Lisa Perez Jackson was adopted as an infant and grew up in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward in the 1960s. The area was a vibrant center of African American culture with a high rate of home-ownership. Her father was a postman and Navy veteran who took great pride in serving his community and his dedication to the public good was passed on to his daughter. As a child in Louisiana, Lisa noticed that pollution deregulation helped the wealthy make more money but it was harsh for the poor who lived near waterways and canals fouled by the oil industry. She came to realize that environmentalism and equality were entwined and that people of color were most likely to bear the burden of environmental degradation. In her own words, “environmental challenges have the power to deny equality of opportunity and hold back the progress of communities.” Continue reading Lisa Perez Jackson: A Life in Balance
It as taken a whole 55 years and an exemplary movie Hidden Figures for the world to finally recognise the contributions made by Black African American women in launching John Glen and America’s first satellite into space. In today’s age when NASA’s directors come from all variety of backgrounds, it is easy to forget the pioneers who paved the way for this transformation, into a more accepting society. But it would be unforgivable to overlook the contributions made by some very courageous women who challenged and persevered against discrimination, every step of the way. One of such pioneers was Dorothy Vaughan, a respected mathematician who became NASA’s first African-American manager serving as the head of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) segregated West Area Computing Unit from 1949 until 1958. Continue reading Dorothy Vaughan
Katharine Dexter was the first woman to get a science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in biology in 1904. The curriculum was research heavy and besides the demanding work, she had to petition the college twice—once for permission to work in chemistry laboratories without a hat and again to be allowed to wear a shorter skirt. The reason for the later—she didn’t want her dress to drag across the unclean floors. Her plan was to go into medicine. Continue reading Katherine Dexter McCormick; Godmother to the birth control pill
This post originally appeared on the Inspired by My Mom website, which you can visit here. Many thanks for allowing us to cross post it on Sheroes of History.
Women in STEM fields have had some pretty amazing achievements over the course of herstory including incredible female practitioners in medicine – women who dressed as men to become military doctors; ancient Italian experts on childbirth; and women who broke the mold when they were told that medicine is only for boys.
InspiredByMyMom.com has chosen three women whose contributions may have been gravely overlooked. Let us celebrate these women in medicine and broadcast their achievements.
If you have as much as heard of ‘DNA’, the name Rosalind Franklin should be synonymous with it. This pioneering scientist played a crucial role in solving one of the great scientific questions of her time, and unfortunately did not live long enough to be given her due.
Rosalind Franklin was a British scientist born in the 20th Century. She graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Cambridge (where she witnessed the appointment of its first ever woman professor Dorothy Garrod), and later joined King’s College, London, where she worked on X-ray crystallography of DNA crystals. It was a time when the greatest minds in Biology and Chemistry were working on one elusive question: what is the structure of DNA? This was particularly important because DNA is the molecule responsible for carrying genetic information; knowledge of its structure would help us understand how this genetic information is carried across generations. Continue reading Rosalind Franklin
Mary Somerville was born in Scotland on Dec. 26, 1780, and had four supreme passions in her life: her family, equality for women, science, and birds.
Described as feminine in manner and appearance, as a girl she never cared for dolls. Her mother said she would have been content if Mary had “only learnt to write well and keep accounts which was all that a woman was expected to know.” Mary, however, had a talent for mathematics. She taught herself by listening in on her brother as he was tutored in geometry and by reading Euclid. Continue reading Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science
Lise Meitner was born in Austria in 1878, a time when girls weren’t allowed a public education past age fourteen. Fortunately for the young woman who excelled in physics and mathematics, her parents paid for a tutor so she could continue her studies. Times changed and in 1878, woman were allowed entrance to the universities. She got her doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905 and shortly after began working with chemist Otto Hahn at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Germany. They would work together for thirty years and he’d betray her at least twice. Continue reading Lise Meitner: The Mother of Nuclear Power
She Filled the Sky: The Awesome Astronomy of Annie Jump Cannon
This week’s post you get an awesome cartoon by the fab Dale DeBakcsy from the Illustrated Women in Science series at MadArtLab in addition to the usual written profile! Enjoy!
350,000 stars classified. It’s one of astronomy’s unbreakable and frankly not even approachable records, the scientific equivalent of the Ripken Streak. Seven hours a day, six days a week, for forty-four years, one woman bent herself to the task of creating an ultimate chart of the night sky, with each star classified not only by position, but by surface temperature and spectral signature. Hunched over a magnifying glass, she could categorize three stars a minute where others might take three minutes to categorize one star. She was astronomy’s Iron Woman – Annie Jump Cannon. Continue reading Annie Jump Cannon
Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley is one of the most remarkable living sheroes of our time, having created a multibillion dollar business that also established a new way to bring women into the workforce.
Although Shirley made her fame and fortune in England, she began her life in the industrial city of Dortmund, Germany in 1933 as Vera Buchthal, the daughter of a Jewish judge and a non-Jewish Viennese mother. Her father lost his position as the Nazi’s began their systematic persecution of Jews and other minorities, and by July 1939 Vera’s parents placed her and her older sister on the Kindertransport, an organized evacuation effort that took 10,000 mostly Jewish children out of Europe to Britain nine months before World War II broke out. The five year-old Vera said goodbye to her parents in Vienna and took the train to begin a new life in the UK. Continue reading Dame Stephanie Shirley
Madame Marie Slodowska Curie, most commonly known as an inspirational scientist or a ‘genius’, but less famously known for being a deep lover, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a patriot, and once a servant.
The whole world knows that she was the first and only woman to receive two Nobel prizes, but much less is known about the nights Marie had to sleep on a cold floor and skip meals to pay her tuition fees; the nights she filled her empty stomach with enthusiasm for science and the days when her words were shushed before they left her mouth because according to society, her words were only meant to sing lullabies to her children, not to describe the wonders of our universe. This woman was not an ordinary woman meant to become an idealistic housewife or live within the social norms of society or bake pies for her husband; she was born to be struck as a lightning bolt that would revolutionise the world of radioactivity and create scientific history. Continue reading Marie Curie