MBL | Biological Discovery in Woods Hole Contact UsDirectionsText SizeSmallMediumLarge
women of science
women of science
Women of Science at the MBL

From 1888 to 1910, women attending the MBL came as students and investigators; many were teachers in secondary schools. In that early period, women comprised approximately one-third of the total enrollment. In some classes, such as Botany and Embryology, more than half the students were women. However, after 1910, fewer women were admitted as students. It was not until the 1970's that enrollment of women at the MBL began to increase.

The Early Years

Founded in 1888, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts was unusual for its time in that it encouraged the enrollment of women students of science on an equal basis with men. In these early years, approximately one-third of the classes in advanced scientific studies were composed of women who came from many areas of the country. Individual women as well as women's social and educational groups had been instrumental in raising approximately half of the funds required for the establishment of the MBL.

One of the early goals of the institution was the advanced training of women as preparation for their teaching of science in high schools and colleges. Although the MBL was not a degree granting institution, many of the early women students went on to earn their Ph.D. in the natural sciences.

The women scientists featured in the photographs below are representative of the many distinguished women who studied at the MBL in its earliest days.

Click on a photograph to learn more about the scientist.

women of science