Where My Ladies at?

By Kristi S.

You know that old saying: behind every great man is a woman whose work he’s stolen?

Well, that may not be the exact phrase but it has certainly happened often. For centuries (truly), women have gone unrecognized for their work. Colleagues snub their discoveries. Their intellectual ability is called into question. Their contributions ignored. Or, their work is flat out stolen. I find this to be an unfortunate combination of depressing and exhausting. So, I turn to the library to bring some of these remarkable women into the spotlight.

Educate Yourself

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr is actually the woman who inspired this journey. I watched the documentary Bombshell and was blown away by her life. Of course, I knew her as a stunning actor, but I never knew about her life as an inventor. For a deeper dive into her life, I read Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life and was hooked by the engaging narrative and graphic format. Lamarr was an incredibly bright woman who, with George Antheil, invented spread-spectrum radio, which would form the foundations of today’s wireless technology. So next time you are talking on Bluetooth in your car, work Hedy Lamarr into your conversation.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Reading about Hedy Lamarr led me to another woman in science, Chien-Shiung Wu. She was a Chinese-American physicist, receiving her Ph.D. in 1940. Though mostly men are credited for their work on the Manhattan Project, women, including Chien-Shieng Wu, did much of the research. After that, she turned her research to beta decay, which caught the attention of Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang. She designed an experiment that would eventually earn Lee and Yang a Nobel Prize, but the award committee did not recognize her contributions. Lee and Yang accepted the award without her.

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin is another female scientist who was snubbed by the field. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be a scientist, became an expert in x-ray diffraction, and battled sexism in the lab while attempting to define the structure of DNA. Maurice Wilkins, another scientist in her lab, took her diffraction images and showed them, without permission, to James Watson and Francis Crick. These three men later won the Nobel Prize for this discovery and Franklin’s contributions were published as “corroborative.”

Educate the Next Generation

If you’re looking to teach future grownups about strong women, I am obsessed with these collections. Sit with your child, talk about these women, talk about why they were forgotten, snubbed, or overlooked, and ask your child about their passions and dreams. You have a future success sitting with you. Cultivate their interests.

      

Sadly, we don’t learn about these incredible women without purposefully seeking out their stories. Fortunately, authors are making this easier for us. Check out my list for more books featuring strong women and give your personal heroes a shout out in the comments!

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Comments

4 responses to “Where My Ladies at?”

  1. Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color by Chandler O’Leary! This is a fantastic a beautiful letterpress collection of woman largely overlooked by history. Very easy and enlightening reading.

  2. Peter says:

    For briefer but beckoning reading, the NY Times has a great on-going series in their obituary section about overlooked women: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked.html

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