a 
Summer School that for several successive years was 
held by the magazine in its rooms in Boston. This 
was the first periodical that represented the teacher's 


point of view in Home Economics, and it exerted 
an educative and unifying influence that did much 
to prepare the way for organization. 

In 1909 the Association decided to assume direc- 
tion of the Graduate School of Home Economics, 
which had existed for several years as an independent 
organization, but which voted to seek affiliation with 
the American Home Economics Association. This 
school offers important opportunities for graduate 
study in its biennial summer sessions of six weeks' 
duration. It had its origin in 1902, when Pro- 
fessor Atwater, of the Office of Experiment Stations, 
opened his laboratories at Wesleyan University, in 
Middletown, Connecticut, to teachers of Domestic 
Science, inviting them to study there for four weeks 
and to get in touch with the government's investiga- 
tions on nutrition. That same year a call was given 
for graduates in Agriculture to gather at Ohio State 
University to do advanced work, and from the two 
meetings arose the Graduate Schools of Home Eco- 
nomics and Agriculture. They had their first joint 
session at the University of Illinois in 1906, their 
second at Cornell University in 1908, their third 
at the Iowa State College of Agriculture in 1910. 
Before the Graduate School of Agriculture the latest 
investigations in agriculture and kindred fields are 
reported, one or two distinguished foreign scientists 
as well as many American investigators being on the 
faculty each year. In many cases the lectures in 


this school, those on such subjects as animal and 
plant physiology, nutrition, dairying methods, and 
landscape architecture, for example, bear quite as 
closely upon home as upon farm problems, and the 
joint sessions have for this reason been of great 
advantage to the Graduate School of Home Eco- 
nomics. Mrs. Richards was actively interested in all 
the sessions of these schools, and during that of 1908 
delivered a course of lectures. 

Considering her passionate desire for equality of 
educational opportunity for men and women, the 
preference which she often expressed for working 
with men and women together and not with women 
alone, and her vigorous protests against special 
concessions to women, it may seem strange that 
Mrs. Richards should have interested herself in the 
Home Economics Association, whose membership 
consists largely of women, and in the Home Eco- 
nomics movement, which is often thought to interest 
women chiefly. It is not a woman's movement, how- 
ever, but a "home" movement in which men and 
women alike have been given a part, and the Home 
Economics Association has many men in its member- 
ship. "I think it needs all the wisdom available to 
attack so great a problem," Mrs. Richards once 
said, "and I prefer to give my time and influence 
to work in which men and women are in accord." 
The fact that men and women are found work- 
ing together in this Association is due in large 


measure to Mrs. Richards's influence and to her 
constant emphasis on the scientific and economic 
bearings of the subject. Dr. David Kinley, of the 
University of Illinois, has said: "She had very clear 
notions of the scope and importance of household 
economics, not only in the narrower sense in which 
the term is commonly used, but with reference to the 
relationship of the subject to general economics and 
sociology. To her, household economics was a dis- 
tinct and important phase of the social economy. 
This seems to me the true view, and to Mrs. Richards 
more, perhaps, than to any other one person, is due 
the credit of widening the horizon of the students 
of her subject, and of enthusing them with a deeper 
and more tolerant social feeling/' 

Her position in the matter of woman's work in 
those fields where it is brought in competition or 
comparison with men's work was very clearly stated 
in the course of correspondence which followed an 
invitation to become a member of the Board of Lady 
Managers of the World's Fair at Chicago and to 
exhibit in the Woman's Building. 

"I would do anything in my power which you 
asked of me, but I have racked my brains in vain 
to find anything which as a woman I have done by 
myself, which could be shown as woman's work. The 
only thing I can think of is the little course on 
mineral lessons which I got out with Miss Crocker 
for the public schools. You are welcome to copies 

//(/<// ('(iiniilxll innl Mrs. 1,'irlniril* on tlic rifiht 


of my little books and papers on scientific topics, 
but my work in the main is so interwoven with that 
of the men here that it is impossible to separate, 
and it would be an injustice to do so. The work on 
the water belongs to the State Board of Health and 
will be shown by them. The 200 young men and 100 
young women, my pupils, are my best exhibit and 
they are not available. 

"Massachusetts usually leads and she has left 
behind her the period of woman's laboratories and 
woman's exhibitions. Our own Tech has known no 
sex since 1884 and no profession or occupation is 
now closed to a perfectly qualified woman. Hence 
it is appropriate that the space should be left vacant. 
You might have a large banner, 'Massachusetts 
points to her women, their works do follow them.' 

"Really I see nothing to be shown unless a list 
of women occupying public and professional posi- 
tions in 1893 in the State be inscribed on parchment 
and framed." 

Later she wrote even more emphatically: 

"From the first I have declined every appoint- 
ment on the women's branch of the Auxiliary and 
I do not know how it happens that my name is still 
on your council. ... I do not wish to be identified 
with a body, the very existence of which seems to me 
out of keeping with the spirit of the times. Twenty 
years ago I was glad to work on Woman's Boards 
for the education of women. The time is some years 


past when it seemed to me wise to work that way. 
Women have now more rights and duties than they 
are fitted to perform. They need to measure them- 
selves with men on the same terms and in the same 
work in order to learn their own needs. Therefore 
the establishment of a separate woman's branch of 
our exposition seemed always a mistake to me and 
one which I preferred not to be connected with in 
any way. . . ." 

She recognized, however, that there are certain 
forms of work that will always fall to women, and 
she felt it an injustice that these and the educational 
problems connected with them do not have the best 
thought of men as well as of women. Once after 
pleading before an educational conference of which 
she was the only woman member for a thorough sys- 
tem of training in Home Economics, she was con- 
fronted by certain old arguments to prove that if 
women would stay at home and meet their obligations 
there would be no need of industrial training in the 
schools. At this time she made one of the most 
impassioned speeches of her life. 

"Industrial training may make matters worse. 
That is why I make this plea, for it may take more 
and more the interest from home life which, I must 
reiterate, has been robbed by the removal of creative 
work. You cannot make women contented with cook- 
ing and cleaning and you need not try. The care 
of children occupies only five or ten years of the 


seventy. What are women to do with the rest? All 
the movement for industrial education is doomed to 
fail unless you take account of the girls. You can- 
not put them where their great-grandmothers were, 
while you take to yourselves the spinning, the weav- 
ing, and the soap making. The time was when there 
was always something to do in the home. Now 
there is only something to be done. 

