Elizabeth Bangs Bryant

Elizabeth Bangs Bryant (1875-1953) worked at the MCZ most of her life. Born to an old and well-off Boston family, she had an interest in natural history from an early age. She attended Radcliffe College when it was still an adventure for women to go to college. At the MCZ she worked on spiders, first as a valued volunteer though later she received a small stipend. Her first paper was published in 1908 but she had been reluctant to publish; later she refused repeatedly to allow her name to be listed in American Men of Science insisting that she had not been professionally trained. Most of her research on spiders was done after she was 55. She studied mainly spiders of New England and the Caribbean and was respected for her meticulous descriptions and drawings.

Bryant became an astute businesswoman and handled her own investments at a time when women usually entrusted their money affairs to men, and she was known for thrift as well as generosity. Her colleagues also remembered her kindness and her humor.

Elisabeth Deichmann

Elisabeth DeichmanElisabeth Deichman (1896-1975) was the only child of a Danish couple; her father was a physician and her mother a well-known painter. After the family lived for several years in Greenland, where Elisabeth (known as Liska) received only an informal education, they returned to Denmark and she entered The University of Copenhagen where she received a Master's in Zoology and developed a life-long interest in sea cucumbers.

Eventually Deichman emigrated to the U.S. and attended Radcliffe, receiving her Ph.D. there in 1927. After a year in Woods Hole, she returned to Cambridge and worked at the MCZ as Assistant Curator, then Curator, and eventually Curator Emeritus of Invertebrates. During this time she visited museums, did field work and published a number of papers on Holothurians especially.

After World War II Deichman received King Christian's Freedom Medal for helping Danish seamen during the war. The king also later honored her by making her a Knight of Danneborg, a rare honor for a woman, because of her work in zoology and with Danish students. She was well known for her kindness and generosity to both colleagues and students. The Ernst Mayr Library-MCZ has a large collection of her personal papers.

 

Barbara Lawrence Schevill

Barbara LawrenceOne of the few areas of research in which a woman was able to work was as a curator in a museum.

Born in Boston in 1901, Barbara Lawrence graduated from Vassar College and became a volunteer at the MCZ. There Museum Director Dr. Thomas Barbour and Curator of Mammals Dr. Glover Allen took an interest in her work and encouraged her. She eventually went on her own scientific expeditions to study bats in the Philippines and Sumatra, and she published papers on her work.

In 1938 she married William Schevill, who was Librarian of the MCZ and Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology. They continued to work together studying echolocation in whales and porpoises while raising two children, which was unusual for women at the time. When Dr. Allen died during World War II, Lawrence took over the Mammal Department and in 1952 she was appointed Curator of Mammals; she remained in this position until her retirement in 1976. Lawrence became the first woman to sail on a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ship in 1952.

Over her career she advised and collaborated with many other researchers and students, and in the 1950s she became interested in the origin of domestication of animals, especially dogs. She was a pioneer in the field of zooarcheology and was instrumental in the founding of the International Council on Zooarchaeology. She continued to do field work even after her retirement, and was an active environmentalist.

Myvanwy Millar Dick

Myvanwy Millar Dick

Myvanwy Millar Dick (1910-1993) was of Welsh descent but born in England, where she attended college. She settled in New York City in 1930 and attended art school for four years. In 1939 she married a tree surgeon working in Boston, and in 1946 was hired as an art assistant in the MCZ Ichthyology Department. She became a research assistant, then lab assistant, then curatorial assistant and eventually ichthyologist. She thoroughly enjoyed her work at the the MCZ, and was regarded with great affection by the students and the members of the understaffed fish department.

Photo by A. H. Coleman, ca. 1975