Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was the first woman to receive a degree from MIT (S.B. in chemistry in 1873). She was instrumental in establishing the Women's Laboratory, which operated at MIT from 1876 to 1883, to improve the scientific education of women. From 1884 to her death she held the position of instructor in sanitary chemistry at MIT.
Her interests extended beyond MIT. She was active in social services, leading efforts to improve the health and education of the general community. For her leadership role in the area of home economics she was recognized by this memorial calendar featuring her various achievements. The November page refers to the famous "normal chlorine map" of Massachusetts, which was part of a State Board of Health survey of water supplies begun in 1887. Ellen Richards played an important role in that survey as the supervisor of the chemical laboratory analyzing the water.
The Ellen H. Richards Memorial Home Economics Calendar is from the Collection on Ellen Swallow Richards in the Institute Archives. Further information about Mrs. Richards and the Women's Laboratory is available elsewhere on the Archives web site (see links below) and at the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.
Guide to the Collection on Ellen Swallow Richards (MC 659)
Guide to the Collection on the MIT Women's Laboratory (AC 298)
Object of the Month: November 1999; December 2008
MIT Institute Archives