“To promote greater fellowship among Institute women”—that was the goal in 1899 of the founders of the MIT Women’s Association (MITWA), later renamed the Association of MIT Alumnae (AMITA).
Now, as AMITA kicks off its 120th-anniversary celebrations at this weekend’s MIT Alumni Leadership Conference, it has released a new interactive timeline chronicling women’s history at MIT, starting in 1870 with the admission, as an “experimental student,” of one Ellen Henrietta Swallow.
"We are thrilled that the timeline is part of the launch of our 120th anniversary celebrations, as it makes accessible the rich legacy which is foundational to our identity as an organization," says AMITA president Mary Jane Daly MCP ’83.
“With a major anniversary year, you cannot help but look back and appreciate the women and events that brought you here,” says AMITA volunteer Coleen Smith ’87, who created the timeline with research and review assistance from Carol Hooker ’67 and past AMITA presidents Dorothy Curtis ’73, Susan Kannenberg ’61, Sze-Wen Kuo ’73, Sarah Simon ’72, and Sandra Yulke ’74, SM ’77. The project draws heavily on content from AMITA and MIT Museum archives, including the Margaret MacVicar Memorial AMITA Oral History Project, as well as past issues from student newspaper the Tech—which documented, among other milestones, MITWA’s first meeting on December 29, 1899.
And with 100-plus entries, this is just the start of a repository that will grow each month. “With November being an election month, we will be featuring our suffragists, like Florence Luscomb 1909 and Katharine Dexter McCormick 1904, and their work for the 19th Amendment,” Smith notes. She looks forward to continuing to uncover stories about the pioneering women who have helped to shape MIT all the way up to the present day.
“The timeline has been special because I have had a chance to work with women who knew (or are!) the AMITA history makers,” Smith says.
Photo (top): Ellen Swallow Richards 1873 (back row, far left), MIT’s first alumna, stands in 1888 with students from the MIT Women’s Laboratory she founded. Credit: MIT Museum.