Ellen Swallow Richards and MIT

Corporation votes | Ellen Swallow's MIT thesis (PDF)
The Women's Laboratory | Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship


Excerpts from Records of the Meetings of the MIT Corporation

Further information on the subject of women and MIT
may be found in the Corporation records in the Institute Archives:
Archival Collection AC 278

December 14, 1870

It was voted to confirm the recommendation of the Committee on the School of Industrial Science that Miss Ellen H. Swallow be admitted as a Special Student in Chemistry - it being understood that her admission did not establish a precedent for the general admission of females.

It was voted that other applications from females to enter the various departments of the School be referred to the Committee on the School of Industrial Science, with full power to admit or reject, without consulting the Corporation.

May 14, 1873

It was voted to adopt the recommendation of the Committee on the School that Miss E. H. Swallow be allowed to present herself as a candidate for the Degree of the Institute, and to take the examinations necessary for the Degree in Chemistry.

It was voted to confirm the recommendation of the Committee on the School that Miss Ellen H. Swallow, a special student in Chemistry, be permitted to enter the examinations for the Degree of the Institute.

Excerpts from Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Corporation

Records of the Executive Committee of the Corporation in the Institute Archives:
Archival Collection AC 272

September 29, 1883

Voted: that in view of the facilities afforded by the new chemical laboratories, and in pursuance of the wishes of the benefactors of the Woman's Laboratory, the present so-called Woman's Laboratory will be discontinued and students will be admitted to the Kidder Laboratories without distinction of sex.

November 6, 1883

The President was requested to express to Mrs. Ellen H. Richards the thanks of the Corporation for her past service and their regret that for the moment there seems to be no place where she can be employed. It was directed that the name of Mrs. Richards should be maintained in the Catalogue.

April 15, 1884

On motion of Dr. Williams it was voted that Mrs. Ellen H. Richards be appointed assistant under Professor Nichols for one year at a salary of $600 per annum her duties to be to give instruction in a course of Sanitary Chemistry.

May 6, 1884

So much of the vote found at the meeting of this Committee April 15, 1884 and recorded page 237 as determined the salary of Mrs. Ellen H. Richards was rescinded, and said salary was fixed for one year at $1,000. This Committee regards the work to be done by Mrs. Richards under the direction of Professor Nichols as an experiment, and in no way commits itself to the continuance of this instruction in Sanitary Chemistry unless encouraged by the results of this year of trial.

Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship at MIT

The Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship recognizes distinguished women faculty members. Announcement of the professorship in 1973 coincided with the 100th anniversary of Mrs. Richards's graduation from MIT. Ellen Swallow Richards was MIT's first woman student and, as instructor in sanitary cemistry, was also MIT's first woman teacher.

The Ellen Swallow Richards Professorship honors the pioneering spirit and professional achievements of Mrs. Richards and strengthens the role of women on the MIT faculty. The chair is intended to recognize the national importance of research and education by women at MIT.

The chair has been held by the following women:
Nancy A. Lynch
Dept. of Electrical Engineering and
Computer Science
JoAnne Stubbe
Dept. of Chemistry
Alice H. Amsden
Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning
Barbara Imperiali
Dept. of Chemistry

Nancy Kanwisher
Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Sara Seager
Dept. of Earth, Atomspheric and
Planetary Sciences

Alice Y. Ting
Dept. of Chemistry


Biography | The Women's Laboratory | World's Fair - Rumford Kitchen
Tributes after her death | Publications by and about Ellen Swallow Richards
Collection on Ellen Swallow Richards (MC 659 [PDF])

August 1999; updated May 2006

Return to Exhibit
MIT Institute Archives Home