Audiences Solving Mysteries of Women in Science

Recent discoveries about our Women in Science (WIS) demonstrate the ways our audiences are helping us add more stories to our collections.

As a part of our on-going Women in Science Wednesdays, Effie Kapsalis has highlighted the #groundbreaking efforts of women researchers, inventors, pilots, and professors. In the past months, we have featured “Mrs. Alfred Gibson,” Dora Jean Dougherty Strother (McKeown) and Fern P. Rathe. We have also extended our experiences in crowdsourcing, uncovering more about these women’s lives from our audiences - a seriously amazing outcome, indeed!

You may recall we’ve discussed our fantastic community contributions on Flickr. These efforts helped us identify portions of SIA collections, while refining our knowledge of Smithsonian history. Now, we are excited to turn the page of our collections stories and fill in more details of these Women in Science - with a crowdsourced introduction and more details about pioneering women and Wikipedia.

Introducing Mary Wallihan Gibson.

First, on August 28, we featured an UNKNOWN Woman in Science, “Mrs. Alfred E. Gibson.” We explained that we did not know the details of her name and life – and we asked for your help. By the end of the day, we had gathered information from you in our comments and in tweets with @Smithsonian – special thanks to Erin Ryan and Penny Richards for their sleuthing and deducing.

Tweets between @Smithsonian and @PennamitePLR

Mrs. Alfred E. Gibson is Mary Wallihan Gibson, who graduated from the University of Denver. After marrying Alfred E. Gibson in 1910, she settled in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Here she was an active member of Pi Beta Phi, organizing gatherings and sitting on committees. She helped organized and was the first president of the Cleveland Pan-Hellenic Association.

At the time of their 1938 win of the "grand award" from the Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation, Alfred and Mary were "president and stockholder, respectively" of the Wellman Engineering Company. Their prize was $13,941.33 for their paper on "Commercial Weldery." What an achievement – and now we can put a name to her success!

Working Women in Science into Wikipedia

We have continued work in increasing representation of these women and their achievements on Wikipedia. Here are more fascinating facts about three of our Women in Science:

Featured for Women in Science Wednesdays on August 21, Dora Jean Dougherty Strother is another masterful pilot, as well as a human factors engineer. She not only set records in helicopter flight and earned the first PhD in Aviation Science from New York University, she was also a B-29 Superfortress demonstration pilot. Prior to working with Bell Helicopter, Strother served with the Women AirForce Service Pilots (WASP) and registered command over 23 different aircraft. Furthermore, she and fellow WASP Dorothea Johnson Moorman learned to fly the cumbersome B29 bomber in 1944. The aircraft was a more robust version of the Enola Gay and was considered very dangerous, even catching fire midflight for Strother. Within a limited two-week demonstration period, Strother and Moorman proved the aircraft was safe and reliable for men to fly, then trained male pilots to fly it during World War II.

We also were able to nominate Dora Jean Dougherty Strother’s Wikipedia article for the Wikipedia main page section Did You Know?  It was successfully featured on Monday, September 16, 2013. Based on that main page exposure, Strother’s Wikipedia article was viewed 3817 times in one day! Her story was also expanded through efforts of other Wikipedia editors.

Furthermore, we discovered that two of our WIS worked together at the University of Chicago in the department of Zoology! Marie Agnes Hinrichs ( August 7, 2013) was an Officer of Instruction as an Assistant, while Libbie Henrietta Hyman ( June 12, 2013) served as a Research Associate in Zoology in 1919. Hinrichs later went on to earn her doctorate and moved from Research Associate in Physiology (1931) at the University of Chicago to Associate Professor and Head of the Department in Physiology and Student Health at Southern Illinois University (1938). 

Marie Agnes Hinrichs, Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institut

Libbie Henrietta Hyman, Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Instit

A resounding "Thank You" to our readers for your help and enthusiasm. We look forward to sharing more of our collections stories with you and continuing to make discoveries together! 

If you have more information to share about these women or other scientists we’ve featured, please let us know in the comments. You can also help SIA build and improve Wikipedia articles for these women and our wide-ranging collections.

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