Mary Jane Rathbun Appointed Curator of Marine Invertebrates

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  • Mary Jane Rathbun (1860-1943) is appointed second assistant curator in the Division of Marine Invertebrates in the U.S. National Museum, now the National Museum of Natural History. She is th first woman curator at the Smithsonian. She was a world's expert in the field of carcinology, or the classification of crabs. Her brother, Richard Rathbun, had begun working for the U.S. Fish Commission at Wood's Hole, Massachusetts, and in 1881 she accompanied him and provided assistance with his work. The Fish Commission was directed by Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird and housed in Washington, D.C. In 1884 she was hired as a clerk for the Fish Commission, and in 1887 she was appointed a copyist in the Division of Marine Invertebrates in the Smithsonian's National Museum. Her brother was then Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian, and she advanced to aide in 1893 and second Assistant Curator in 1894. She was named Assistant Curator in 1907.
  • In 1914 she resigned her position so a young scientist, Waldo LaSalle Schmitt, could be hired. She continued as an honorary curator until her death in 1943.


  • Rathbun, Mary Jane 1860-1943
  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • Rathbun, Richard 1852-1918
  • Schmitt, Waldo L (Waldo Lasalle) 1887-1977
  • United States Fish Commission
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • United States National Museum


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image of Rathbun at her desk is Smithsonian Institution Archives negative # SIA-97-3497
  • Finding Aid, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7256,

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Invertebrate Zoology
  • Women
  • Personnel management
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Employees
  • Museums
  • Women Scientists
  • History
  • Carcinology
  • Museum curators
  • Women--Employees
  • Women--History
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees


Woods Hole (Mass.)

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