"We are not quite idiots, although we have been 
dumb, because you did not understand our language. 
We demand a hearing and the help of wise leaders 
to reorder our lives to the advantage of the country. 1 ' 

Instead, then, of being inconsistent with her ideals, 
Mrs. Riclwrds's connection with the Home Econom- 
ics movement was most consistent, for she believed 
that because women had clung to antiquated ways 
of doing housework or of getting it done, and had 
failed to take hold of their own problems in a master- 
ful way, they were handicapped when they tried to 
do systematic work outside of the home for which 
they might have special talents. "The work of home- 
making in this scientific age must be worked out on 
engineering principles and with the cooperation of 
trained men and trained women. The mechanical 
setting of life is become an important factor, and 
this new impulse which is showing itself so clearly 
today for the modified construction and operation 
of the family home is the final crown or seal of the 
conquest of the last stronghold of conservatism, the 


home-keeper. Tomorrow, if not today, the woman 
who is to be really mistress of her house must be an 
engineer, so far as to be able to understand the use 
of machines." 

In 1900 she wrote an article for the Woman's 
Journal, in which she said: 

"In the strenuous life of a modern community, 
distractions crowd so closely upon every hand that 
unless a woman has method in the use of her time, 
it is frittered away and nothing useful is accom- 
plished. One of the most disheartening things of the 
ay is to see the waste of time and energy in the 
occupations of nine-tenths of American women. This 
is the more singular as in manufacturing operations 
the reverse is so commonly true. 

"In searching for a cause it seems at once evident 
that women, as a whole, have not become imbued 
with the scientific spirit of the age. They still cling 
to tradition. . They defy natural law, instead of 
accepting its help in all they wish to do. 

"To take one of the most frequent exhibitions of 
this contempt for law a woman's behavior in a 
crowded, street-car. Fully three-quarters of the sex 
do not know how to stand erect in a swaying car, 
and are not able to keep their balance when the car 
starts. Yet it is a mere matter of simple laws in 
relation to bodies in motion and at rest, laws which 
every school girl should know, and which every school 
boy does know practically, if not theoretically. 


"The first need in woman's education today is a 
grounding in respect for inexorable law, not only 
in physics, chemistry and mathematics, but in physi- 
ology and in sanitary science, and not least in social- 
economic science. Too often women have shaken 
themselves free from the support of surroundings to 
find that they were ignorant of the rules of the road, 
and when one has come to grief, she blames condi- 
tions instead of realizing her own stupidity. 

"It is not a profound knowledge of any one or 
a dozen sciences which women need, so much as an 
attitude of mind which leads them to a suspension 
of judgment on new subjects, and to that interest in 
tlie present progress of science which causes them 
to call in the help of the expert, which impels them to 
ask, 'Can I do better than I am doing?' 'Is there 
any device which I might use?' 'Is my house right 
as to its sanitary arrangement?' 'Is my food the 
best possible?' 'Have I chosen the right colors and 
the best materials for clothing?' 'Am I making the 
best use of my timr?" ' 

Her hope for the Home Economics Association in 
relation to housekeeping she expressed in a few words 
just after its organization. Having attended all the 
business meetings of the first convention, she was 
obliged to be absent from the banquet, but she did 
not forget her co-workers, and during the festivities 
a telegram came from her which read: "Happy New 


Year to the new society ! May it celebrate its fiftieth 
anniversary by the establishment of a new species 
of housewife." 

She believed in the family home with a roof of its 
own and a plat of ground of its own so firmly that 
she considered its importance beyond argument. 
The only question was how T to preserve it, and she 
never could understand how people could, for the 
want of a little united effort, let it slip out of their 
grasp and force family life to seek expression in 
hotels or apartment houses. But she was far from 
wanting to retain time-consuming methods of main- 
taining homes. The methods should be determined 
by the times, and should be the result of the applica- 
tion of science and the principles of engineering. 
There was nothing inconsistent about working for 
such homes and at the same time seeking to have 
the most advanced educational opportunities and 
professions opened to women. 

It should be remembered also, in connection with 
the organization of the Home Economics Associa- 
tion, that Mrs. Richards was always on the lookout 
for opportunities as well as for needs. No matter 
how great or how widespread a need might be, she 
thought there was little use in trying to meet it by 
organized efforts until public opinion had reached 
a point where an effective campaign could be made. 
As long as public opinion was forming she was con- 
tinually teaching, preaching, and sowing seed by 


casual suggestions, but she refused to waste her time 
in trying to work through organizations until she 
felt the time was ripe for them. For this she was 
often criticized and was thought to lack interest in 
important public questions, but it was simply her 
way of working. 

Her greatest interest, as we know, was in a subject 
far wider than Home Economics, and she was watch- 
ing continually for an opportunity to work effec- 
tively along the broader line. She believed that men 
as well as women should be so educated as to have 
an intelligent interest in problems connected with 
food, ventilation, and home sanitation in general, 
and that every department of life should receive the 
benefit of applied science. But if the world was 
ready to revolutionize girls' education in this direc- 
tion and not boys', that indicated to her where a 
given amount of energy could be most effectively 
expended. In the changed attitude of the public 
mind toward women's education she saw an oppor- 
tunity to teach the art of Right Living to part of 
the people at least. "Never mind the name by which 
it is designated, it is the result we are after. It is 
not mere hygiene but the whole round of abundant 
physical life." 

Again the Home Economics movement offered an 
opportunity to utilize what she once called "that 
considerable body of useful knowledge now lying on 
shelves." "The sanitary research worker in labora- 


tory and field has gone nearly to the limit of his 
value. He will soon be smothered in his own work 
if no one takes it. Meanwhile, children die by the 
thousands ; contagious diseases take toll of hundreds ; 
back alleys remain foul and the streets are unswept ; 
schoolhouses are unwashed, and danger lurks in the 
drinking cups and about the towels. Dust is stirred 
up each morning with the feather duster, to greet the 
warm moist noses and throats of the children. To 
the watchful expert it seems like the old cities danc- 
ing and making merry on the eve of a volcanic out- 
break. . . . There is ready at hand a field for the 
Home Economics teacher." 

It is only fair to say of the organization of 
the Home Economics Association, that part of the 
"inconvenience of ignorance" with which it was 
destined "to do away" was the inconvenience to 
Mrs. Richards of other people's ignorance. From 
the very first suggestion of introducing Manual 
Training and Domestic Science into the schools she 
had kept herself informed by study and travel about 
what the world was doing. She had herself experi- 
mented in teaching science to children, and had 
worked with the pioneers in almost every new educa- 
tional movement in Boston. She had, therefore, a 
fund of information and experience upon which 
others were glad to draw, and there poured in upon 
her from all parts of the world inquiries as to this 
kind of instruction. School authorities wrote ask- 


ing about the advisability of modifying the courses 
in the schools so as to include Domestic Science and 
Manual Training; school superintendents requested 
her to recommend teachers ; teachers sought positions 
through her and asked her advice about advanced 
work in order to improve their own qualifications ; 
mothers asked where they should send their daughters 
for normal training in household arts ; housekeepers 
asked her advice about safe economical methods in 
housework, and women's clubs asked help in the 
matter of programs, speakers, and preparation of 
papers. She was fairly overwhelmed with corre- 
spondence on all these subjects. No wonder that 
she thought the time had come for turning some of 
this work over to an organized body of workers, for 
teachers to band together and study their own prob- 
lems, and for educators to consider in conference the 
possibilities of the work. 

It may seem strange to some that Mrs. Richards 
became a leader in Home Economics work when her 
own experience in teaching had been in a different 
line. But if all her teaching, informal as well as 
formal, is taken into consideration, a large portion 
of it, it is safe to say, was of the kind now given in 
advanced schools of Home Economics. This can 
be said of her teaching in the Woman's Laboratory 
and also of the lectures that she gave in connection 
with the Normal School of Household Arts. Just 
before the organization of the Lake Placid Confer- 


ence in 1899, she had had a part in organizing the 
School of Housekeeping in Boston, which was con- 
nected with the Women's Educational and Industrial 
Union. This school, to be sure, as originally planned, 
was more particularly for the training of household 
employees, and for two years most of the work was 
in this line and in the line of lectures for employers 
of household labor. But the demand on the part of 
employees and that on the part of the older house- 
keepers was not great, while at the same time there 
was a growing demand for training on the part of 
prospective housekeepers, young women just out 
of college or high school, and a systematic course 
was laid out for them. With the beginning of this 
course Mrs. Richards's interest was thoroughly 
enlisted, and she became chief adviser in the develop- 
ment of the school and used all her wide influence to 
interest other people. During the last three years 
of its existence, from 1899 to 1902, she gave courses 
of lectures on the Chemistry of Food and helped to 
outline the related laboratory courses. This School 
of Housekeeping was in 1902 transferred by the 
Women's Educational and Industrial Union to 
Simmons College, and became the basis of the Depart- 
ment of Home Economics in that institution. 

A large part, too, of the illustrative material 
which was used by the first teachers of Home Eco- 
nomics was prepared by Mrs. Richards. In 1886 
she employed Mr. Charles R. Allen, of the Massa- 


chusetts State Board of Education, and Dr. A. H. 
Gill, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
to make after her design charts to show graphically 
the chemical composition of food materials, and a 
series of blocks to show the composition of the human 
body. She had them make, also, sets of bottles con- 
taining the actual amount by weight of water, cellu- 
lose, proteids, starch, and other substances in one 
pound of a given food. A short time afterward* 
Mrs. Richards gave an address before the American 
Association for the Advancement of Science which 
she illustrated by means of this material. The lec- 
ture brought her work to the attention of Mr. Charles 
Pratt, who was then planning to open Pratt Insti- 
tute, and he sent for her to come to Brooklyn and 
advise him with reference to the work for women. 
The first Domestic Science Laboratory at Pratt 
Institute was equipped after her plans. 

From all this it will be seen that while Mrs. Rich- 
ards's work in Home Economics had been largely 
advisory and had been performed during what she 
used to call her "play times," it embraced a certain 
amount of formal teaching and a large amount of 
practical work. Her researches, too, in her own 
special line, sanitary chemistry, had at every point 
served to show her the need of a more thorough 
preparation for home-making and had also given her 
an understanding of possible modifications in educa- 
tional methods that would make this training avail- 
able for all women. 


Her preparation for the organization of the Home 
Economics movement included not only a knowledge 
of the subject and of the field where it was destined 
to be useful, but also a capacity for leadership which 
had made itself manifest in other lines of activity, 
and which came into special prominence here only 
because this work offered an exceptionally promising 
field for her generalship. She had enthusiasm, and 
the power to inspire it in others. She believed in 
others and made them believe in themselves and have 
confidence in their own ability. She rated them by 
what they could do and not by what they were unable 
to do. Her knowledge of workers in Home Eco- 
nomics and related fields was wide and her under- 
standing of their powers and capabilities deep. Many 
of them she had discovered for herself at times when 
they were trying to decide upon a life work, had been 
suddenly thrown upon their own resources, or were 
trying to regain a place in the world's work after 
having been set aside by sickness or discouraged by 
failure. Her capacity for establishing intimate, per- 
sonal relationships where others would at the best 
have formed only casual acquaintances was unlimited. 
An introduction after a lecture or at a reception, 
with a brief word from a person as to her hopes, 
her difficulties, her aspirations, was sufficient. Hence- 
forth Mrs. Richards had that person on her mind. 
She sought news of her progress, thought of her 
when she was asked to recommend workers, sent her 
literature or helpful suggestions. 


Others had recognized the educational need which 
Home Economics was to fill and scattered forces had 
been set in motion. Mrs. Richards went further. 
She planned a campaign, and through the force of 
her own personal influence organized a body of work- 
ers and moved them forward a solid front. 



A PERIOD characterized not so much by new forms 
of service as by enlarging influence, brought to a 
close a working life in which increasing power had 
succeeded in finding enlarging opportunities and 
increasing fitness to teach an enlarging audience. 
This larger audience was secured chiefly through 
lecturing and writing. 

During the last fifteen years of her life, Mrs. Rich- 
ards's literary output was very great. Besides sci- 
entific papers and magazine articles and published 
addresses, she wrote the following books: "The Cost 
of Living," in 1899; "The Cost of Food," in 1901 ; 
"First Lessons in Food and Diet" and "The Art 
of Right Living," in 1904, and "The Cost of 
Shelter," in 1905; "Sanitation in Daily Life," in 
1907; "The Cost of Cleanness," in 1908; "Indus- 
trial Water Analysis," in 1908; "Euthenics," in 
1910; and "Conservation by Sanitation," in 1911. 

In writing these books she had two distinct pur- 
poses. The first was to record successful instances 
of the application of science to the problems of daily 
life, and the second was to plead for further appli- 



cation. They embody a large amount of information 
gained from extensive reading, practical experience, 
and travel, and are peculiarly suggestive and stimu- 
lating. Their style is vigorous and forceful rather 
than finished. The chief criticism made upon them 
was with reference, not to their subject matter, but 
to their arrangement. The wish was, in fact, often 
expressed that she would spend more time in revision 
even at the expense of producing less. Her writing, 
however, was the result of a deliberate plan on her 
part. She wanted her influence to go toward keep- 
ing people thinking and doing, and with this in view 
she thought that time spent in polishing was wasted. 
"Keep thinking," she would often put at the end 
of a letter, and after reading one of her stimulating 
books it is easy to see in imagination these two 
words written at the close. She was willing to accept 
criticism if she could only render the service which 
she thought most needed at the given time. 

