Portrait Gallery: Ellen Swallow Richards

Each week, Christine Larsen creates a portrait of a new author for us. Have any favorites you’d love to see immortalized? Let us know

Today is the birthday of Ellen Swallow Richards. She was an American chemist and author, the founder of the Home Economics movement, the first American woman to earn a degree in chemistry, the first woman admitted to MIT, and the first woman to teach at MIT.

She was a feminist (some say the first eco-feminist), and was an environmental scientist who studied air quality, groundwater, soil, and food. She authored books about science for use in the home, particularly about nutrition and sanitation, bringing a scientific rigor to what once was the realm of hand-me-down tales.

You can see all of her books on Archive.org, but, you the one you might find most interesting is The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning: A Manual for Housekeepers.