Scope and Contents
The Ellen Swallow Richards papers are primarily related to her work as an advocate of higher education for women and as an expert in water chemistry. The collection contains photographs; correspondence; notes and writings; and printed matter, including scientific writings and selected tests, diagrams, drawings, and reprints. Of particular interest are writings and photographs related to water testing and pollution of Jamaica Pond in Boston (1900-07). There are articles written for the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA) on the education of women, as well as Richards' books on home economics. The papers also contain correspondence and printed material related to the founding of the ACA (1882) and to the Society to Encourage Studies at Home (1873). The papers of Robert Hallowell Richards are located in the Archives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Researchers may also wish to contact the M.I.T. Archives for information about the records of the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Civil and Sanitary Engineering.
Conditions Governing Use
Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.
Biographical / Historical
Ellen Swallow was born 3 December 1842 in Dunstable, Massachusetts. She received a B.S. from Vassar College in 1870. She earned another B.S. from M.I.T. in 1873 and, in the same year, an M.A. from Vassar. She studied for a doctorate at M.I.T., but never received it, reportedly because "the heads of the department did not wish a woman to receive the first D.S. in chemistry." In 1875 she married M.I.T. chemistry professor, Robert H. Richards, and devoted the next ten years to advocating for scientific education for women. Richards was the first woman elected to the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers and in 1882 she helped found the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (later the American Association of University Women). She was also a leader in the effort to improve physical education in colleges. She wrote three books: The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning (1882 and 1887), Food Materials and Their Adulteration (1885), and The Cost of Food, a Study in Dietaries (1901). In 1884, M.I.T. set up a chemical laboratory for the study of sanitation, the first of its kind, with William Nichols in charge and Ellen Richards as his assistant. During this time, Richards devised the first water purity tests and, beginning in 1887, she was put in charge of the laboratory; she ran it during the groundbreaking study of water pollution in Massachusetts that modernized sewage treatment ("The Great Sanitary Survey"), commissioned by the State Board of Health. After teaching gratis in the women's laboratory at M.I.T for eight years, when women were admitted to M.I.T. on an equal footing with men Richards was appointed to the faculty as instructor in sanitary chemistry. She also taught analysis of water, sewerage, and air in the department of sanitary engineering, established in 1890. From about 1890, she increasingly concentrated on what came to be known as the "home economics movement." Among her many accomplishments, she introduced the idea of nutritious lunches in schools; worked for public support for systematic domestic science instruction; and carried on important work for the Society to Encourage Studies at Home, founded in 1873 to "help women who needed guidance and encouragement in acquiring knowledge which they could not go to school to get." Ellen Swallow Richards died in Boston on 30 March 1911.