A Burning Science Question

14 Jul

Since many of you have more edumacation than me….

Vivian LOVES science. LOVES IT. As in sits enthralled as I read to her about subatomic particles loves it. (and you have NO idea how freaking AWESOME I think this is…)

I was out today buying some much needed over the shoulder boulder holders (and hey, Sears! The woman ACTUALLY made eye contact and waited on me, despite measuring me wrong. Apparently we don’t ask the fatties to take their shirts off so we can get an accurate measurement) when I walked past the bin of useless and/or creepy books. There sat “The Book of Science”.

6.98 is a price I will pay, especially for a book that speaks at a level they can understand, covers most basic scientific principals and has simple experiments at the back.

I’m flipping through it while waiting for the bus and notice something. All the little boxes talking about important scientists and their discoveries-ALL OF THEM ARE MEN.

Nothing against you boys, but I’m raising girls.

So while I can spend time on Wikipedia tomorrow looking for the few that will spring to mind, I’d love to hear suggestions for other female scientists, chemists, physicists, etc. I already warned Vivian that there are no women in that book, and we’ll have to learn about them elsewhere-I just need a little help with the elsewhere.

ETA: I’ve been asked if I truly think that gender matters. Yes, and no. I believe many women, and girls can go farther with female rolemodels presented. I think many of us grew up knowing little about women in science and math, correcting this deficit as we aged. I want my girls to be able to name more women than men. I think it’s also important so we can point out the effect marriage and motherhood once had, and still can have on WOMEN, and not men. I want them prepared to be adaptable creatures. I want them to be prepared for the fact that it might be harder. And that it might also be cooler.

I didn’t grow up with the knowledge that women could do all those things. It would have been nice to have seen a female face staring back from any numbers of the books I read. Imagine starting out knowing that women and men ARE equals, that both have accomplished so much and that gender doesn’t matter.


28 Responses to “A Burning Science Question”

  1. Jennifer July 14, 2008 at 9:27 pm #

    Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy. She is an anthropologist who has made great strides in the evolution debates. She wrote “The woman who never evolved” as a tongue in cheek poke at the evolutionists who basically forgot women in the whole evolving thing. She is a feminist and a sociologist that really does a lot of writing about the whole “mother nature” phenom.


    Of course there is Marie Curie, Diane Fossey, Margaret Mead, oh geeze I had a brain fart.

  2. Mad Hatter July 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm #

    Marie Currie, physicist who discovered radium.

    Julie Payette, the Canadian astronaut.

    Plus, check out the really long list on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_scientists

  3. Eden July 14, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    Women in science and related fields who spring to mind: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Rachel Carson, Margaret Meade, Ruth Benedict, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Dorthea Dix, Ameila Earhart, Sally Ride, Jerrie Cobb…

    Grab up the Beatrix Potter books and let her know that not only did a woman write the stories and illustrate them but she also studied biology.

    There are tons of dames in science. There are lots of children-aimed biographies of these women. I see them all the time on the racks at B&N. I’ll ask my (female) astronomer friend for more suggestions.

  4. Missy July 14, 2008 at 11:53 pm #

    What those two said.

    Ultimately, it’s still a male-dominated field (all except for biology, for the most part). I know it will get better as our children get older, but the most you can do for her is just encourage the love. If girls see that no one is discouraging them from being interested in science, especially during the pre-teen/early puberty years when they’re hormonal, then there’s no reason for them to not continue having an interest and possibly excelling in the sciences.

    I will tell you that I get more trouble from other women than from men in this field. Pretty sad but true. Men see women as a novelty. Women see other rare women as a threat in their little utopia.

  5. Eden July 15, 2008 at 12:04 am #

    I think part of it is that men had a head start. Marie Curie was the first woman I can think of who really got the credit that was due to her.

    BTW, Thor: I e-mailed you a copy of the reply from my astronomer friend.

  6. Gabriel... July 15, 2008 at 3:52 am #

    None of them have written books yet, but you can tell your kids that my sister (A) is a biologist and my cousin (also A) is a geologist working in the Yukon. Cousin A just graduated from university and her job over the next five years will take her all the way down the west coast of North America, into Central America and then all the way around South America. Pretty fucking awesome. Her sister, cousin A2, is also a biologist and is working on water management in Northern Ontario.

    Weird… all the girls with the initial A in my family seems to be an incredible success. I’ll ask my sources for some scientist names.

  7. thordora July 15, 2008 at 7:34 am #


    Thanks all! We’re going to spend some time today talking about some of these women. I have a few books, but they are very much adult oriented, and not necessarily great for them…plus, they generally detail the women being left behind their men in terms of recognition, and are fairly depressing truth be told.

