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 Maria Mitchell, 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 home.
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.

Return to Homepage.
Continue to Next Biographical Sketch.