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Women’s History Month

The Virginia Living Museum celebrates Women’s History Month with information and activities relating to the pivotal contributions of women to American history.

March 1-7: Mary Anning

  • An English fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist
  • Known around the world for the discoveries she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel
  • In 1823 Mary was the first to discover the complete skeleton of a Plesiosaurus
  • In 1828  she found the first remains attributed to a Dimorphodon – later known as the Pterodactyl
  • Anning’s findings contributed to changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

March 8-14: Dr. Ellen Ochoa

  • American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center.
  • She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree and doctorate in electrical engineering.
  • In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery
  • Then became the first Hispanic and only second female director of the Johnson Space Center center on December 31, 2012.
  • She has been recognized with NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government


March 15-21: Dr. Margaret S Collins

  • An African-American child prodigy, entomologist (zoologist) specializing in the study of termites, and a civil rights advocate.
  • Nicknamed the “Termite Lady” because of her extensive research on termites including identifying a new species of termite called Neotermes luykxi.
  • When Dr. Collins earned her PhDShe became the first African American female entomologist and the third African American female zoologist.
  • Dr. Collin’s put her science career on hold to dedicate her focus to activism from 1952-1957. During the Tallahassee Bus Boycott, Dr. Collins drove people to work, which resulted in her being chased by police cars and being watched by the FBI.
  • Throughout her life, Dr. Collins demonstrated that advocacy for social change can be achieved in parallel with career goals.

March 22-31: Henrietta Swan Leavitt

  • An American astronomer.
  • A graduate of Radcliffe College, she worked at the Harvard College Observatory as a “computer”, tasked with measuring and cataloging the brightness of stars.
  • This work led her to discover the relation between the luminosity (brightness) and the distance to faraway galaxies.
  • Leavitt transformed the science of astronomy by dramatically extending the range at which a star’s distance from the earth could be measured.
  • She was made head of stellar photometry at the Harvard College Observatory in 1921, but did not live long enough to enjoy her new role.