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University of Maryland Department of Astronomy

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

21 Mar 2017, 15:00 UTC
Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

March 31. {1857} We are at length in New Orleans, and up three flights of stairs at the St. Charles, in a dark room, at the pretty price of three dollars a day . . . . The peculiarities of the city dawn upon me very slowly.  I first noticed the showy dress of the children, white waists and fancy skirts – then the turbaned heads of the black women in the streets, and next the bouquet-selling boys with their French phrases.
This was Maria Mitchell’s southern trip in the spring of 1857, before she and Prudence Swift (her charge) headed to Europe.  What you need to keep in mind is that Maria Mitchell was coming from a heavily Quaker influenced island home so to see the “showy dress” of the children and the turbaned women, as well as the dazzling bouquets of flowers, added to the cacophony of color that Maria Mitchell was not used to seeing in such an extreme.  It must have been an assault to her eyes though a beautifully happy one.  When you think of New Orleans, besides the obvious of the Vieux Carré and jazz music, what always comes to me is the thick humid air, the lush of the plant life, and the fantastic explosion of color, as well as the warm, beautiful faces of New Orleanians and the drawl that only says New Orleans native.  (Can you tell I lived there for about three years?  Riverbend.)

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