She wrote much also that was embodied in other 
publications than her own. She made valuable con- 
tributions to the reports of the Commission on 
Country Life, and to the Report on National Vital- 
ity prepared by Dr. Irving Fisher for the Committee 
of One Hundred on Public Health; wrote a section 
on "Domestic Waste" for the Report of the Massa- 
chusetts Commission on Cost of Living; contributed 
several articles on "The Farm Home a Center of 
Sanitary and Social Progress," to Dean L. H. 
Bailey's "Cyclopedia of American Agriculture." 


Because of its bearing on the relation of the 
domestic service problem to the labor movement, 
the report of the Household Aid Company, of 
Boston, which she helped to prepare during this 
period, has special importance. 

The Household Aid Company was organized in 
1903 for the purpose of providing private families 
with skilled help by the day or hour, and of "study- 
ing at first-hand the problems of household labor." 
Shortly after it was formed, Mrs. Richards said in 
an address: "We none of us claim that we have 
found the right new way, but we are sure that every 
honest attempt to cut a path will help just so much. 
Light cannot come at once in so great a revolution, 
but it will come sooner for the efforts made. This 
little experiment is started, not to help twenty or 
forty families to live more fashionably or more eco- 
nomically, not to give work to twenty picked women, 
but to establish a great principle for future prac- 
tical use. Its breadth entitles it to come legitimately 
under an educational head." 

"It is misunderstood," she said, "because the 
public assumes that an attempt is being made to 
ameliorate present conditions. Disabuse your minds 
of that. The conditions are beneath us, dragging us 
under; the sooner we cut the ropes the quicker we 
shall rise to the surface. This is my own message, 
true or false. It is my belief that we are done with 
the domestic service ideas of twenty years since. We 


must, however, have knowledge and patience to try 
and try again." 

Mrs. Richards had an active part in the enter- 
prise from the beginning, but her most important 
contribution was its report, which has frequently 
been commended for the conciseness and clearness 
with which it presents, not only the work of the 
company, but also the social conditions which were 
revealed by the experiment. Others cooperated with 
her in preparing it, but if it had not been for her 
initiative, the work would have passed unrecorded 
and its results would have been largely lost to the 
world. The story of the undertaking is a good illus- 
tration of what has been called her "tonic" literary 
style, and it embodies very many of the shrewd yet 
kindly observations on life and people for which she 
was famous, and which some one has said ought 
to be collected into a "Richards's Philosophy." 

The report states in full the commonly recognized 
disadvantages of household labor to the worker and 
the ways in which they were to be met by the com- 
pany : Required residence in the house of her em- 
ployer is not satisfactory to a self-respecting girl, 
therefore a house was to be secured, furnished, and 
run for twenty Aids as their home, not a mere lodg- 
ing place. Hours of work were long and indefinite, 
therefore the Aids were to go out for a definite period 
only. Lack of congenial companionship and recrea- 
tion was to be met by making the home life attrac- 


five; and injustice in the demands for service by 
mediation on the part of the company. 

Certain equally well-recognized disadvantages on 
the part of the employer scarcity of workers, low 
grade of intelligence and of skill, unreliability, 
danger of infection when outside help is brought into 
the house, and the necessity for frequent changes 
were, according to the report, to be met by estab- 
lishing an educational test, by requiring six weeks 
of training, by investigations of complaints, by a 
sanitarily conducted home, and by the maintenance 
of a reserve group of employees. 

In August, 1903, a house was opened as an office 
for the company and a home for the Aids. It was 
decided to receive young women only after a pro- 
bationary pericd of two weeks, and to require that 
they be seventeen years of age and have a grammar 
school education or its equivalent. The plan was 
to give six weeks' training and have the workers 
available by October, when the demand would be 
most active. Miss Ellen A. Huntington, a graduate 
of Pratt Institute and of the Household Science 
Department of the University of Illinois, was chosen 
as director. 

Financially the plan was a failure, and it was 
abandoned at the end of two years, when the com- 
pany had lost five thousand dollars ; but in the course 
of the work many interesting facts were brought 
out concerning the character of household service 


demanded "in this free and democratic country": 
the inability of employers to appreciate good serv- 
ice, and their unwillingness to pay for it; and the 
peculiar difficulties attending such a solution of the 
domestic service problem as the company contem- 
plated. These facts are so set forth in the report 
as to make it invaluable for those who are seeking 
light upon this peculiar aspect of the labor problem. 

Another undertaking into which Mrs. Richards 
entered during the later years of her life was the 
Health-Education League of Boston, which pub- 
lishes booklets selling for from two to ten cents 
apiece and disseminates information about hygiene 
and sanitation by means of lectures. The story of 
her connection with this organization is best told 
in the minutes of the first annual meeting held after 
her death : 

"Whatever success we have won or good we have 
done is due in large measure to Mrs. Richards's 
wise counsel, self-sacrificing labors, and splendid 
enthusiasm. She took an active and leading part 
in the organization of our Society and was Chair- 
man of our Board of Directors from the start. She 
was present at almost every meeting of our execu- 
tive committee for nearly seven years. Of the 
twenty-one booklets that we have thus far published, 
she wrote five herself, and made the remainder more 
valuable by her suggestions. She gave many lee- 


tures for us without pay, and on one or two occa- 
sions when she was paid, she gave us the whole 
amount for the extension of the work. 

"Beside writing the booklets, it was her custom 
when lecturing in different parts of the country to 
distribute hundreds of copies free, after paying for 
them out of her own purse. 

"For a long time she desired to do something 
more to help the great army of workers in shops 
and factories, and when she was stricken she was 
engaged in preparing a booklet on Industrial 

During these last years she continued to serve 
as expert in water analysis, examining the water 
supply of many large corporations and also those 
of private estates, and giving advice with reference 
to new supplies. She was frequently consulted, also, 
with reference to the food of institutions, and dur- 
ing the last three years af her life, according to her 
own testimony, she "gave advice on the subject of 
foods in nearly two hundred institutions and acted 
as general sanitary adviser to two scores of cor- 
porations and schools/' During these years, also, 
she was serving as chairman of the Hygiene Com- 
mittee of the Boston School and Home Association. 
She was constantly consulted, too, with reference 
to school lunches, and particularly with reference to 
the feeding of anaemic children in connection with 
the campaign against tuberculosis. 


