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Ellen Harding Baker, née Sarah Ellen Harding (June 8, 1847 - March 30, 1886) was an American astronomer and a teacher. She is known for her Solar System Quilt, used as a teaching aid in her lectures on astronomy.[1]

Ellen Harding Baker
E H Baker Smithsonian.jpg
Ellen Harding Baker
Sarah Ellen Harding

(1847-06-08)June 8, 1847
Cincinnati, Ohio
DiedMarch 30, 1886(1886-03-30) (aged 38)
Johnson County, Iowa
Notable work
Solar System Quilt


Sarah Ellen Harding was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 8, 1847. She was the daughter of Stephen and Ann (Terry) Harding.[2]

She married Marion Baker on October 10, 1867, and the couple lived in Cedar County, Iowa. Ellen Harding taught and gave astronomy lectures in West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa.[1]

In 1878 the family moved to Johnson County, where Baker had a general merchandise business in Lone Tree. They had seven children together before her death on March 30, 1886 of tuberculosis.[1][3]

Solar System QuiltEdit

Created in 1876 by Ellen Harding Baker and used to assist with her astronomy lectures.

In 1876, Ellen Harding created the Solar System Quilt to assist her during her astronomy lectures.

She may be the Iowa women mentioned in local newspapers during the winter of 1883-1884, which mentioned that it took seven years for an Iowa woman to embroid the Solar System on a quilt.[4]

The quilt has a wool top, embellished with wool-fabric applique, wool braid, and wool and silk embroidery. The quilt bears a striking design which resembles illustrations in astronomy books of her period.[1] The quilt shows the sun at the center, the eight planets of our solar system, with indicated orbits around the sun, as well as the asteroid belt. The pattern also indicates the myriad of stars that exist beyond our solar system. Earth's Moon, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, as well as a number of moons for Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus are included, as are Saturn's rings. A comet with its very eccentric orbit is also included, perhaps meant to be Halley's comet, which had last been seen in 1835.

The quilt is large, measuring 89 in x 106 inches (225 cm x 269 cm).[1]

The quilt is currently in possession of the Smithsonian Institution, at the National Museum of American History though as of 2018, not currently on view. It was donated by Patricia Hill McCloy and Kathryn Hill Meardon.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "1876 Ellen Harding Baker's "Solar System" Quilt". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  2. ^ "Sarah Ellen Parker". find a grave. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  3. ^ "Sarah Ellen Baker (Harding) (and her kids)". Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  4. ^ Barbara Morgan (April 20, 2018). "Solar System Quilt".