|Name||Maunder, Annie Scott Dill Maunder (née Russell)
|Place of work||Greenwich|
||1 Sep 1891 – 31 Oct 1895|
|Posts||1891, Sep 1
||Computer (resigned 31 Oct 1895)
|Born||1868, Apr 14
|Died||1947, Sep 15
|Family links||Married E Walter Maunder (Assistant) in 1895|
|Known Addresses||1891–1895||16 The Circus, Greenwich (now 16 Gloucester Circus)
|1896–1900||18 Walerand Road, Lewisham|
|1900–1906||86 Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley|
|1908–1911||69 Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley|
|1911||38 Crooms Hill|
|1913–1926||8 Maze Hill (now 38 Maze Hill)|
By 1889, the Astronomer Royal, William Christie, had been in office for eight years and overseen a considerable expansion in the number of telescopes both deployed and planned. But the number of staff both permanent and temporary had remained essentially unchanged. Unable to secure funding for additional assistants, Christie did secure an increase in the budget for temporary computers in 1889, allowing their number to rise from 14 to 22 within two years.
Extra computers were all very well, but what Christie really wanted was more assistants. To this end, he therefore made the decision to experiment with employing ‘Lady Computers’ (up until then all the professional staff had been men). Only women who had graduated at a University Ladies’ College were considered. Four such assistants were taken on in 1890: a Miss Clemes, together with Miss Rix and Miss Furniss from Newnham College Cambridge and Miss Everett from Girton College Cambridge. All four began work on 14 April and were set to work on re-computing the transit observations from 1886 (RGO7/29). Clemes it seemed was the first to leave. Furniss resigned in 1891 and was replaced on 1 September by Annie Russell (RGO7/29), a contemporary of Everett’s at Girton. Although older and considerably better educated than the Boy Computers, their pay and conditions were the same. But unlike the boys who were generally still living with their parents, the Lady computers had to find (and presumably pay for) their own accommodation. Russell was asigned to work for E Walter Maunder who, in 1891, was responsible for ‘the measurement of the solar photographs and the superintendence of the reductions connected with them … [and] also the special spectroscopic observations and reductions; and with the special care of the south-east or great equatorial’. Part of her work was to examine and measure the daily sunspot photographs. She also became a certified observer with both the transit instrument and the photoheliograph for which she received a small extra allowance.
At the end of 1891, Russell, Everett and the amateur solar astronomer Elizabeth Brown were nominated by Maunder for election as fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society, which at that stage had no female fellows. Their applications were seconded by Arthur Downing, a colleague of Maunder’s at the Observatory and Secretary to the Society. When the appliccations were considered in early 1892, all were rejected because of the use of the word ‘he’ in the Society’s Royal Charter, which was interpreted to mean that women could definitely not be admitted. Given that Maunder, Downing and Brown had all played an important part in the setting up of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) in 1890, (which unlike the Royal Astronomical Society was open to women to join) it seems likely that the three applications to the Royal Astronomical Society were made in a concerted and provocative attempt to embarrass the Society into change its ways.Christie’s enthusiasm for employing women computers did not last long. Rix resigned her post in 1892 on health grounds, Everett secured a position at the Observatory in Potsdam in 1895 and Russell resigned a few weeks later on 31 October to marry her boss, who was 17 years her senior. The marriage took place on 28 December at St Mark’s Presbyterian Church, Greenwich. Not only did Annie take on and care for many of Maunder’s five surviving children from his first marriage, but she also had to resign from her post at the Observatory as the rules of the Civil Service then required. Despite this, she still managed to have a successful career as an astronomer. As well as being a member of the BAA, she was for many years the editor of its journal. She accompanied Walter on five total solar eclipse expeditions, the first of which took place in Norway in 1896. She was also a published author. Her best known publications is probably The Heavens and their story, which she and Walter wrote together.
Many modern commentators speak of Christie’s social innovation. But in truth, the employment of the Lady Computers was exploitative and little more than a stop-gap measure. By the time Russell resigned, the problem of insufficient numbers of established staff was about to be resolved and no more ladies were appointed. Indeed, those making enquiries were told ‘ladies are no longer employed at the Royal Observatory’. The next time women were employed at the Observatory, was again as Computers, and again out of necessity. But this time it was because of the staffing shortages caused by the First World War. Although Walter had retired in 1913, both he and Annie returned to the Observatory on a voluntary basis in January 1916 to work in the solar department. Although Walter was temporarily reinstated into his former post in April that year, it was only around the time that he retired for a second time on 30 September 1919 that Annie was formally reinstated as a Computer. She resigned in 1920. In the meantime, following a change to the Royal Astronomical Society’s Charter in 1915, the new Astronomer Royal, Frank Dyson, nominated her in 1916 for election as a fellow. This time around her application was successful. Click here to read more about the admittance of women to the Society.
Between 1887 and 1895 Walter had lived in a newly built house, Hyde House, in Ulundi Road on the east side of Greenwich Park in close proximity to several of the other Greenwich Assistants, Lewis, Hollis and Crommelin, who all lived in the same road. Following his marriage to Annie, he moved the family about as far away as possible (given the need to be close to his work) to Walerand Road on the Lewisham side of Blackheath well away from the homes of any other staff member. As well as removing themselves from the daily scrutiny of the Observatory staff the Maunders were also able to use a different railway line when travelling up to London. Following two futher moves to houses in Brockley, the Maunders eventually returned to the vicinity of Greenwich Park in about 1911.
Obituary: Maunder, Annie Scott Dill. MA Evershed, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 108, pp.48–9 (1948)
Lady Computers at Greenwich in the Early 1890s. MT Brück, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 36, p.83– 95 (1995)
Alice Everett and Annie Russell Maunder torch bearing women astronomers. MT Brück, Irish Astronomical Journal, Vol. 21(3/4), pp.281–88 (1994)
The Family Background of Annie S. D. Maunder (née Russell). MT Brück, MT. & S Grew, Irish Astronomical Journal, 1996, 23(1), 55