During all this time, too, she was making fre- 
quent trips through the country, speaking before 
schools and classes in Home Economics and giving 
advice about the development of this branch of 

The longest trips of her later years were to 
Mexico in 1901 and to Alaska in 1903. On both 
of these trips she took a portable water laboratory 
and examined the water supplies of many out-of-the- 
way places, making studies of future possibilities. 
The results were published in The Proceedings of 
the American Institute of Mining Engineers and 
in The Technology Quarterly. Her unfailing inter- 
est in all phases of life is shown by her diaries, from 
which the following notes are taken: 

"November 6, 1901. Las Cruces. Tired; not up 
very early ; out to river for water ; women washing. 
Took an hour's drive to the silver mines. Wonder- 
ful views all the way, surrounded by mountains red 
and rugged. Green valley with huge trees, green 
plain, Costilla, cactus, Turk's-head, huge prickly 
pears, and many desert flowers, jack rabbits, lizards, 
goats, burros. Stone shelters way up on the moun- 
tain where we got good specimens of minerals. The 
train disappeared so Miss Hyams and I took a mule 
train balky mule to cathedral and shops." 

While in Mexico she attended a bull fight because 
it was in honor of the American Institute of Mining 
Engineers, which was in session. She did not care 


for this form of entertainment, but there were some 
things which she disliked more, as the following 
entries in her diary show: 

"November 6, 1901. Went to bull fight because 
it was in our honor. There were four bulls, two of 
which were killed. Horrid!" 

"November 8, 1901. Torreon. Old town, so 
squalid, vile odors, rags, beggars. Beyond descrip- 
tion. Narrow, steep, dirty streets. Worn foot 
stones, five centuries old. A nightmare, worse than 
the bull fight." 

It was during these last years that she developed 
an idea of instructive inspection in connection with 
sanitary projects. When one of the Boston papers 
asked her to contribute to a symposium upon what 
might be done with Boston's share of the money 
which the Government was proposing to spend on 
battleships, she outlined a plan for the disposal of 
waste which involved appropriations for crematory, 
modern forms of containers and wagons, and also 
for a full corps of inspectors whose duties should 
be those of the educator as well as those of the 

One project that Mrs. Richards had in mind at 
the time of her death was the publication of the 
Louisa M. Alcott Club Leaflets, which should treat 
of subjects connected w r ith sanitation and enlight- 
ened housekeeping methods in the simple way in 


which the Rumford Kitchen Leaflets had presented 
the matter of food. The Louisa M. Alcott Club 
owes its existence to Mrs. Richards's habit of medi- 
tation in the early morning hours. Ideas came which 
she used to call her "visions," and many of these she 
hastily jotted down, to be put into being later. A 
word to Miss Isabel Hyams, in regard to adapting 
the principles and practice of Domestic Science to 
the child's intellectual growth and his physical devel- 
opment, led to the establishment of graded courses 
with equipment for children ranging in age from 
four to fifteen years. This work has served as a 
model for other settlements and schools in many 
cities, and an exhibit sent to the Fifth International 
Congress on Tuberculosis in 1905, entitled, "Laws 
of Hygiene Taught through Domestic Science and 
Nature Study to children from four to sixteen years 
old (as a means of prevention of tuberculosis)," was 
awarded a special silver medal and diploma. 

Toward the last, honors came thick and fast, or 
shall we say that she had throughout a long life 
of faithful service honored herself, and, as she neared 
the end, others made public recognition of these 

In 1907 she was made honorary life member of 
the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, at its annual 
meeting in Denver. 

In October, 1910, when Dr. Marion L. Burton 
was installed as president of Smith College, honorary 


degrees were conferred upon nine American women. 
Of these, seven received the degree of Doctor of 
Humanities; and two, Florence R. Sabin of Johns 
Hopkins and Mrs. Richards, received the degree of 
Doctor of Science. The degree was conferred upon 
Mrs. Richards in the following words : 

"Ellen Henrietta Richards, Bachelor and Master 
of Arts of Vassar College, Bachelor of Science of 
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and 
there for over a quarter of a century instructor 
in Sanitary Chemistry. By investigations into the 
explosive properties of oils and in the analysis of 
water, and by expert knowledge relating to air, food, 
water, sanitation, and the cost of food and shelter, 
set forth in numerous publications and addresses, 
she has largely contributed to promote in the com- 
munity the serviceable arts of safe, healthful, and 
economic living." 

On January 7, 1911, the Association of the 
Women of the Massachusetts Institute of Technol- 
ogy gave a luncheon in Mrs. Richards's honor, and 
presented her with a purse of one thousand dollars 
for research work. For this occasion a booklet was 
published containing a picture of Mrs. Richards in 
her academic costume, and a large number of pithy 
sayings collected from her writings. 

A growing pallor and shortness of breath, which 
friends afterwards realized were signs of the ap- 


preaching end, were the only indications of increas- 
ing physical weakness. The three long flights of 
stairs leading to her office in the Institute of 
Technology seemed for the first time to tax her 
strength. Her associates begged her to use the ele- 
vator, which, though specially intended* for carrying 
laboratory supplies, was often used to save the 
strength of those much younger than she. But she 
refused all such assistance, and went bravely forward 
on her accustomed way, relaxing in no degree her 
stern discipline of self. 

During August, 1910, seven months before her 
death, there was a sharp attack of sickness one night 
when Professor Richards was out of town, and there 
was no one in the house to realize the seriousness 
of the indications. She was at work the following 
day, giving no sign of what had happened except in 
a brief note pinned to the wall of her office giving 
the name of the physician who was to be called in 
case of sudden sickness. 

At the St. Louis Convention of the Home Eco- 
nomics Association, held in December, she was her 
most active and forceful self, though looking worn. 
When the convention was over, instead of resting 
as many younger members did, she looked about 
her for a theater companion. The following day she 
made a trip of inspection to the settling tanks along 
the Mississippi River, and then sped on her way to 
Boston. On the train she had no thought of rest- 
ing, for there were those who had been absent from 


the meeting and must be told about its transactions 
for friendship's sake. 

About the middle of January, 1911, she went to 
New York to deliver an address before the Home 
Economics Association of Greater New York at its 
annual luncheon. She chose as the title, "The Con- 
servation of Human Energy," and spoke with her 
usual vigor, urging again the message which her 
whole life had carried: "Subject the material world 
to the higher ends by understanding it in all its 
relations to daily life and action." 

