Having retired the previous year owing to failing health, Maria Mitchell died in Lynn, Massachusetts.  The trustees had granted emeritus status and urged Mitchell to stay in residence, but she demurred, preferring to be among her family.

In Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals (1896), her sister, Phebe Mitchell Kendall, quoted a colleague and a student, anonymously:

January 10, 1888: "You will consent, you must consent to having your home here, and letting the work go. It is not astronomy that is wanted and needed, it is Maria Mitchell….The richest part of my life here is connected with you….I cannot picture Vassar without you. There's nothing to point to!"

May 5, 1889: "In all the great wonder of life, you have given me more of what I have wanted than any other creature ever gave me. I hoped I should amount to something for your sake."

Speaking at Maria Mitchell’s funeral, President James Monroe Taylor said:

“If I were to select for comment the one most striking trait of her character, I should name her genuineness.  There was no false note in Maria Mitchell’s thinking or utterance….

“It was this combination of great strength and independence, of deep affection and tenderness, breathed through and through with the sentiment of a perfectly genuine life, which has made for us one of the pilgrim-shrines of life the study in the observatory of Vassar College where we have known her at home, surrounded by the evidences of her honorable career.”     

Phebe Mitchell Kendall, Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals