Featured Artifact of the Week

Photographic Print

Photograph of Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards (1842-1911) from around when she entered Westford Academy in 1859. The back states, “Nellie Swallow / mouth like her father.” Born in Dunstable, she moved to Westford so she could attend Westford Academy, and graduated in 1862. She went on to become a history-making scientist. She achieved degrees from Vassar College (1870) and MIT (1886). She was the first woman to receive an advanced MIT degree, after delays relating to her gender. At MIT, she later lectured in chemistry and sanitation in the 1870s, as their first female instructor. In 1875, she married engineer and MIT professor Robert Hallowell Richards (1844-1945). By 1911, she received an honorary PhD from Vassar, and was a Trustee prior. Her research included, air, water, and home sanitation, and was likely the first to coin the term “ecology.” This research contributed to modern sanitation and testing standards in the US. Ellen Richards would also have a significant impact on feminism in the twentieth century, later being described as an ecofeminist.

Video on Ellen Swallow Richards

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