At the time of this visit to New York, she called 
an Executive Committee meeting of the American 
Home Economics Association, and she seemed to take 
special pains to make it satisfactory so far as work 
was concerned and to make it unusually gay and 
cheerful in social intercourse, as if she knew it might 
be the last and wished the memory of it to be pleasant. 

About February 1 she began the preparation of 
an important paper on "The Elevation of Applied 
Science to the Rank of the Learned Professions" 
for the semi-centennial celebration of the granting 
of the charter to the Institute of Technology. This 
paper was finished just before her death and pub- 
lished in full in one of the daily papers of Boston 
on the day of her funeral. 

On Friday night, March 17, she lectured at the 
Universalist church in Haverhill. As the church was 
but a stone's throw from the house where she was 


being entertained, it was not thought necessary to 
order a carriage. On the way to the lecture she was 
seized with a violent spasm of pain, and was obliged 
to rest for some time on the road before she was 
able to go on; but when it was over she insisted on 
carrying out her part of the program, and lectured 
as if in perfect physical health. 

The following Sunday she gave an address in Ford 
Hall, Boston, in a course of lectures conducted by 
the Baptist Social Union, selecting as the subject, 
"Is the Increased Cost of Living a Sign of Social 
Advance?" In the address she showed that the high 
c::st of living was due to a growing love of pleasur- 
able sensations and to a habit of speeding up life all 
along the line, and urged that unless there is a high 
and noble purpose behind it all, it marks no advance. 
The audiences at these lectures have a character of 
their own, being composed largely of those who are 
wedded firmly to one plan or another of social re- 
form, and are ready to defend their creeds with 
vigor. While the lecturer is speaking there is a sense 
of repressed activity, and at the close a volley of 
questions. Safety-valves we have learned to call 
such meetings, and have grown accustomed to recog- 
ni/e their value for this purpose. Mrs. Richards 
WHS in no physical condition to meet the interroga- 
tions which continued for nearly an hour, but her 
mind was as alert as ever, for her answers came 
prompt and to the point. This was her last public 


The following day she was in her laboratory and 
again on Tuesday, but for the last time. Wednesday 
and Thursday she was at home, but as she had no 
definite engagements, it was not necessary to explain 
to Professor Richards why she did not leave the 
house. Always mindful of him, and wishing him to 
have his thoughts free for his work, she concealed 
from him the fact that she was suffering. On Thurs- 
day night, for the first time, he learned that some- 
thing was wrong when she took a little bell from 
the mantelshelf in the dining room, saying that she 
might need him during the night. During the night 
the call came. A physician was summoned and pro- 
nounced the trouble angina pectoris. There followed 
a week's struggle, during which hope alternated with 
fear among those who watched with her, and dur- 
ing which her thought was constantly for others. 
Wednesday morning she seemed to have gained 
strength, and summoning her secretaries, one at a 
time, she gave them directions about her work. One 
she asked to go down town and buy a wicker couch 
on which she could be carried into her study, there 
to direct the work of her assistants. Thursday 
morning she seemed even stronger, but during the 
day began to sink, and at twenty-five minutes after 
nine on the evening of March 30, 1911, she died. 

On Sunday there was a service for the family at 
her home, followed by a public service at Trinity 
Church, where the religious exercises of the Institute 


of Technology are held. Beautiful Trinity! And 
never more beautiful than that day when the chancel 
overflowed with the flowers she loved. At the close of 
the service the casket was rolled to the west door 
of the church, and those who had gathered to do her 
honor saw her last bathed in the glory of the setting 

The final service was at the Crematory in Forest 
Hills Cemetery, and the burial was in the Richards's 
family cemetery in Gardiner, Maine. 

Dead at sixty-eight? No, say rather alive, and 
abundantly alive, for sixty-eight years, and into that 
brief span pressing the labors of a century. 



IN a world and in an age in which there is a 
temptation to grasp and to acquire material things, 
to demand the service of others for one's own selfish 
advantage, and to claim honor and credit, Mrs. Rich- 
ards succeeded in living a life in which the current 

p was all the other way. She was the center of a great 
outpouring. She demanded no service of others, but 
gave it unstintingly herself; she sought knowledge 
only that she might give it back to the world in 
helpfulness ; and in spite of the fact that she had 
earned a substantial income for many years, she died 
with no money except that which had been given her 
a few weeks before for research work, and which 
she had not had time to use. 

For the peculiarly outgoing quality of her life, 
we must thank those unseen powers which determine 
what our inner impulses shall be; but for the abun- 
dance of her service and for its fine adjustment to 

\ the needs of her times, we must look to her own 
splendid determination to set no limit or bound to 
her labors and to her patient, unremitting efforts 
to multiply the talents which she had received. 



She once said, in speaking of her life, that she 
had tried to show what an average American woman 
could accomplish. As to whether or not she was 
an average person, with the average opportunities 
of a woman of her period, opinions will differ. She 
certainly was below the average in the physical vigor 
with which she was endowed by nature, and such 
beauty as she had seemed rather the outward con- 
formation to the demands of a strong, sweet spirit 
than a mere matter of form and color. 

Since she had no great endowment of strength, 
it would not have been strange if her great public 
labors had been at the expense of attention to those 
little matters which make life sweet and gracious, 
but in some way she found time for 

"... the whole sweet round 
Of littles which great life compound." 

From the stories of her "deeds of week-day kindness" 
which poured in after her death, volumes might be 
written. The daughter of an old friend wrote that 
she had told Mrs. Richards casually in June that she 
was to enter Vassar College in September, and had 
not seen her again nor had any communication with 
her before college opened. Then she. found on every 
hand that welcome had been prepared for her through 
Mrs. Richards's thoughtfulness. A distant cousin, 
whom Mrs. Richards had not seen since she was a 
child, came from the West to study art in New York. 
Mrs. Richards gave her letters of introduction, and, 


as the cousin discovered years afterwards, sent money 
to several friends to be spent in providing the 
stranger with amusements and diversion during the 
first weeks of absence from home. A teacher known 
to Mrs. Richards only as hundreds of others are, 
moved to Jamaica Plain, expecting to make her 
presence known after she had become settled, but 
early the next morning Mrs. Richards was at her 
doorstep, a pot of hyacinths in her hand, and a 
welcome to Jamaica Plain on her lips. 

She had a way of remembering not only her 
friends, but her friends' friends, even though they 
were quite unknown to her personally, and particu- 
larly if they were old, sick, or in trouble. It was 
for this friendliness once-removed that her friends 
hold her in tenderest affection. 

