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A Woman of the Century:   A Crowdsourcing Project of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries

December 4 - December 10

Women of the Week

Naturalist Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, scientist and doctor of medicine Rachel L. Bodley, Anti-Slavery agitator and reformer Elizabeth Buffum Chace, and Prima Donna Emma Abbott are this week's Women of the Week.

  •  To learn about them by viewing their items, please click on their images.  

  • To read their biographical sketches in A Woman of the Century, please click on the highlighted page number(s) to the left of their images.


Elizabeth Agassiz (2).jpg

AGASSIZ, Mrs. Elizabeth Cabot

December 5, 1822


Boston, MA

p. 10

Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz, one of the founders of Radcliffe College and its first president, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 5, 1822.

The Atlantic Monthly, which published her "An Amazonian Picnic" in March 1866, is one periodical that included pieces by this talented author, naturalist, educator, and educational administrator.  Married to scientist Louis Agassiz, she also wrote his biography.

She passed away on June 27, 1907.

Rachel L. Bodley.jpg

BODLEY, Miss Rachel L.

December 7, 1831

scientist and doctor of medicine

Cincinnati, OH

p. 100-101

Dr. Rachel L. Bodley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 7, 1831. She later lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

A graduate of Wesleyan Female College and Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Rachel became a scientist, doctor of medicine, and professor. 

By the late 1860s, she was Professor of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, and later she served as Dean. Her colleagues included Ann Preston, Mary J. Scarlett Dixon, Elizabeth Catharine Keller, and Grace Babb, "the first woman graduate of a college of pharmacy" (The Columbus Journal). Rachel also served as a member of a district school board in Philadelphia. 

Rachel belonged to many organizations, including the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Cincinnati Society of Natural History, the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society of New York, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Educational Society of Philadelphia. 

She passed away on June 15, 1888.  In 1891, Emma H. Palmer,  her friend and former student, proposed a Dean Bodley Memorial Fund for the Sharada Sadan school in India.  This fund was to honor Rachel for her work in support of the efforts by Ramabai Sarasvati, a "high-caste Hindu widow," to establish this school for Hindu wdows in India (Emma H. Palmer to Eliza J. W. Armitage).

Elizabeth Buffum Chace (2).jpg

CHACE, Mrs. Elizabeth Buffum

December 9, 1806

anti-slavery agitator and reformer

Providence, RI

p. 163-164

Elizabeth Buffum Chace, who toiled for the Anti-Slavery and women's suffrage causes, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on December 9, 1806.  Elizabeth married Samuel Buffington Chace in 1828 and the couple were parents to many children.

Her personal network included Samuel May, Jr., the celebrated minister and Anti-Slavery reformer of Leicester, Massachusetts, Susan B. Anthony, Ednah Dow Cheney, Frederick Douglass, Rowland Gibson Hazard, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

In October of 1868, Elizabeth was selected as one of the Rhode Island delegates for the first meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association (ASWA) in 1869.  She also served as president at the Rhode Island Woman's Suffrage Convention that December.  By 1874, she was one of the AWSA's Vice Presidents.  In 1882, she was the Rhode Island vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Women, a position she held for several years.  She became one of the vice-presidents of The Free Religious Association of America in May of 1889.

Elizabeth recalled her life and work in her 1891 book Anti-slavery Reminiscences.  She wrote about "Old Quaker Days in Rhode Island" for the August 1897 volume of New England Magazine.

She passed away on December 12, 1899, and was buried in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.

Emma Abbott alone(2).jpg


December 9, 1850

prima donna

Chicago, IL

p. 2-3

Prima Donna Emma Abbott was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 9, 1850.   Sophia Curtiss Hoffman, Clara Louise Kellogg, and Dr. Edwin Hubbell Chapin were early supporters of Emma's career.  

She trained in Europe and later became wealthy by touring throughout the United States with her Emma Abbott Grand Opera Company.  Julie Rosewald also toured with Emma's Company.

Emma passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 5, 1891.  She was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

December 4 - December 10