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Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards Papers, 1882 - 1910
2 boxes (.75 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 130

Chemist and professor. Richards taught analysis of water, sewage, and air, and devised the first water purity tests. Involved in home economics movement, Richards introduced ideas of nutritious lunches in schools and systematic domestic science instruction. Materials include photographs, correspondence, notes and writings.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of this collection is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note
Ellen Swallow Richards gathering the scum on Jamaca Pond, Boston, Ma., 1901

Ellen Swallow Richards gathering the scum on
Jamaca Pond, Boston, Ma., 1901

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.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Ellen Swallow Richards Papers date from 1882 to 1910 and consist of .75 linear ft. of material. They 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.

This collection is organized into three series:

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The copyright owner of this collection is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Ellen Swallow Richards Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

According to a letter written in 1960 by Margaret Storrs Grierson, Nina Browne, Grierson's predecessor as Smith College Archivist and a friend of Ellen Swallow Richards', persuaded Richards to place her papers in the Sophia Smith Collection; no other details are known.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Burd Schlessinger, 2001.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
.25 linear ft.

This series is comprised of several articles and clippings about Ellen Swallow Richards and her pioneering work in home economics and in chemistry, particularly as applied to water purification.

.25 linear ft.

This series contains letters from U.S. citizens regarding Richards' work in the home economics field, as well as correspondence on various subjects from professional colleagues. A significant amount of correspondence pertains to the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.

.25 linear ft.

The series is comprised of typescripts, notes, published articles, and books relating to Richards' advocacy of higher education for women, to her study of water pollution and purification, and to her work in developing the field of home economics.

Contents List


Box 1: folder 1
Biography and tributes,

Box 1: folder 2

Association of Collegiate Alumnae


Box 1: folder 3
Academic members,

Box 1: folder 4
Quarter Centennial meeting,

Box 1: folder 5

Balch, Emily G.,

Box 1: folder 6
Balliet, Thomas,

Box 1: folder 7
Barrus, Annie,

Box 1: folder 8
Benedict, Francis Gano,

Box 1: folder 9
Bevies, Isabel,

Box 1: folder 10
Breckinridge, Sophonisba,

Box 1: folder 11
Brown, Elmer Ellsworth,

Box 1: folder 12
Butler, Nicholas Murray,

Box 1: folder 13
Calkins, Mary Whiton,

Box 1: folder 14
Clarke, Elizabeth Lawrence,

Box 1: folder 15
Coes, Mary,

Box 1: folder 16
Cone, Kate Morris,

Box 1: folder 17
Cook, Caroline J.,

Box 1: folder 18
Cushing, Florence,

Box 1: folder 19
Dabney, Charles William,

Box 1: folder 20
Decker, Sarah S. Platt,

Box 1: folder 21
Draper, Andrew Sloan,

Box 1: folder 22
Earle, Mabel,

Box 1: folder 23
Franklin, Effie Scott,

Box 1: folder 24
Gill, Laura,

Box 1: folder 25
Goodrich, Henrietta I.,

Box 1: folder 26
Greene, Mary E. Lewis,

Box 1: folder 27
Harris, William R.,

Box 1: folder 28
Hicks, Verna,

Box 1: folder 29
Hussey, Ethel Fountain,

Box 1: folder 30
Jackson, Edith Talbot,

Box 1: folder 31
Kingsbury, Susan M.,

Box 1: folder 32
Kinne, Helen,

Box 1: folder 33
Knight, Edward,

Box 1: folder 34
Langworthy, Charles Ford,

Box 1: folder 35
MacMurphy, Archibald E.,

Box 1: folder 36
Maltby, Margaret E.,

Box 1: folder 37
Moore, Eva Perry,

Box 1: folder 38
Noyes, Lucia Clapp,

Box 1: folder 39
Pearmain, Alice u.,

Box 1: folder 40
Salmon, Lucy

Box 1: folder 41
Talbot, Marion, (?)

Box 1: folder 42
Thomas, M. Carey,

Box 1: folder 43
Van Hise, Charles,

Box 1: folder 44
Welch, William H.,

Box 1: folder 45
Wilder, Constance,

Box 1: folder 46

Education of women


"The Ideal College Course for Women!",

Box 1: folder 47
"The Ideal Course for Women to go into Effect in 1910",

Box 1
Notes, n.d

Box 1
Photocopy: "Tendencies in Women's Professional Education", (about Ellen s. Richards) The Woman's Journal,
16 Nov 1907

Box 1
1906-07, n.d.

Box 1: folder 48-49
Metropolitan Park commission: water analysis,

Box 1: folder 50
Water supply and water pollution

Oscillaria Prolifica


Box 1: folder 51
Reprints of published articles,

Box 1: folder 52
Tests and photographs,
1901, n.d.

Box 1: folder 53
Jamaica Pond: correspondence and notes,

Box 1: folder 54
General: reprints of published articles,

Box 1: folder 55

The Woman's Journal,
16 Nov 1907

Flat file

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • American Association of University Women--History--Sources
  • Ecology--Massachusetts--Jamaica Pond
  • Home economics--Study and teaching--History--Sources
  • Massachusetts Institute Of Technology--Faculty--History--Sources
  • Nutrition--Study and teaching--United States--History--Sources
  • Richards, Ellen H. (Ellen Henrietta), 1842-1911
  • Sanitary chemistry--Study and teaching--History--Sources
  • Water--Purification--Massachusetts-History--Sources
  • Women chemists--United States--History--Sources
  • Women scientists--United States--History--Sources

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