The Contributions of Women to the United States
Naval Observatory: The Early Years.
Mrs. Hannah Mace Hedrick
Miss Hannah Fancher Mace was born in Walton,
New York on January 9, 1870. She graduated
from Vassar College with honors in 1890. This
time frame puts her at Vassar to study under the
leadership of both the famous
who retired in 1888, and her successor Mary
Whitney. Miss Mace took a short break from her
own studies to teach from 1890-92. She then
continued her studies at Vassar as a fellow in
mathematics from 1892-93 and moved to Yale
University graduate school where she was Phi
Beta Kappa and Qui Vive as a scholar in
mathematics from 1893-1894.
In 1894 she
began her lengthy yet somewhat erratic career as
a member of the Nautical Almanac Office
(NAO). Her career was complicated by the fact
that on April 30, 1896 she married fellow NAO employee
Henry Benjamin Hedrick,
who was with the NAO from 1886-1908. Apparently the
director of the NAO (Dr. Robertson) took a disliking to
Mr. Hedrick and used his influences to make
sure that Mr. Hedrick did not become a regular
member of the office.
The Hedrick family left Washington for Yale in 1909 where he worked
as an assistant astronomer there until 1918 while also receiving his PhD from Yale in 1915.
Mrs. Hedrick continued with the NAO as a piece worker, but completed most of her work via
correspondence in much the same fashion that her teacher Maria Mitchell did many years before.
At the time of her retirement in 1940, she was working on tables of stars
that would be occulated by the moon.
The Hedricks were also the parents of three children, Benjamin Mace, Anna Fancher, and
Eleanor Thompson. Aside from her mathematical work for the Naval Observatory, Mrs.
Hedrick was interested in the development of children as well as scientific efficiency in the
Dr. Hedrick continued his career from 1918-20 with the Carnegie Institute and finally
returned to Washington in 1920 to work on the technical staff of the Ordnance Department.
The family had two homes, one in Georgetown and the other a farm in Virginia where Hannah
Hedrick enjoyed riding, driving, rowing, hunting, and tennis. The Hedricks are seen together
in the group photo from the 1931 American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, and
Mrs. Hedrick is in a 1932 group photograph of the Observatory staff. Dr. Hedrick died October
6, 1936 of a heart attack in the Hedricks home at the age of 71. Even after retirement, Mrs.
Hedrick remained in contact with the USNO.
Mrs. Hedrick favored women's suffrage.
Hannah F. M. Hedrick died February 26, 1958, at the age of 88, and is buried in Oak Hill
Cemetery with her husband. Her name does not appear on the Hedrick marker.
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