Women You Should Know – Ellen Richards – 1842-1911

Ellen Richards – 1842-1911

Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards was credited with being the first female environmental engineer. As a child Richards eagerly helped her parents with farm work and domestic chores. After completing high school, Richards received her first B.S. degree from Vasca College, N.Y. and her second B.S. degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Richards continued her studies at MIT, but was not granted her Ph.D because they (MIT) did not want their first Ph.D in chemistry to be granted to a woman. Nonetheless while working as an assistant director for the Women’s Education Association in Boston, Richards was able to inspire other women to go into the scientific field. Throughout her life Richards wrote numerous articles and published several books, including The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning. Eventually Richards opened “The New England Kitchen” in Boston, where she was able to offer low cost nutritious meals to working class families. In addition, Richards lobbied to have domestic courses available in public schools. As a result of her work, Richards was named to the counsel of the National Education Association and became responsible for overseeing the teaching of home economics throughout the public schools. Ultimately, she was awarded an honorary Ph.D from Smith College. Richards died March 30, 1911.