February 2: Jane Wadden Turner (1896)

Eleven years after its founding, the Smithsonian Institution hired its first female employee – Jane Wadden Turner. Jane’s brother, William, had been trained as a librarian at Columbia College in New York City and because there were few educational opportunities in the field available for women, William taught his sister. When Assistant Secretary Spencer F. Baird asked William to head the Smithsonian Library, William delegated the task of preparing the catalog to his sister Jane. Soon thereafter, Jane was hired as a library clerk and after her brother’s untimely death, she took charge of the library. Later Jane accompanied the library when it was transferred to the Library of Congress under the auspices of Librarian Ainsworth Spofford.


It’s interesting that both Baird and Spofford were associated with Epiphany. It’s hard to know if they had any influence, but Jane became associated with Epiphany as well. She is listed as a communicant in the parish register and her burial and that of her sister, Susan, are both recorded there. Jane Wadden Turner was a faithful daughter of Epiphany Parish and a trailblazer for women in the new nation’s capital.

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