Women were beginning to be welcomed into the science community. Helen Leah Reed wrote a chapter called “Women’s Work at the Harvard Observatory” out of the National Exposition Souvenir in 1893. According to this document women of this time period were starting to be recognized for their hard work. In this chapter, Reed wrote, “The Harvard College Observatory has been especially appreciative of the work of women; not only employing them as computers, but definitely encouraging them to undertake original research.” At the Harvard Observatory women were considered helpful, but not necessary expected to do “men’s” work. However they were documented to make some discoveries. In the observatory the women did the same work as men for a cheaper rate. This text tells a lot about how women were viewed in society, and more importantly, how they contributed to science. Some of the women from the Harvard Observatory described in this document are “Mrs. Fleming’s discovery that variable stars of a certain type may be proved variable by the bright lines in their spectra, and Miss Muary’s discovery that Beta Aurigae is a close binary, proved from the study of the spectrum.” This document showed women were being recognized by universities, and how the opportunity to do their own original work led to many scientific discoveries.
Another text called “Women in Science” written by Mrs. Potter Palmer and published by Art and handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, described many reasons why women should be allowed to study science for the same wages as men, and attempt their own original work. In this document, women are described by their feminine characteristics as to why they would be good at studying science. For example the document described, “Her proverbial propensity to investigate, her acknowledged patience, her delicacy of manipulation, her exactness of detail, all find legitimate scope in the nice observation and conscientious work of the laboratory.” Women are typically viewed to have the “gentle touch” and this text promotes how that fact can make them contribute greatly to scientific research during this time period. According to the text women are more in tune with nature, and therefore they infer that women could possibly be more suited for this job than men. This document explained why women should be freely given the right to do their own original work, “The mind of woman has always shown itself in sympathy with the harmony and beauty of the physical universe.”
I think the most interesting document was the Journal of Willimina Paton Fleming. All of the texts, and pictures I read and viewed before showed how society was opening up to the thought of women working as scientists and partaking in their own work as equally as men would. However, this first hand account by Mrs. Fleming showed how she was not able to study the things she wanted. In one of her entries she was writing about how her boss, Mr. King, gave her an object to study without even giving her the name of the specimen. She ended up figuring it out, but she expresses her frustration when she writes, “If only one could go on with original work, looking for new stars, variables classifying spectra and studying their particularities and changes, life would be a beautiful dream. But you come down to realities when you put all that is most interesting to you aside, in order to use most of your available time preparing for the work.” It is very obvious that Mrs. Fleming was very dedicated and passion about science. She did the work required of her with no complaints out loud, but longed to do more. Mrs. Fleming made many scientific discoveries in the little time available to her, but if women like Mrs. Fleming were given the opportunity to freely study science as they please, and do their own work, could we have had more scientific discoveries? Or could our society possibly have become technologically advanced faster? I think this document was very important to the topic because it showed a first hand account of how most women really felt in a laboratory. They worked under a person, and had to do the work, and research they wanted, not original work the women actually wished they could.
The women of the century that worked in observatories or laboratories were extremely dedicated to their work. Despite their status in society at the time, they contributed greatly to science by making turn of the century discoveries. Although women were still not given the chances to branch out and study what they wanted as many pictures, papers, and magazines would have liked the public to believe at the time. The most powerful thing that stuck out to me was the first hand account of Mrs. Fleming that showed they were still very limited in studying their own original work because most of their time was consumed by the work their boss had them do. I learned that the women of the 19th century were very passionate about their scientific work, and given more of a chance, I believe they could have offered more to society at the time. Those who opposed women working in science where the traditionalists, who believed that women should stay at home, and bear children. Fortunately, women who worked for their love of science or need of money to support their family, made excellent discoveries that greatly added to society in the 19th century.