Mathematical Treasure: Objects Related to Women Mathematicians

Judy Green (Marymount University)

Most of the items in the Smithsonian collections that relate to women mathematicians are connected with pioneering women who joined the growing American mathematical community in the first half of the 20th century. Many of these items were collected in connection with a 1981 meeting sponsored by the Division of Mathematics of the National Museum of American History (NMAH) that honored American women who received doctorates in mathematics prior to World War II.

Women PhDs in mathematics honored at NMAH, 1981.

Eighteen women with PhDs in mathematics at the NMAH in 1981, Smithsonian Institution negative number 81-11284-13.

The objects in the collection illustrate diverse aspects of the personal and professional lives of several women mathematicians. Among these mathematicians are Olive C. Hazlett, a leading American mathematician of the 1920s who had an interest in music and puzzles; Grace Murray Hopper, whose illustrious career in computer science began in the Navy; Sister M. Helen Sullivan, whose professional activities centered around her teaching of mathematics; Frances E. Baker, one of quite a number of women mathematicians related or married to another mathematician, who was the daughter of Richard P. Baker, a well-known maker of mathematical models; and, finally, Daina Taimina, a current-day mathematician who crochets mathematical models.

A more detailed description of the collection can be seen at the website