Wonderful Women Wednesday: Mary Skinner

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

Between 1961 until her retirement in 1986, Mary Skinner mounted tens of thousands of plant specimens for the Smithsonian. Though initially hired as a contractor for the U.S. National Herbarium, she earned a permanent position with the National Museum of Natural History in 1969. 

For more than 25 years after her retirement, Skinner continued to work part-time as a mounter for the Museum’s Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield, a program to document, understand, and conserve the biological diversity of the Guiana Shield, an area in the northeast corner of South America. In her five decades with the Museum, she mounted an estimated 150,000 plant specimens.

Before her career at the Smithsonian, Skinner enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. As a corporal, she trained pilots to use radar. 

A woman, whose face is not visible, kneels on the floor, with two men, who are also crashing down.

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