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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Maria Mitchell

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What, if he had said these things to some women who go abroad! It is safe for women who travel to read widely, for ignorance is quickly detected. Miss Mitchell said of Humboldt: "He is handsome--his hair is thin and white, his eyes very blue. He is a little deaf, and so is Mrs. Somerville. He asked me what instruments I had, and what I was doing; and when I told him that I was interested in the variable stars, he said I must go to Bonn and see Agelander."

There was no end of courtesies to the scholarly woman. Professor Adams, of Cambridge, who, with his charming wife, years afterward helped to make our own visit to the University a delight, showed her the spot on which he made his computations for Neptune, which he discovered at the same time as Leverrier. Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal of England, wrote to Leverrier in Paris to announce her coming. When they met, she said, "His English was worse than my French."

Later she visited Florence, where she met, several times, Mrs. Somerville, who, she says, "talks with all the readiness and clearness of a man," and is still "very gentle and womanly, without the least pretence or the least coldness." She gave Miss Mitchell two of her books, and desired a photographed star sent to Florence. "She had never heard of its being done, and saw at once the importance of such a step." She said with her Scotch accent, "Miss Mitchell, ye have done yeself great credit."

In Rome she saw much of the Hawthornes, of Miss Bremer, who was visiting there, and of the artists. From here she went to Venice, Vienna, and Berlin, where she met Encke, the astronomer, who took her to see the wedding presents of the Princess Royal.

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Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, in an admirable sketch of Miss Mitchell, tells how the practical woman, with her love of republican institutions, was impressed. "The presents were in two rooms," says Miss Mitchell, "ticketed and numbered, and a catalogue of them sold. All the manufacturing companies availed themselves of the opportunity to advertise their commodities, I suppose, as she had presents of all kinds. What she will do with sixty albums I can't see, but I can understand the use of two clothes-lines, because she can lend one to her mother, who must have a large Monday's wash!"

After a year, Miss Mitchell returned to her simple Nantucket home, as devoted to her parents and her scientific work as ever. Two years afterward, in 1860, her good mother died, and a year later, desiring to be near Boston, the family removed to Lynn. Here Miss Mitchell purchased a small house for sixteen hundred and fifty dollars. From her yearly salary of one hundred dollars, and what she could earn in her government work, she had saved enough to buy a home for her father! The rule is that the fathers wear themselves out for daughters; the rule was reversed in this case.

Miss Mitchell now earned five hundred dollars yearly for her government computations, while her father received a pension of three hundred more for his efficient services. Five years thus passed quietly and comfortably.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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