Herstory Thursdays: Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell was born in 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts to a Quaker family as was a distant cousin of Benjamin Franklin. Her community valued education for both sexes so she took her education as far as she could. When Mitchell was 12, she helped her father calculate the solar eclipse and at 27 she opened a school and admitted all children - regardless of race - which was something that was not common during this time. 

At 28, Mitchell discovered a comet that was then named after her and granted her a gold medal from the king of Denmark. She became the first professional astronomer, and the first female employee of the federal government in the United States in 1849. She also became the first female member of a number of scientific academies including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Maria Mitchell boycotted cotton clothing throughout her life as a way to protest slavery and was known for being an avid suffragette and abolitionist. Mitchell cofounded the American Association for the Advancement of Women and today, in her hometown, the Maria Mitchell Observatory is named in her honor and the Maria Mitchell Association works to preserve sciences in the area. 

Sources: 

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen

Her Wikipedia Page