  8. Barbie July 15, 2008 at 9:14 am #

    Julie is going up into space again for her second space mission in May of 09. I’m going to be there at the launch. She’s my aunt. If you have any other questions, I can pass them on to her if you’d like. She is married to Mom’s brother, and she’s a brilliant woman!

  9. thordora July 15, 2008 at 9:21 am #

    OMG for reals? that’s so awesome! I’ll ask Vivian if she has questions..

  10. mamaloo July 15, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Wow, Barbie, it’s so cool to be –> this <– close to a REAL ASTRONAUT!

  11. experimental chimp July 15, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    You don’t need to search around Wikipedia to find this stuff. This is what you’re looking for. Also, the Women in Science article might be helpful, too.

  12. experimental chimp July 15, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    Oh, I see someone’s already suggested my first link. The article’s worth reading, though.

  13. thordora July 15, 2008 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m lazy. And I really wanted to see what everyone would offer up. 🙂

    Loving that Queen Theodora is on the list. 😛

  14. Lisa b July 15, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Rosalind Franklin – totally ripped off by watson and crick. Now the text books have a little sidebar about her, which I suppose is a start.
    I just bought the dangerous book for girls and there is a list of scientists in there.

  15. nursemyra July 15, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    Susan Greenfield!

    don’t forget the Baroness – she’s amazing

  16. Barbie July 16, 2008 at 6:38 am #

    Julie now actually has a kid who is Vivian’s age. Cutest damn cousin ever.

  17. Bon July 16, 2008 at 8:15 am #

    Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring and (sorta) started the environmental movement as we know it, back in the 60s?

  18. March July 16, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    after all these great names I’m not sure I can offer any extra one… actually I’m wrting a few of these down for when we get out of the purple/pink obsession (gosh I hope its soon). Besides my brain is not working much right now …

    the engineer in me says that you should tell her that actually girls are smarter but boys can’t handle the truth (it is the truth most of the time, when women don’t get caught up in stereotypes).

    making notes… making notes…

  19. Hannah July 16, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    All the famous scientists I could think of are listed… but my father-in-law’s girlfriend is a PhD in biochemistry, and develops & tests medical equipment for labs around the world.

    She works for Johnson & Johnson right now, which might help as if you have any J&J products around the house you could draw the real-life association for them.

  20. Barbie July 17, 2008 at 7:32 am #

    What about Amelia Airhart? No one has mentioned her yet. She was the first woman to go into space, wasn’t she?

  21. Hannah July 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    Hey Barbie – Amelia Earhart and no, she was a pilot who was lost over the Bermuda Triangle. A cool adventurer-type lady, and certainly a pioneer in terms of powered flight, but not an astronaut.

  22. Jason Dufair July 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    Grace Hopper in computer science. There’s also some strong evidence that Rosalind Franklin actually discovered the double helix.

  23. Jason Dufair July 17, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    Oops, someone beat me to Rosalind Franklin.

    Also, I say focus more on the science than the scientists. That’s what I do with my kids.

  24. Dana July 18, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    So, you in for 100% Honest Day: http://tinyurl.com/6ek47v


  25. PolarBear January 29, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    My wife is a twittermom and you are friends on twitter. Through that, I stumbled across your blog. I’ve been reading through posts, old entries and new (somewhat at random) and sometimes smiling, sometimes aggravated, but mostly impressed by your writing even if the content is a little… ahem… well, let’s not go there.

    So what inspires me to finally break down and write a comment?

    Amelia Earhart.

    No, she wasn’t in space. No, she wasn’t lost near the Bermuda Triangle.

    As a matter of history, she went missing southwest of Hawaii while attempting to circumnavigate the globe (she’d made it over 3/4 of the way). That’s the Pacific Ocean. The Bermuda Triangle is in the ATLANTIC Ocean.

    Her importance is not that she went missing, though. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic (in 1932). For this she received the American Distinguished Flying Cross and many other accolades. She later was the first PERSON to fly from Honolulu to Oakland, CA.

    She wasn’t really a scientist, so I’m not sure how she got cited as part of the discussion.

    Female scientists/astronauts would include Sally Ride (first U.S. Woman in space and an astrophysicist), as well as the two women in space before her (I’m not going to try and recall their names, but they were from the USSR so the U.S. media tends to minimize them), Roberta Bondar and numerous others who have followed…

    You could also cite Jennie Trout, the first female physician licensed in Canada.

    The wiki list ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pre-21st-century_female_scientists ) is quite unwieldy but it does show how many women were engaged in scientific pursuits even when it wasn’t as accepted.

    It is my opinion, though, and you can take it or leave it, that it would be far better to teach your daughters that science is science and that since the mid-20th century women have had opportunities that didn’t exist previously, than to rail about the inequality that existed back then. Same-sex role models are great, but my daughter gives no thought to whether or not a person has a penis (should I say a peepee or a va-jay-jay…. hehe) when she chooses which footsteps she would like to follow in.

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