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Nobel Prize Women in Science, the book

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Tue Mar 12 22:58:16 EST 1996

In article <a-schmi-1003961958480001 at aardvark.life.uiuc.edu>,
a-schmi at ux1.cso.uiuc.edu (aloisia schmid) wrote:

>         A woman wrote a book and is out publicizing it right now, and it
> is called "Nobel-Prize Winning Women in Science" and she gave a talk I
> attended on Friday. 

I've read a book with this title, the author is Sharon Bertsch McGrayne. 
I agree that it is both inspiring and humbling.

She [another woman acquaintance of Alice's] agrees that there are
inequalities, but doesn't ever want to
> have to do anything about it and basically feels she should be respected
> in simply saying, "Screw it.  I don't give a damn.  If they won't let me
> do this, I'll do something else."
>          Now I understand that perspective and know that I have to live
> and let live, and if people basically like it enough to do a what they can
> find themeselves allowed to do, then i ought to mind my own business and
> shut up about it.  But on the other hand, the women who DID attend that
> lecture with me, were so struck by what these women went through simply to
> be allowed to satisfy their own intellectual curiosity.  The life stories
> described by the author (I apologize, I can't remember her name) were

There is also one about a woman (Lise Meitner, I think it was) hiding in a
closet in order to hear a lecture, because women weren't allowed in the
lecture hall.

>         Sp having heard all that these EXTRAORDINARY women went through, I
> have to say that I acknowledge a person's right to say "This is not
> important to me and I am not willing to fight for it", but at the same
> time I am resentful of it because it strikes me as being weak and lazy. 
> It implies to me that there is no social responsibility to making things
> better. 

I struggle with this too.  I feel I have to acknowledge a person's right
to free speech, and also, as one who believes in promoting women's
advancement, that I have to respect another woman's opinions, but
nonetheless, women who say stuff like this, along with another old fave of
mine, "I'm not a feminist but . . ." [followed by a feminist statement
such as "I think women should be paid the same for equal work," or "I
think women should have the same opportunities as men to succeed  in
science"] cause me to have to go into the corner, count to ten, and recite
my mantra in order to return my heartbeat to normal . . . 

Sometimes I think too about all the women who don't vote in this country. 
I've been thinking of pasting up the "Declaration of Sentiments" from the
Seneca Falls convention, or one of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speeches about
women's suffrage, up on women's restroom walls on election day.  If the
right 40,000 women had voted in 1994, Newt Gingrich wouldn't be Speaker of
the House right now.
>          So i guess that is what I am asking.  What exactly are the
> responsibilities of women engaged in science in improving the status of
> Woemn
> Engaged in Science?  Are we required to work to improve things?  Do we
> abrogate our duty in choosing not to?  Have we come far enough now to have
> that luxury?

I don't think we've come far enough to have that luxury.  How many full
professors in your department are women?  On the other hand, I think one
of the things that feminism is about is that we are not "required" to do
anything. But maybe this is how "free speech" is supposed to work. 
Counteract the free speech of those you disagree with, with more free
speech of your own.   

There is a T-shirt that reads something like, first they came for the
communists, but I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a communist, then they
came for  . . . but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a . . . then they
came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me.  I feel a
responsibility to speak up for women, because if I don't, who will?


>                           I am surprised at how much this really bothers
> me, and am wondering what others are thinking.

> Alice Schmid
> -- 
> Aloisia Schmid
> Howard Huges Medical Institute/Morrill Hall
> University of Illinois
> 505 S. Goodwin Ave, 618 Morrill Hall
> Urbana, IL 61801
> Email: A-schmi at ux1.cso.uiuc.edu

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