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Volume

115

Issue

2

First Page

98

Last Page

111

Abstract

Abstract--Los Angeles Harbor, in San Pedro Bay, has long drawn scientific researchers, from its days as a 19th century muddy tide flat to today’s industrial complex of man-made channels and wharves. A marine biological laboratory was established on Terminal Island as an outpost of the University of California and operating for the summers of 1901 and 1902. As it was a teaching laboratory, it attracted women students and researchers. Two Los Angeles women associated with the laboratory and who made contributions to the advancement of biology were Sarah P. Monks, an instructor at the Los Angeles Normal School and Martha Burton Williamson, a self-taught conchologist. These women were born in the 1840’s and grew up at a time when scientific pursuits were not the norm for the proper Victorian women. Both had done research in Los Angeles Harbor before the laboratory on Terminal Island was opened and both continued their independent research in the harbor after the laboratory was relocated to San Diego. Both women had cottages on Terminal Island from where they collected and conducted their research. Monks named her cottage Phataria after a sea star, whose asexual reproduction and autonomy was the subject of her research. Williamson amassed a significant collection of shells, corresponding extensively with malacologists from around the world. Williamson’s most significant publication was her 1892 Smithsonian paper on the shells of San Pedro Bay, possibly the first paper published devoted exclusively to the biota of San Pedro Bay and certainly, the first written by a woman. Both faced setbacks in their careers, Monks by not being recognized as author of her anatomy textbook and Williamson for her inability to join the California Academy of Sciences. They both survived residing, at least part-time, within the inhospitable environment of the Terminal Island district of Los Angeles Harbor. They serve as role models for any women who face the prospect of going where few women go in their quest for scientific knowledge.

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