Women of Wellesley

Women of Wellesley
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Earlier this week, I attended a League of Women Voters Leaders of Democracy event and had an opportunity to speak with an acquaintance who attended Wellesley College with Madeleine Albright. For many years in our country’s history, women could only attend “women’s colleges” as the “regular” colleges did not admit women (the earliest college to admit women – Oberlin College – had a special course for women, not as rigorous as the men’s curriculum, so not to overtax their brains!). Today, research shows that many women leaders attended women’s colleges. Match the Wellesley woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. An astronomer, she developed the classification system used for stars called the Harvard Classification Scheme.

____ 2. Her life’s passion was the preservation of the Everglades.

____ 3. The first female Secretary of State.

____ 4. Credited as founding the field of social work as a professional discipline with an associated degree.

____ 5. Her poem is today known as the words to the song America the Beautiful.

A. Katharine Lee Bates

B. Annie Jump Cannon

C. Sophonisba Breckinridge

D. Marjory Stoneman Douglas

E. Madeleine Albright

Best remembered as the author of the poem that became the words to America the Beautiful, Katharine Lee Bates received her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1880. After teaching high school, she returned to Wellesley, earning her master’s degree and becoming a full professor. During the summer of 1893, while Bates was teaching at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, she traveled to the top of Pike’s Peak, greatly moved by the beauty of the mountain and at its top. Her poem about that experience appeared in print initially in 1895 and is today well known as American the Beautiful. Bates Hall at Wellesley College is named in her memory.

The valedictorian of her class at Wellesley College, astronomer Annie Jump Cannon graduated with a degree in physics in 1884. Significant influences on her eventual career occurred during the next decade while she lived at home in Delaware – she became adept at photography and she became almost deaf after a bout of scarlet fever. Like Bates, Cannon returned to Wellesley, teaching physics and eventually earning her masters degree. In the interim, she was hired as one of Edward Pickering’s assistants at the Observatory at Harvard College. Here, Cannon developed the classification system used for stars today called the Harvard Classification Scheme. She also published catalogues of stellar spectra. Her many honors included being admitted as an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society and receiving one of the first honorary doctorates awarded to women by a European university. Cannon has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Credited as creating the field of social work, Sophonisba Breckinridge graduated from Wellesley College in 1888. Although admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1895, once she found that no clients would hire a female attorney, she pursued graduate degrees from the University of Chicago. Regarded as having laid the foundation for social work as a professional discipline with an associated degree, she is also remembered as the first woman to represent the U.S. at an international conference. Active in the field of social work, she worked with Jane Addams and others at Hull House in Chicago. Breckinridge was active in the fight for women’s suffrage and in civil rights; she helped establish the NAACP.

A straight-A student at Wellesley, Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduated in 1912 with a BA in English. After moving to Miami, Florida, Douglas began her journalism career. She worked for The Miami Herald for a number of years advancing to the position of assistant editor. Her freelance career led to an assignment exploring the Miami River and the Everglades. The next five years of her life were instrumental in her remaining life’s work, preserving the Everglades. Her 1947 book Everglades: River of Grass was published the same year that Everglades National Park was established. Later, she would establish a voting contingency, Friends of the Everglades. A truly dedicated conservationist, Douglas received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 in political science, able to attend as she had been provided a full scholarship. After receiving her master’s and PhD degrees, Albright rose through political circles in Washington, D.C. becoming congressional liaison to the National Security Council in 1978. In 1982, she began her affiliation with Georgetown University. Her return to government service occurred in 1993 when Bill Clinton named her Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1997, he named her the first female Secretary of State. Today, she consults worldwide on matters involving nations and has written several books. Among her many honors, Albright has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women of Wellesley are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.

(Answers 1-B, 2-D, 3-E, 4-C, 5-A)

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