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Ellen Hayes

Ellen Hayes
Ellen Amanda Hayes.jpg
Ellen Amanda Hayes
Born(1851-09-23)September 23, 1851
DiedOctober 27, 1930(1930-10-27) (aged 79)
Alma materOberlin College
Scientific career
InstitutionsAdrian College
Wellesley College
University of Virginia

Ellen Amanda Hayes (September 23, 1851 – October 27, 1930) was an American mathematician and astronomer. She was a controversial character for not only being a female professor, but also embracing many radical causes.

Early life

Hayes was born in Granville, Ohio the first of six children to Charles Coleman and Ruth Rebecca (Wolcott) Hayes.[1] At the age of seven she studied at the Centerville school, a one-room ungraded public school, and at sixteen taught at a country school to earn money.[1] In 1872 she entered the preparatory department at Oberlin College and was admitted as a freshman in 1875, where her main studies were mathematics and science.[1]


Hayes obtained an A.B. from Oberlin in 1878 and began teaching at Adrian College.[1] From 1879 to her 1916 retirement, she taught at Wellesley College, where she became head of the mathematics department in 1888 and head of the new department in applied mathematics in 1897.[1] Hayes was also active in astronomy, determining the orbit of the newly discovered asteroid 267 Tirza while studying at the Leander McCormick Observatory at the University of Virginia.[1]

Hayes was a strong-willed individual; according to one of her colleagues, she was removed from the head of the mathematics department due to disputes over her admission policy.[1] She was also a controversial mathematics professor: she was regarded as an unbeliever, questioned the truth of the Bible in front of students, and wore utilitarian instead of fashionable clothes.[1] She had very high standards of education, giving over half of her students D's the first year she taught from her trigonometry book.[1] Despite her rigorous teaching style, she had a loyal following of students.[1]

In 1891, Hayes was elected one of the first six female members of the New York Mathematical Society (later the American Mathematical Society).[2]

Women in math

Hayes was concerned about under-representation of women in mathematics and science and argued that this was due to social pressure and the emphasis on female appearance, the lack of employment opportunities in those fields for women, and schools which allowed female students to opt out of math and science courses.[1]

Social causes

Hayes was a controversial figure not just for being a rare female mathematics professor in 19th century America, but for her embrace of radical causes like questioning the Bible and gender clothing conventions, suffrage, temperance, socialism, the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, and Sacco and Vanzetti.[1] It was written from the history of Wellesley College:

A dauntless radical all her days, in the eighties she was wearing short skirts; in the nineties she was a staunch advocate of Woman's Suffrage; in the first two decades of the twentieth century, an ardent Socialist. After her retirement, and until her death in 1930, she was actively connected with an experiment in adult education for working girls. Fearless, devoted, intransigent, fanatical, if you like, and at times a thorn in the flesh of the trustees, who withheld the title of Emeritus on her retirement, she is remembered with enthusiasm and affection by many of her students.

— History of Wellesley College, [2]

In 1888, she wrote a regular column for the Wellesley College newspaper discussing suffrage and dress reform, and in the 1890s founded a chapter of the temperance movement.[1]

She was the Socialist Party candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of State in 1912, the first woman in state history to run for statewide office.[1] She did not win the race, but did receive more votes than any Socialist candidate on the ballot, including 2500 more than their gubernatorial candidate.[1] During the Russian Revolution, despite anti-Red sentiment, she raised money for Russian orphans and defended socialism.[1] At the age of 76, she was arrested for marching in protest of the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.[1]

Later life

Hayes wrote Wild Turkeys and Tallow Candles (1920), an account of life in Granville, and The Sycamore Trail (1929), a historical novel.[2]

In 1929 she moved to West Park, New York to teach at Vineyard Shore School for women workers in industry, despite her pain from arthritis.[1] She died on October 27, 1930.[1] Her will left her brain to the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University. Her ashes were buried in Granville, Ohio.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Ann Moskol (1987). Women in Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press. pp. 62–66. ISBN 978-0-313-24849-8.
  2. ^ a b c Riddle, Larry (1995). "Ellen Amanda Hayes". Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Agnes Scott College. Retrieved 11 February 2011.

External links

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