Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Maria Mitchell and The American Revolution

Maria Mitchell (1818-89)
Maria Mitchell was born in 1818, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and is famous for becoming America’s first professional female astronomer, among other achievements.
Mitchell came from a family of Quakers who believed in ‘education and offering the same equality to men and women.’ From a young age she was taught along with her other sibling by her father, who built a school. However, outside of school, Mitchell showed an interest in the ‘heavens’, this fascination was further developed, as her father began to teach her about space. As time passes Mitchell grew a fondness for teaching and at the age of 17 she opened up her own school, however after a year it closed, as she took a job at the library in order to study and read more.
At the age of 29 (in 1847), Mitchell discovered a comet, this discovery made her the first American to do so. This paved her way to become, the first elected women of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the following year. Thus, leading her to become part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mitchell’s achievements held a huge impact of women around the America. During the Nineteenth Century, women began to seek the same learning and training opportunities as men. In order to help these women gain an education, dozens of colleges open for women by The Seven Sister’s, many got to learn.

However, not only did Mitchell help to educate these girls, she paved the way for women across America and even the globe, to achieve what was considered unachievable for women. In doing so, she not only helped alongside many other American national figures to educate women and show that education is not male oriented, but also that for a female, being a housewife is not the only option. Making it possible for women to eventually get the same education as men.

1782, A woman delivering equipment at a fort
The American Revolution (1775-83) saw that women’s role in society could be used as a weapon against enemy forces. During the Revolutionary War many housewives were recruited as spies, to apply their ‘conventional’ gender-roles and gain knowledge on the enemy, helping the soldiers who were at war gain the upper hand. The women were enlisted as ‘cooks and maids’, giving them an ‘unrestricted access to soldiers’ campsites’, they would retain the guise of ‘domestic normalcy’ in order to eavesdrop on the troops, in order to gain information on, ‘troop movement, leadership changes, and equipment shortages and deliveries’, without the soldiers knowledge. These women took on a role which would mostly be associated with males, as it was a courageous thing, demonstrating that women are as useful and as brave as men. This meant, these women were willing to risk everything in order to win the war, they could have ‘[lost] their home, [been] arrested and imprisoned, or even killed’, despite these factors they used the expectations society oppressed onto them, in order to break them. The women spies played a vital part in the war by supplying the information, thus empowering women.

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