The birthdays of her friends were never forgotten. 
"True to the day and hour, the greeting from you 
comes to my hand," one friend expressed it. Nor 
was the welcome for the coming baby ever forgotten, 
even in her busiest moments: "It was more than kind 
of you, in the midst of all the preparations for your 
journey, to think of me and the little one that is 
coming. I could not have been more surprised and 
pleased than when I received your letter and the 
package (a little lace cap) that accompanied it." 

Books and magazines she showered abroad as 
I liberally as she did flowers. Many a year her orders 
i to her publishers for books that she gave away 


nearly balanced her royalties. She always remem- 
bered the libraries in the little towns where she had 
lived in girlhood, or with which she had special 
connection. A request from a woman's club in 
Panama for information about books brought not 
information alone, but a boxful of books themselves. 
She had a plan for all the periodicals for which she 
subscribed. After they had been read by her they 
were sent to some friend, reading room, or club. 

In spite of her businesslike attitude toward life, 
she was sentimental with reference to anniversaries. 
Two intimate Jamaica Plain friends had birthdays 
that fell, one near Professor Richards's birthday 
and the other near her own. and with the two yearly 
celebrations of the four birthdays nothing was ever 
allowed to interfere. These celebrations frequently 
took the form of all-day excursions to the seashore 
or to the woods, sometimes on foot and sometimes 
by electric car. "Eventless is your life? Then it is 
your fault. If you have a good back and twenty 
cents to spend, you can make a panorama of events 
pass before you which, like the biograph, will illumine 
hundreds of otherwise dreary hours." 

Her beauty love, which was part of her rich, full 
life, went out most spontaneously to flowers. She 
was interested in works of art, but chiefly because 
she believed that such an interest had a place in a 
well-ordered life, and she wished to be able to sym- 
pathize with it in others. She could work herself 


up to it, but it never mastered her. With flowers, 
however, it was different. She raised tulips, hya- 
cinths, and daffodils in profusion in her house every 
winter, tending them while they put forth leaf and 
bud, and when they had reached the glory of full 
bloom, she sent them broadcast among her friends. 
Part of the ceremony of making Professor Richards 
comfortable for a long period of work at his desk 
was to place the best of her flowering plants near 
by for him to see when he looked up from his books. 
She understood the needs of plants as she did those 
of people, and she fed and watered and tended them 
intelligently, taking no chances. Her reward was 
the perfection of their beauty. 

She loved animals too, horses in. particular. But 
she had not time to give a horse the needed exercise, 
and for this reason she seldom was able to have one 
of her own. Kittens came next in her affection, but 
they were not in favor with those who did her house- 
work, so she finally settled upon parrots. Diaz h:id 
a short existence, but Carmen was a familiar house- 
hold figure for many years, tenderly and intelligently 
cared for. 

She knew the secrets of healing. One summer, 
when she was taking a carriage trip with a friend 
in Vermont, she stopped at a farmhouse to inquire 
the way, and found that a son in the family had 
just sprained his ankle. In the absence of a physi- 
cian she gave the necessary first-aid. A few days 



later her companion, traveling that way, inquired 
how the young man was doing. The reply was, 
"Very well, thanks to your friend, the trained nurse." 

Though she was keenly interested in professional 
life for women, she was equally anxious that, they 
should have happy homes. When a young woman 
who owed her professional training largely to 
Mrs. Richards's interest and generosity tremblingly 
told her that she was going to be married very soon, 
Mrs. Richards said: "I am glad of it. I know him 
and he is too nice a boy to keep waiting." 

She saw no reason, however, why women should 
lose their individuality in marriage. In writing 
about marriage as it is portrayed in modern fiction, 
she said : 

"This age is one which is dealing with personal 
questions concerning spheres, rights, and duties, and 
anything which will warn from the rocks and quick- 
sands is to be welcomed. The great majority of 
marriages are getting to be unhappy. The artificial 
life of our villages, with the struggles for positions 
as represented by clothes and service, is ruining 
many a home. I see so much of it in real life that 
I am glad if any picture can be drawn which will 
help some to see whither they are tending before 
it is too late. 

"I believe this class of fiction is more wholesome 
than that which deals with lovers' trysts and escapes 
from cruel parents only to live happy ever after, 


marriage being the sum and substance of woman's 
ambition, and the end of her life. It is becoming 
recognized that woman has a personality that is not 
in her husband's control, that the mere fact of 
marrying him does not make her his devoted slave." 

To the quickness of her perceptions and other 
mental processes may be attributed not only the 
speed with which she worked, but also the large 
variety of interests which she was able to keep up. 
Among her papers were found rough notes she had 
made upon a slight earthquake shock that had been 
felt in Jamaica Plain. These notes had been copied 
and sent to an authority upon seismic disturbances, 
to serve as far as one person's observations could to 
determine the characteristics of the phenomenon. 
Sitting alone in her library, she had passed calmly 
through this experience, and at the close was able 
to report which pictures had swung out from the 
wall and which had suffered most disturbance. 

From the time when she had kept the records at 
Vassar, she was interested in forecasting the weather. 
She always had a full set of weather maps on hand 
and followed the predictions. Occasionally she would 
think that the prophecy was wrong, and bringing 
out the diagrams for half a dozen days back she 
would demonstrate her belief; and it is said that 
when she and the official forecaster differed, she was 
quite as likely to be right as he. 


As a result of her many interests, conversation 
with her was an invigorating mental gymnastic, and 
the reaction was usually a violent effort to bring 
one's self up to date. Her sister, Mrs. Laura E. 
Richards, gave her the name of "Ellencyclopedia." 
In the course of a short conversation she would 
refer to this great engineering venture, that man out 
West who had made such an interesting discovery, 
or that woman in New York who was carrying on 
such an important experiment. Those who talked 
with her usually left her presence determined to 
"catch up." Her letters, which had an exhilarating 
quality about them and always carried with them an 
impression of abiding loyalty, were best described 
by the friend who wrote to her, "Your letters are 
like a breath of the ocean and a glimpse of the 
everlasting hills." 

Even after due allowance has been made for her 
quickness, there is a temptation to say that the 
way in which she managed to do so many little as 
well as so many great things cannot be explained, 
but it is wiser to admit that it can be explained in 
part. She had no more hours in a day or days in a 
year than other people, and the fact that she appar- 
ently had more at her disposal was the result of 
thought and planning. "I wish I were triplets," 
she once said, and being unable to carry out this 
wish, she did the next best thing tried to treble 
the amount of her available energy and time. She 


was up and had breakfasted and taken a walk or 
a bicycle ride around Jamaica Pond before most 
people were out of their beds. She used to claim, 
half in fun, a peculiarly life-giving quality in air 
upon which the sun was shining. "The elixir of life 
is said to be most abundant in connection with the 
oxygen of air in motion on which the sun is shining." 
She was up, therefore, with the sun or before it, all 
the year around. 

