Edith Gertrude Schwartz was born in 1874. She entered the University of Nebraska and became a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1898. As an undergraduate, she was junior class president, a member of Sigma Xi, and she played basketball and tennis. On May 30, 1899, Edith married classmate Frederic Clements. In 1904, she became the first woman to be awarded a University of Nebraska doctorate. As a graduate student she was taught German, was an assistant in botany, and a botany instructor.
In 1907, her husband was hired by the University of Minnesota. The Minneapolis Kappa Alpha Theta alumnae organization reported in a 1907 Kappa Alpha Theta magazine, “It was our privilege in October to give a tea at the home of Mrs. Birch in welcome to Edith Schwartz Clements of Rho chapter whose brilliant husband has come to head the department of botany at the university. The guests included the wives of members of the faculty and also representatives from the alumnae chapters of the other women’s fraternities.”
The 1914-15 issue of Woman’s Who’s Who in America included an entry for Edith. It noted that she was in favor of woman suffrage and that her recreations were “walking, mountain climbing, dancing.”
Starting in 1917, the couple began spending the winters doing research in the Tucson Institute in Arizona, a Carnegie-funded research institution, and in 1925 at the Coastal Laboratory in Santa Barbara, also funded by Carnegie. Together they founded a research station Alpine Laboratory, at Pikes Peak in Colorado. They studied plant acclimatization, the “numerous gradual, long-term responses of an organism to changes in its environment.” Over the next forty years, many botanists and ecologists were trained at the Alpine Laboratory.
In addition to being a scientist, Edith was a talented botanical artist. She illustrated many of her books as well as the ones she wrote with her husband. Frederic died in 1945. Edith wrote a memoir when she was 86. Adventures in Ecology: Half a Million Miles: From Mud to Macadam; it was published in 1960. She called it the story of “two plant ecologists who lived and worked together.” Edith died in 1971 at the age of 96.
Edith Schwartz Clements is another of the outstanding women’s fraternity/sorority women I am hoping to spotlight during Women’s History Month (#WHM). Check back every day to learn more about the amazing women who have worn badges.
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