I firmly believe in the metaphysical experience of staying up all night every once in a while in an academic capacity. It is nothing like staying up all night to go to a party, or to go to a party after going to a party, which I have done before…The night is much shorter, paradoxically, than if you were doing it voluntarily. First it is one o'clock, as it frequently is, and then it is three-thirty and finally, much later, it is five and then suddenly it is ten minutes past seven and all the other people are beginning to crawl out of bed having slept all night, a fact which you scorn, and are looking simply terrible, – much worse than you, and you have the feeling that life has been passing them by whereas you, YOU know the value and meaning of everything. Knowing how long the night is, exactly, and how much can be accomplished in that time, and what time the sun comes up in the latter part of May, is a little bit like knowing how long life is.
—  letter from a Vassar student, May 1958
on using the word "identified"

(in reference to this post)

like seriously though one of my biggest pet peeves is cis people overusing the word “-identified” (in terms of gender), since it is almost always wrong. like, why are people so eager to say “female-identified” instead of woman? because it makes it a lot easier to accidentally (or intentionally) imply that trans women aren’t real women, they just “identify” as women. like, this whole shit where cis people get genders and we just get identities.

like yes. all gender is a social construct. I get it. believe me. but when you awkwardly stumble and try to add “-identified” to make things “more inclusive,” what are you actually saying? 

and if you EVER say “women and female-identified people” you are literally implying that there is some sort of difference. 

so please. cis people. I know you are just trying to help. but you are really just making things worse.


Maria Mitchell - Scientist of the Day

Maria Mitchell, an American astronomer, was born Aug. 1, 1818, in Nantucket. Mitchell was the first professional woman astronomer in the United States and a role model for generations of aspiring women scientists. She was trained by her father, a school-teacher, and had the extreme good fortune to discover a comet in 1847. Not only was she the first to see the comet, she also had the mathematical skill to calculate its orbit. Her feat won her an international gold medal from the Danish government, the first such recognition for any American woman, and eventually, the professorship of astronomy at Vassar College, also the first such position for any woman. (It is probably of interest to some of this reading audience that, before she became famous, Mitchell spent 17 years as a librarian on Nantucket.) Mitchell was admitted to various male bastions, such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston (the only woman so honored until the 20th century), but she decided early on that, instead of trying to show men that women could be good scientists, she would spend her life showing young women that they could be good scientists. She seems to have done a superb job at this task, becoming a legendary teacher at Vassar. Antonia Maury, a noted astronomer at Harvard, was one of her pupils. The lovely albumen print portrait of Maria above is at Harvard.

In 1863, Matthew Vassar, the founder of Vassar College, personally commissioned a telescope for Mitchell from Henry Fitz, a well-known New York telescope builder. With a lense 12 inches in diameter, it was second among American telescopes only to the great refractor at Harvard (see second image above). The telescope is now in the National Museum of American History in Washington. Vassar also built an observatory for Maria; a period photo can be seen above, just below the Fitz refractor.

The small telescope that Mitchell used to discover the Nantucket comet is now mounted in her childhood home on Vestal Street (see last photo above), across from the headquarters of the Maria Mitchell Association, the group her descendants founded in 1908 to continue Mitchell’s lifelong passion for the natural sciences and science education.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City