What you save

I declared my undergraduate major in History on the first day of classes of my sophomore year of college, September 2001.

A handful of days later, what might have been an ordinary Tuesday became a historic event. I knew it was going to be what children in the next generation would ask me about, saying “Do you remember” and “Where were you?”

A few months ago, in preparation for a move from Charlottesville, where I was working as a historian, to Northern Virginia, where I am now again a history student, I went through the box of papers I’d saved from college. In the box was a letter-sized plastic envelope with documentation about the immediate aftermath of that September.

Until I came across it, I’d forgotten completely about collecting these things. It made sense then, as now, to try and gather an archive of my experience, of the experience of my college friends and community. The envelope has a copy of the student newspaper and the daily broadside from campus, the cover of a New Yorker magazine, emails and a poem I wrote, and some other items. I remembered selecting things to save, making sure to get copies of things, even though I knew that the college library was probably doing the same thing. It didn’t matter if they were. I was saving these not for the next year, or even 10 years out, but 30 or 40.

I looked over everything carefully, then put it all back in the plastic envelope and promised myself I’d get archival storage once I finished moving.

Ada Lovelace Day: Maria Mitchell

I signed up to  blog for Finding Ada’s day of ” day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.” And then I thought “wait, who will I write about?”

After all, I’m a geeky artist born to geeky artists. As much as I really enjoyed most of my science classes as a kid, I don’t know about that many historical scientists – and of course most of the ones I do know are men. I considered writing about Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and how she tried to bring the Ottoman smallpox inoculations to England, of how 1930s movie beauty Heddy Lamarr was also a brilliant engineer, but neither of those felt quite on.

Then it hit me! Maria Mitchell!

Although in her time she may have been one of world’s most famous natural scientists, most people today do not know who she was. In fact, I wouldn’t know who she was if I hadn’t gone to Vassar College, where she taught astronomy in the late 19th century. Maria Mitchell was an awesome woman, and I mean that more in the traditional sense than the “Bill & Ted” one. She was an astronomer, a teacher, and an advocate for women’s rights.  Continue reading “Ada Lovelace Day: Maria Mitchell”