She saved time, too, by her quick decisions. When, 
for example, she received a letter, she almost invari- 
ably knew by the time she had read it once what she 
was going to do with it, or what action it called for, 
and she never handled it again. She made a hiero- 
glyphic on the envelope, which indicated to her the 
character of the answer to be given and the dispo- 
sition of the letter. Her handwriting, too, was labor- 
saving. It was not beautiful and many of the words 
were only half-formed. The saving came in leaving 
off the obvious. If the only way in which a word 
could possibly end and make sense in a given connec- 
tion was in "ing" or "en," she saw no use of form- 
ing these endings. If "wh" could mean only "what" 
and not "who" nor "whose" in a given place, it 
served as well as the full word. And her small draw- 
ings introduced here and there in her letters often 
saved many sentences. For example, in one letter, 
after she had said of two organizations which she 
was supporting, but not very enthusiastically, "They 



are plodding on successfully, but without any great 
object," she made a line of dots which moved bravely 
forward for about an inch in a horizontal line, and 
then suddenly curved upward and backward upon 

Her efficiency was due partly to the fact that she 
wasted no energy in vain regrets. Her yesterdays 
she put well behind her, except so far as they might 
serve for guidance in the future. Impatience came 
nearer than vain regrets to retarding her progress. 
She wanted to see things accomplished, and when 
she was irritable it was usually with some one 
whom she thought to be dawdling. She understood 
herself in this respect, and not long before the end 
she said significantly that real happiness had come 
to her only when she had learned to put seed into 
the ground and then wait twenty years for it to 
spring up. 

She regretted the foibles, fears, and inconsistencies 
which she believed were handicapping women in their 
work, and sought to free herself from them as far 
as possible. She often preached against them, too. 
The absence of pockets she never forgot to mention 
when she heard women demanding their rights. To 
a friend who held a professorship in a college she 
wrote: "What is this I hear? Fainting away like 
a silly schoolgirl? Fie on you! What is the matter 
with your cook? Take beef three times a day for 
a fortnight to tone yourself up, and don't do it 


again. It is fully as important to keep in physical 
condition as to have a mental grasp. Nowadays the 
last card they can trump up against us is that we 
are not physically equal to what we try to do. The 
more prominent we are, the more closely they watch 
us. Just now, too, when so much is in the air against 
woman's education! Think of the example for the 
girls ! Now I know you are going to be sensible and 
learn just what you can do and what you cannot." 

At another time she said: "One of the greatest 
faults of the women of the present time is a silly 
fear of things, and one object of the education of 
girls should be to give them knowledge of what things 
are really dangerous." 

With her perfect self-mastery she was sometimes 
considered unsympathetic with human frailties, only, 
however, by those who did not know her personally, 
and chiefly because she seldom joined in organized 
efforts to help the weak. There can be no doubt 
that she loved power, and had a pleasurable interest 
in all its manifestations, except those involving 
cruelty, whether they were of man over matter, of 
man over the dumb animals, or of man over man. 
She believed in war, or at least thought that prepa- 
ration for war involved helpful discipline and had 
been the means of utilizing many of the facts of 
science which peace had neglected. Fellowship she 
seldom preached in words, though unremittingly 
through her unnumbered acts of kindness. It used 


to seem almost as if, in spite of the fact that she 
was giving her all for others, she was afraid of put- 
ting her thoughts on the subject of cooperation 
into words, lest she appear to undervalue the help 
which she believed the individual could and should 
give to himself, and the self-control and the sense 
of individual responsibility which she believed lay at 
the foundation of all progress and should be the 
end of all education. 

Her democracy was of the perfect kind not that 
which overlooks differences, but that which does not 
see them; her faith, which was simple, she once out- 
lined by saying that she "believed in a guiding spirit 
and tried to keep her ears open to the whisperings 
and her eyes clear for the inner light." She had a 
sense of humor which "oft lit up gray eyes with 
summer lightnings of the soul," and which carried 
her serenely through the stress and strain of many a 
difficult situation. 

Such was the leader's personality. Such a life 
does not lose its power and vitality when it passes 
away from us. One catches here and there glimpses 
of it at work in the life of the world. In the Naples 
Aquarium laboratories, American women students 
have for years found place and means for research 
through her efforts and those of others in the Naples 
Table Association, and her leadership is now empha- 
sized also in the Association's Ellen Richards Re- 
search Prize. In more than one of the colleges, in- 


structor.s who came from her laboratory are teaching 
some branch of science as applied to human welfare ; 
her "Euthenics," the science of the environment con- . 
trolled for right living, is given increasing academic 
welcome ; her bold prophecies and loyal struggles for 
better living conditions attained through applica- 
tions of chemistry, economics, science generally, find 
fulfillment in new curricula and in increasingly in- 
telligent public opinion. One striking testimonial 
to her continuing leadership is the Ellen Richards 
Home Economics Fund now forming to continue 
unbroken the activities of research and of propa- 
ganda which she initiated for the advancement of the 
American home. 

We can trace her influence at work in many other 
ways in schools and colleges and other educational 
institutions, in scientific and popular societies, and 
in the more efficient activities of public agencies and 
private undertakings which she touched. Her life 
goes on in a thousand forms and in a thousand places, 
and the most skillful social survey could not reveal 
them all. To those who knew her and worked with 
her there remains, moreover, the personal presence 
of the leader, the counselor, the friend, in the labo- 
ratory, at the desk, in the conference room and the 
convention hall wherever tasks must now be faced 
alone which once were faced with her. 



A voice is hushed: but ere it failed, 
The listening echoes caught its tone, 

And now its message clear and keen 
On every wind of heaven is blown. 

A staff' is broke: but ere it snapped, 
Those who had leaned on it so long 

Had made its steadfast fibre theirs, 

And fare now forward, straight and strong. 

A I'ujht ix quenched: but ere it paled, 

It lit a hundred torches' flame, 
That shine across the darkening sky, 

And star with gold one honored name. 
April, 1911 LAURA E. RICHARDS 

RETURN TO the circulation desk of any 
University of California Library 

or to the 

Bldg. 400, Richmond Field Station 
University of California 
Richmond, CA 94804-4698 


2-month loans may be renewed by calling 

1-year loans may be recharged by bringing 
books to NRLF 

Renewals and recharges may be made 4 
days prior to due date. 


APR 2 3 1998 

SEP o 4 

MAY 082000 

fopR E 8 2004 


MAY 4 1970 

LD9-30m-12,'76(T2555s8)4185 S-87