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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 6 Issue 3 (2001) pp 192-201

Rachel Littler Bodley: A Charter Member of the American Chemical Society and Revolutionizer of Chemical and Medical Education for Women

Cassandra T. Eagle* and Jennifer Sloan

Department of Chemistry, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608
Received September 25, 2000. Accepted November 6, 2000

Published online: 27 April 2001

Abstract. Rachel Littler Bodley was an important contributor to the study of chemistry and the work of women in science. In 1862, she undertook the cataloging of an extensive plant collection at Cincinnati Female Seminary. Her work was praised by many eminent botanists of that time. In 1865, Bodley became a professor of chemistry at Woman’s Medical College. While at that college, her work and student addresses revealed her belief in the possibilities of synthetically made “cures.” In 1874, Rachel became dean of Woman’s Medical College. During 1874, Bodley proposed that American chemists meet at Joseph Priestley’s birthplace to celebrate his discovery of oxygen. Her suggestion led to the formation of the American Chemical Society. She was elected as a charter member of the society and was its only female member until the 1890s. In 1880, Bodley became a member of the Franklin Institute and lectured there on household chemistry. In 1881, she wrote and published The College Story, a survey on the lives of women in the medical profession. It was the first survey of its kind done by a woman. Rachel was a devoted Christian and promoter of foreign medical mission work among students, colleagues, and others. Her leadership and foresight allowed Woman’s Medical College to become one of the foremost women’s medical institutions in America. Her diligence and encouragement made the work of single women as Christian missionaries both possible and extremely productive. Her achievements helped to better the possibilities for women in the medical field and in the world. Finally, the American Chemical Society had its birth from an idea that Rachel Bodley proposed.

Key Words:  Chemistry and History; Bodley

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Issue date: June 1, 2001

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