She was a astronomer at Harvard in the early 20th century. Astronomy has a long tradition of accepting women as scientific peers. 4,000 years ago the country of Sumer permitted them to lead the great temple observatories. They have been active ever since.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Director of the Harvard College Observatory hired many women as "computers" to handle the complex data reduction. He paid them 25 cents to the dollar but he paid them. These women of Harvard became honored members of the astronomical community. Ms. Fleming was one of those early 20th century pioneers in astronomy. She eventually became curator of the observatory collections.
Originally she was Pickering's housekeeper. He claimed that his housekeeper could learn astronomy better than his male assistants. She proved him correct. The stellar classification system we use today got its start with Fleming's work. In 1899 she was the first to determine that the star RR Lyrae was variable.
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