Women in Meteorology Before World War II

   Before the middle of the Nineteenth Century, formal education of girls and women was nearly non-existent in both the United States and Europe. Women were expected to become wives and mothers, and any education was toward that end. Even in the early days of the education of women, most were educated only in religion, singing, dancing, and literature, to improve them in their future roles in the traditional family. A few outstanding women surpassed the expectations of the day to become noted atmospheric scientists.
    A few other women worked to extend the boundaries of what was expected of women by teaching atmospheric sciences to younger women. The only socially acceptable occupation for women at the time was teaching, and only unmarried women could be teachers. Among the women described below, very few married. They began training women in traditionally male disciplines including science and mathematics, thus laying the groundwork for women meteorologists of the Twentieth Century.

Sarah Frances Whiting (Courtesy Wellesley College Archive)

Sarah Frances Whiting (1847-1927)

  Sarah Frances Whiting was born in Wyoming, NY, the daughter of Elizabeth Comstock and Joel Whiting. Her father was a graduate of Hamilton College and held a number of teaching positions around New York State. She became interested in physics while helping her father prepare demonstrations for his classes. She was given no formal education, but was tutored in mathematics and physics by her father.
    She graduated with a bachelor's degree from Ingham University in Le Roy, NY, in 1865. She taught at the Brooklyn Heights Seminary for girls until 1876. While there, she attended scientific lectures and visited laboratories in the area.
    In 1875, Henry Fowle Durant, founder of Wellesley College, sought her to teach phys-ics at his new school. Upon moving to the Boston area, she attended the laboratory phys-ics classes of Edward C. Pickering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This laboratory was the first undergraduate physics laboratory in the United States. In 1878, Whiting opened the second undergraduate physics lab in the United States at Wellesley College. In 1895, when Roentgen's discovery was announced, she assembled the equip-ment and made the first X-ray photographs in the United States.
    She was the first woman invited to join the New England Meteorological Society and initiated a course in meteorology. She assembled a meteorological observing station, and her students collected data for the U.S. Weather Bureau, since there were no other observ-ing stations nearby. However, she was most famous for her work with the spectroscope and for her astronomy class which she taught for 20 years with little equipment. In 1900, Mrs. John C. Whitin made funds available for the Wellesley Observatory with a 12-inch refracting telescope, spectroscopic lab, and photometer.
    During her travels, she met many other great scientists of the day. In an article in Science, she remarked of Lord Kelvin that "in contrast to many other...scientists, Sir William seemed neither surprised nor alarmed that a woman should devote herself to mathematics and physics." Whiting was a member of the American Physical Society which, at first, refused to invite women to its banquets. She was one of five women at the time to be elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1905, she received an honorary degree from Tufts College for her contributions to teaching. Her legacy is not that of a researcher, but as a great and inspiring teacher.
Shearer, Benjamin F, and Barbara S. Shearer, 1997: Sarah Frances Whiting. Notable Women in the Physical Sciences, a biographical Dictionary.

Grace Evangeline Davis (1870-1955)
    Grace Evangeline Davis was born 6 June, 1870, in North Chelmsford, MA. She stud-ied physics and meteorology under Sarah Frances Whiting at Wellesley College, receiving a B.A. in 1898 and M.A. in 1905. She was associate professor of physics at Wellesley 1899 - 1936, and was most famous for her course in meteorology. She later studied at Radcliffe College, Harvard College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a charter member of the American Meteorological Society. She died 15 April, 1955.

Mary Murray Hopkins (?-1921)
    Mary Murray Hopkins was Professor of Astronomy at Smith College, Northampton, MA, from 1906 until her untimely death by her own hand in 1921. She received her M.S. from Smith in 1912, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1915. She spent two years at the Yerkes Observatory in Chicago, and was a charter member of the American Meteo-rological Society.

Eleanor Anne Ormerod, LLD, FRMet. S., first woman honorary graduate of the University of Edinburgh, from an oil painting honoring her doctorate (courtesy Royal Meteorological Society)

Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901)
    Eleanor Ormerod was born 11 May 1828 at Sedbury Park, Gloucestershire, five years younger than her next eldest sister and collaborator Georgiana. She received a general education from her mother as was the custom of the time. She learned to speak and write in English, French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Norwegian, and became an accomplished illustrator, a skill she used in her published works.
    She began her scientific study in 1852 after finding a rare locust on the grounds of the family estate. Eleven years later, she bought herself a microscope, and began her observations. In 1868, she answered a call by the Royal Horticultural Society to investigate which insects were gardeners' friends and which were pests, and for this work, the RHS awarded her a Silver Medal. However, this work was not approved by the elders of the family, so not until her father's death in 1873 could she begin her work as a serious scientist.
    In 1873, she moved to Torquay, near where her brother, George Wareing Ormerod was taking meteorological observations. He ran the station from 1874 to 1883 and became a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society in 1874. It was here that Eleanor first took interest in meteorology and its relationship to insects.
    In 1876, Eleanor and Georgiana moved to Spring Grove, Isleworth, Middlesex, near Kew Gardens where her friend, Joseph Hooker, was director. During this most prosperous period, she published a number of manuscripts, and, in 1877, became the first woman Fel-low of the Royal Meteorological Society. On the forms, all appearances of the word "him" were scratched out, replaced with "her."
    In the next few years, she set up her own meteorological station at Isleworth, published a number of manuscripts in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, and collated decades of observations from other weather stations. She wrote annual reports on insects, with a circulation of 170 000 worldwide. She was appointed to the unpaid post of Consulting Entomologist for the Royal Agricultural Society. Other honors include the gold Victoria Medal of Honour of the Royal Horticultural Society, and the first woman to receive an LLD from the University of Edinburgh. She died at St. Albans on 20 July 1901.
Wood, M., 1999: Meteorologist's profile - Eleanor Anne Ormerod. Weather, 54, 365,369.

Caterina Scarpellini (1808-?)
    Caterina Scarpellini was a meteorologist in Rome during the middle 19th Century. In 1859, she founded the Meteorological Ozonometric Station in Rome. She kept careful records of weather and ozone conditions in Rome for a number of years, and published a number of manuscripts on ozone and coastal squalls observed at her station. Also an astronomer, she is credited with the discovery of a comet in 1854. She was awarded a gold medal by the new government of Italy in 1872 for her work in statistics.

Gladys Wrigley in 1923 (Courtesy American Geographic Society)

Gladys Wrigley (1855-1974)
    Gladys Wrigley was born 14 September, 1885) in York, England. She achieved a degree in geology from the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth in 1907, and taught at a girls' school in Wales for the next four years. She earned a fellow-ship to Yale University, which she attended 1911-1917, and became the first woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in geography with her work on the Roads and Towns of the Central Andes.
    She began working at the American Geographical Society after leaving Yale, and in 1920 was became the first Editor of Geographical Review, the Society's principal publication, and held that position until her retirement in 1949. She was one of the most influential scientific editors of the first half of the 20th Century. Under her leadership, the Review presented research of high intellectual quality in a broadly accessible style. She never shied from rejecting articles from even the most influential geographers, nor from her bosses at the Society. For this work, she was awarded the first Association of American Geographers Outstanding Achievement Award in 1951, and the Geographical Society of Chicago Award in 1948.
    Despite having one of the most important positions in the Society, she was never invited to dine with councilors of male staff members. While male geographers with Ph.D.s were addressed "Dr.," she was always referred to as "Miss Wrigley." She was a very private person, and few photographs of her are known to exist. She was a charter member of the American Meteorological Society.
Fairchild, W. B., 1976: Gladys Mary Wrigley 1885-1975. Geographical Review, 66,331-333. McManis, Douglas R., 1990, The editorial legacy of Gladys M. Wrigley. Geographical Review,80, 169-181.

Eleanor Stabler Brooks (1892-1986)
    Eleanor Stable Brooks was the wife of Charles S. Brooks, one of the founders of the American Meteorological Society, and was herself a noted meteorologist. She was born 27 September, 1892, in Falmouth, NY. She attended Radcliffe College, receiving a B.A. in Botany in 1914. At Radcliffe, she won the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize, Radcliffe Col-lege's highest undergraduate honor presented annually to the graduating senior woman who "has given evidence of the greatest promise" by her scholarship, conduct, and character. She worked as a meteorologist at the Blue Hill Observatory from 1933-1957, and as an indexer for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society for ten years beginning in 1950. With her husband, she co-wrote a popular daily article on the weather for daily newspapers, "Why the Weather?," which was collected into a book in the late 1920s. She died 28 February, 1986, in Falmouth, ME. She and her sister, Anna Bunker Stabler (1901-1991) were charter members of the American Meteorological Society. She is the only woman presented here who married and had children.

Mary Lanier (1872-1961)
    Mary Jean Lanier was born 10 July, 1872, in Nashville, TN. She achieved a B.S. in 1909, and Ph.D. in 1924, in Geography, from the University of Chicago. She taught geography at Toledo (Ohio) University (1909-1910) and at the Universi-ty of Chicago (1910-1917). She became professor of Geology and Geography at Wellesley College in 1917, and headed the Geography Department (1927-1939). She was a charter member of the American Meteorological Society. She lived with Professor Seal Thompson, professor of Biblical Studies, during her time at Wellesley. She died in Wellesley 23 April, 1961.

Frances E. Knowlton Chickering
    Little is known of this woman except her book Cloud Crystals; A Snow-Flake Album, published in 1864, in which she presents drawings of different forms of snowflakes, along with some atmospheric conditions accompanying each. Though an amateur, she was a keen observer and intuitive theorist of the time.
Mergen, Bernard, 1997: Snow in America. Smithsonian Institution Press, 321 pp.

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