Women in the 19th century played underappreciated role in mapping and understanding the stars
Harvard College Observatory/Wikimedia Commons
The Glass Universe
In the early 1880s, Harvard Observatory director Edward Pickering put out a call for volunteers to help observe flickering stars. He welcomed women, in particular — and not just because he couldn’t afford to pay anything.
At the time, women’s colleges were producing graduates with “abundant training to make excellent observers,” Pickering wrote. His belief in women’s abilities carried over when he hired staff, even though critics of women’s higher education argued that women “originate almost nothing, so that human knowledge is not advanced by their work.”
Pickering and his “harem” sure proved the critics wrong.