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Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #17: Margaretta Hare Morris

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #17: Margaretta Hare Morris

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

17

Margaretta Hare Morris

Entomologist

Margaretta Hare Morris

Entomologist

1797-1867

Entomologist Margaretta Hare Morris had no formal scientific education. Instead, she taught herself by catching insects and studying their life spans in her Germantown home. She would raise the insects in bell jars and studied the eating patterns, egg-laying habits and larvae stages of insects.

Despite having no formal training, Morris became a renowned entomologist, known for her pioneering work in the study of the life cycle of the Hessian fly. In 1841, the fly was an invasive species that was destroying wheat crops. Moore’s research found that Hessian flies laid its eggs in wheat grain, making the only solution to obtain and plant un-infested seeds.

In addition to researching the Hessian fly, she also published articles on the cotton moth, bed bugs, army worms and locusts. Her research on locusts was presented to the American Association of the Advancement of Science in 1850 by a male professor, because it was considered improper for a woman to speak to an audience of men at the time.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • First female member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Second female member of Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia
  • Self-taught entomologist
  • Wrote numerous articles for agriculture magazines, including, American Agriculturalist


FINAL WORDS:
Despite having a profound effect on American entomology, Morris has been largely forgotten by the scientific community. Later, men would protest the inclusion of female entomologists in the field by saying women “would not be able to climb a tree or catch a grasshopper.”


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Image by Виктория Кабанова / Pixabay

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