Keber, Sylvia Saavedra see
Kendall, Phebe Mitchell
(Mitchell) Kendall (b.
February 23, 1828 on Nantucket, MA, d. June 4, 1907)
Politician (one of first two women elected to Cambridge School Committee); Biographer
Phebe Mitchell was born in Massachusetts in about 1828. She and her sister Maria were largely educated by their father, William Mitchell, a teacher, banker, and amateur astronomer. Phebe married Joshua Kendall, a private boys' school teacher, and moved to to Bristol, RI by 1860. They later settled in Cambridge, MA. By 1873, Joshua Kendall had opened his own private school for boys at 13 Appian Way in Cambridge. The family lived at 123 Inman Street, a modest two-story wood frame house. Mr. Kendall operated Kendall's Day and Family School from 1873 until 1906. From 1898 to 1906, the family also lived at 13 Appian Way. In 1878 Phebe accompanied her sister, the astronomer Maria Mitchell, and four Vassar College graduates across country by train to Denver Colorado to observe a total solar eclipse through the telescopes they had brought with them.
In 1879, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law allowing women to vote in school committee elections. That same year, Phebe Mitchell Kendall and Sarah Sprague Jacobs became the first women elected to the Cambridge School Committee. Phebe Kendall served until 1894. In 1896, Phebe Mitchell Kendall edited a biography of her sister, Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) who had made her name as astronomer, educator, and advocate for the education of women. (Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters and Journals (Boston 1896).
Phebe Kendall died in 1907. Her son, William Mitchell Kendall, had a distinguished career as an architect and was active in many art and cultural organizations. He graduated from Harvard in 1876 and studied architecture at MIT. From 1882 until his death in 1941 he worked for the renowned New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.
Resources: Cambridge Vital Records; City of Cambridge Annual Reports; Federal Census; Kendall, Phebe Mitchell. Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters and Journals, book online at http://www.freeonlinebooks.org/displaybook1.php?id=128; Harvard University Library Open Collections Program: Women Working, 1870-1930, online at http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/people_mitchell.html and http://mlahanas.de/Stampe/Data/PHPerson/M.htm; Gray, Christoper. "Streetscapes/McKin, Mead & White: A Skeptic's View of a Renowned Architectural Firm," New York Times, 2 June 2006, online archives.
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Kistiakowsky (b. 1928)
The daughter of the renowned physicist George B Kistiakowsky and his Swedish wife Hildegard Moebius, Vera was interested in science from childhood. She attended school in Massachusetts and Pittsburgh and then went to Mount Holyoke College as an undergraduate where she majored in chemistry and took pre-med courses. Instead of going into medicine, she went to graduate school in chemistry at University of California, Berkeley, obtaining her PhD in 1952 examining promethium isotopes. She switched to experimental nuclear physics, doing her postdoctoral fellowship with Luis Alvarez. While in graduate school, she met and married a young physicist, Gerhard Fischer with whom she had two children. The couple later divorced.
Kistiakowsky went to Columbia from 1954 to 1959 where she worked as a research associate under the Nobel prize winner, Madame Chien-Shiung Wu. In 1959, she came back to Massachusetts to work at Brandeis University in a high-energy laboratory affiliated with MIT. In 1963, she moved to MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Although she had stellar credentials, she was appointed professor only in the early 1970s. She worked in experimental particle physics, and then in observational astrophysics. She published over one hundred articles in these fields.
She became interested in the position of women scientists in the late 1960s when she and two other women started a Boston area group called WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). In 1970 she organized a committee within the American Physical Society (APS) to study the status of women physicists. She has published articles and lectured on topics related to women in science. She was president of the Association for Women in Science in 1982 and 1983. Among other honors, she is a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Like her father, she was concerned with issues of international security and weapons policy. She has lectured and written on these issues and sits on the board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
In 1987, she was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Mount Holyoke College. She retired from MIT as professor emerita in 1994. Her papers are at MIT Library archives.
References: Notable Women in the Physical Sciences. Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer (eds). Westport, CN,. 1997; Interview, Oral History Project, MIT archives; Vera Kistiakowsky Papers, MIT Library archives; Carol Berczuk, “Choices and Successes: Honoring Women Pioneers “ Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 869 (1), 22–33, 1999.
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Women's Heritage Project
March 27, 2007