The Contributions of Women to the United States
Naval Observatory: The Early Years.
Vera Marie Gushee
Vera Gushee was born in Cincinnatus New York
the 7th of February 1894. She received her A.B. from
Smith College in 1916 and her M.S. from Chicago
in 1917. She went directly to
as a computer for two years before returning to
Smith as a demonstrator assistant and instructor
in astronomy, a position she held from 1917-
The walls of the
Naval Observatory were
graced by Miss Gushee for only one summer as
she passed through as a summer assistant to the
NAO in 1918. The same year, she was an assistant
on the solar eclipse expedition to Matheson, Colorado.
She was not one to stay in any
one place for long.
Her career continued as she
accepted a teaching position at Northwestern
from 1924-1925 and then she moved on to
instruct at Ohio State (1925) and Bryn Mawr
Summer School for Women Workers in Industry (1929). In 1927 she gave summer
instruction with both Dana Hall and Pine Manor
School and later spent several summers at the
Cummingtion School. Miss Gushee taught a
course in astronomy at Harvard in 1932 and there
she studied under Dr. Sarton who had written a
book entitled "History of Science and the New
Humanism". She was very attracted to Sarton's
ideals and decided to devote the remainder of her
teaching career to upholding those ideals.
Miss Gushee never pursued a Doctorate. She felt
her efforts were better spent in broadening her
background rather than a narrow focus towards a Ph.D. in Astronomy. She was an accomplished
student and teacher. One of her students at Harvard even included her in a poem he had written
after observing the Orion Nebula for the first time. Harry Elmore Hurd wrote:
My teacher was a woman,
small of stature,
Yet tall enough of mind to touch the stars
With the help of a nine-inch equatorial telescope
and two steps of an observation rack.
At the age of 43, Miss Gushee died of appendicitis on October 27th 1937 after a five week
illness. At the time of her death she was employed at Teachers College Columbia in the
curriculum laboratory. Vera Gushee was a member of the American Astronomical Society as
well as the Association of Variable Star Observers. Her peers described her as a modest little
lady with a radiant spirit. She was interested in the History of Science.
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