Biographical Sketch of Mildred Eleanor Blodgett

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Mildred Eleanor Blodgett, 1883-1967

By Tessa Young, student, Mt. Holyoke College

Mildred Eleanor Blodgett was born September 23, 1883, in Canada, as Mildred Judd. Her mother died in 1891, and her father died soon after, leaving Mildred orphaned at the age of nine. She was soon adopted by an American couple, George Ward Blodgett and Ellen Fessender Beach Blodgett, who lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire during Mildred's childhood. Her adoptive father was one of the earliest graduates of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and an acclaimed railroad engineer, as well as a deeply socially-minded and religious man. He instilled his passion for science, religion, and community service in his adoptive daughter, encouraging her to pursue a science education. She attended the Williams School and Newton High School before matriculating at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 1902.

Blodgett was one of a handful of female students at MIT; as she recalls, there were only seven women during her time there, and all of them, herself included, "were very unpopular," facing discrimination from both professors and fellow students. Despite the difficulties she faced as a woman in the sciences, Blodgett earned her S.B. degree in 1907, the fourth female graduate of the Course XII (Earth Science) program.

Mildred Blodgett joined the faculty of Mount Holyoke College in 1911 as a geology instructor. At Mount Holyoke, Blodgett encouraged her students to become politically involved and to pursue careers in the sciences and academia.

Blodgett was instrumental in the formation of Mount Holyoke's chapter of the National College Equal Suffrage League in 1912. The Equal Suffrage League (NCESL) was a branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which aimed to involve female college students in the fight for suffrage. Members of the Mount Holyoke chapter wrote numerous publications and attended demonstrations both on and off campus to promote the cause. On May 2, 1914, Blodgett led others from the Mount Holyoke Equal Suffrage League chapter to march in the Boston Suffrage Parade.

In 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, Blodgett left the college and became Sister Mildred Eleanor of the Order of St. John Baptist in Ralston, New Jersey. Throughout her career in the church, she continued to promote women's education and involvement with social issues. In 1922, she was appointed to be in charge of St. Anna's school. In 1929, she was sent to St. Helen's Hall, a school for girls in Oregon, which later became a Junior College, which she served as Dean and eventually Sister Superior. The sisters were recalled from St. Helen's Hall in 1944. Sr. Mildred Eleanor established a school in Corsicana, Texas before working at the St. John Baptist House in New York and the Grace House in New Jersey. After a series of health issues, she died of natural causes on March 13, 1967.

Sr. Mildred Eleanor never lost her passion for science or the advancement of women; many of her former pupils and colleagues remember being amazed by her vast knowledge and enthusiasm for geology. She was involved in promoting suffrage among the students of a prominent women's college and marched alongside them. Even after her involvement with the suffrage movement, she was an advocate for women's rights and involvement in higher education, as well as fighting against discrimination as a woman in science.

Sources:

Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College. South Hadley, Massachusetts. Convent Records on Sister Mildred Eleanor. Mendham, NJ: Order of St. John Baptist.

Phillips, Henry Ayling. George Ward Blodgett, Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering: Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a memoir, prepared for the class of eighteen hundred and seventy three. Boston: Privately printed, 1915.

Shrock, Robert Rakes. Geology at MIT, 1865-1965: a history of the first 100 years of geology at Massachusetts Inst. of Technology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, eds. History of woman suffrage, Vol. 6. [LINK].

"What Women Are Doing," Washington Post, October 22, 1911.

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