Posts Tagged ‘Leah Allen’

Leah B. Allen: A Woman in Astronomy

November 1st, 2008

I made Leah Allen a wikipedia page after skimming a 1908 San Francisco Call.

“Halley’s Comet after 75 years rushes Earthward again” shares page 2 of the Sunday August 23, 1908 San Francisco Call with “Fattening Properties of the Potato”. The article starts by discussing E.E. Barnard‘s ambitions for photographing Halley’s Comet. The second half of the article announces the appointment of Leah B. Allen to the post of Carnegie assistant at the Lick observatory. The Brown graduate, who later became professor of astronomy at Hood College, is described as “a pretty Providence girl” who “always sailed her own sailboat” and “has a delightful personality”.

100 years ago, such a description raised no eyebrows. What shocks me is that the article was written by another woman, Mary Proctor, who wrote popular books about astronomy. It’s hard to imagine what life as a woman in astronomy was like, in the early 1900’s.

Especially since women were not particularly new to the field: Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) is generally known as the first professional woman astronomer in the United States.

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