Carrie Denton 1885
Carrie Denton 1885

Carrie Denton died in the same house where she was born and spent her entire life, 11 Denton Rd.  The Denton homestead was built by Carrie’s father, Dr. William Denton, a world-renowned geologist. In 1867 he bought 13 acres of cornfields bordering Washington St. when Wellesley (or West Needham as it was called then) was sparsely populated and considered to be the country.

Miss Denton attended the old Hunnewell School that was located in what is presently the Fiske House on the Wellesley College campus.  She came to Dana Hall at age thirteen and graduated in 1885.  Katherine Lee Bates was her Latin teacher.

Dr. Denton passed his love of the natural world onto his five children, Carrie and her brothers William, Winsford, Sherman, and Shelley; all of them became well-known naturalists.  William and Winsford started Denton Brothers, a business that sold the butterflies they collected from around the world to collectors and specialized in butterfly jewelry. Sherman was an artist who drew and mounted fish and devised a patented technique for mounting butterflies and Shelley concentrated in minerals and gems.  Although Carrie may not have been as well known as her brothers, she played an important role in their work.

In 1900, Miss Denton assisted her brothers in presenting their butterflies at the International Exposition in Paris.  She was proud to bring home both the gold and silver medals for both range and perfection of the specimens and for educational value.  When she was 30 years old, Miss Denton studied geology at a Boston school for science teachers.  Harvard geology teacher Professor Barton noticed her exceptional ability and after graduation Miss Denton became his assistant.

Miss Denton taught until she was eighty years old and was so popular that students begged to be able to continue studying at her Wellesley home.  She had a beautiful collection of butterflies and showed them to the public for as long as she was able.

The Denton Family gave Helen Temple Cooke and Marcellus Wheeler some of their beautiful mounted butterflies.  These butterflies were housed in a walnut chest and Helen Temple Cooke gave them as a gift to the Class of 1905.  Today, the Wellesley Historical Society holds over 1,500 butterflies, moths, and insects from Miss Denton’s collection and has an entire room devoted to Denton memorabilia.

 “The Denton Family, Father And Sons, All Followed Careers As Naturalists.” Townsman, Section H, 24 May 1956: 5. Print.
 “In Memoriam Carrie Denton 1870-1959.” Dana Hall Bulletin 21.3 (October 1959): 18. Print.
“Miss Carrie Denton Died Here On Monday.” Townsman, 30 April 1959: 4. Print.
 Photograph of Carrie Denton Courtesy of the Wellesley Historical Society
Pam Kaplan
March 2012
Dana Women in Science Display