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Bodley, Rachel (1831–1888)

Bodley, Rachel (1831–1888)

American chemist and botanist. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 7, 1831; died of a heart attack, at age 56, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1888; daughter and third of five children of Anthony (a carpenter) and Rebecca (Talbott) Bodley (an educator); attended private school in Cincinnati; graduated from Wesleyan Female College, Cincinnati, 1849; graduated from Polytechnic College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1860.

Credited with helping to raise the profile of women in science, Rachel Bodley attended a private school run by her mother Rebecca Talbott Bodley before enrolling at Wesleyan Female College. After completing advanced studies in the natural sciences, Rachel embarked on her teaching career at the Cincinnati Female Seminary, in 1862. Three years later, she was named first chair of chemistry at Female Medical College (later Woman's Medical College). She became dean of the school and was elected school director in Philadelphia's 29th School District. In 1883, she was one of the first women appointed to the State Board of Public Charities.

Throughout her teaching career, Bodley classified and mounted an extensive collection of plants. In 1881, she conducted a statistical survey concerning the careers of graduates of the Woman's Medical College. Her study, one of the first relative to women and the professions, was published in the pamphlet, The College Story. Several of her lectures were also published.

Bodley held membership in a number of scientific societies, including the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia (1971), the New York Academy of Sciences (1876), the American Chemical Society (1876), and Philadelphia's Franklin Institute (1880). Woman's Medical College awarded her an honorary M.D. in 1879.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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