International Women’s Day

It’s always Women’s Day at United States Herstory, but we’re more pumped than Leslie Knope on Galentine’s Day to celebrate it with all of you! For a quick refresher: the first women’s day started in 1909 in the streets of New York when 15,000 women marched for better pay, shorter days, and voting rights. Women’s Day caught on in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Well kiddos, we successfully accomplished one-third of that original mission, so today also happens to be #DayWithoutAWoman. Day Without a Woman urges women to not work and to avoid shopping online or in stores (except for women-owned and local stores that support Day Without a Woman). Much like the original Women’s Day, #DayWithoutAWoman was organized to illustrate the value of women and their contributions to society.

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Who better to highlight International Women’s Day and the spirit of #DayWithoutAWoman than our favorite Auntie Maxine Waters! Auntie Waters, is your favorite aunt who you only see at Thanksgiving, and who probably eats dessert first and the actual meal last because Auntie Waters does not give AF. Auntie Waters knows everybody’s business without you actually telling her what’s going on, and she has a black belt in throwing shade. If Auntie Waters were your spirit animal, she would be described as part unicorn, honey badger, and narwhal – a magical, mythical, fierce creature who cannot be tamed.

Much like #DayWithoutAWoman urges us to do, Representative Waters (her day job is U.S. Representative of California) recently completely skipped Trump’s first joint session, “And so I don’t go to these ceremonial events where you’re praising and honoring and exchanging niceties. And for those people who say, ‘Oh, he became presidential,’ he did not. He cannot become presidential. He is who he is.”

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Auntie Waters is reminding everyone – especially young people – to stay woke! And she should know because this is not Representative Waters’s first rodeo. Maxine Waters, born in 1938, moved to Los Angeles in her twenties, worked as a garment factory employee, telephone operator, and assistant teacher. Maxine Waters has served as a U.S. Representative for California since 1991 and is the most senior of the 12 black women serving in Congress. She has been vocal on many topics including employment, the Iraq War, relations with Cuba, and our current political times.

Here are our favorite Maxine Waters’s quotes.

This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned, the ‘tea party’ can go straight to Hell … and I intend to help them get there.

I have a right to my anger, and I don’t want anybody telling me I shouldn’t be, that it’s not nice to be, and that something’s wrong with me because I get angry.

Policy, for the most part, has been made by white people in America, not by people of color.   And they have tended to take care of those things that they think are important.   Whether it’s their agricultural subsidies, or other kinds of expenditures that are certainly not expenditures for poor people or for people of color.   And so we have to band together and keep fighting back.

God bless you, Auntie Maxine Waters.

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Are you taking off work today to support #DayWithoutAWoman? We’ve got some fun resources for you to check out while you’re not working!

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Truth Hunter

A few weeks ago, I attended an awesome conference and heard Amy Hunter speak on a panel of powerful women, talking about Ferguson, MO. Her words have been bouncing around in my head since and I’ve been struggling with whether to feature her on the blog. What if I don’t do her justice? What if you reading this don’t get the same mind twist that I got? But in the end, she’s too awesome not to talk about.

In the summer of 2014, Ms. Hunter was the Director of Racial Diversity of the YWCA. She was already spending her days trying to live the mission of the YWCA – to eliminate racism and empower women. Before the YWCA, she had worked in corporate America, trying to address racism in human resource practices.  When Michael Brown was murdered, she attended his memorial and the protests that followed.

After the protests, she spoke frequently about the racism inherent in our infrastructure and helped foster a YWCA program called Witnessing Whiteness, which aims to create a community of allies and anti-racist supporters. At the conference, she discussed the benefits and consequences of calling out versus calling in someone with racist or sexist viewpoints. I will tell you that I immediately googled the YWCA program (none around me…boo) and sat rapt during the spirited discussion between her and another panelist about which is better: calling out or calling in.

I also spent some googly time on her. She has SOO many short, teaser articles about her but I would loved MORE. I am so needy with information about people I admire. I did find a powerful TedTalk that I think everyone should watch called Lucky Zip Codes, which focuses on St Louis but could be about any major city. As a Kansas Citian, I know it’s true there.

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I’m still too much in awe to be able to be fully clever about her. Tell me what you think of her after you watch the video. I’m pretty sure you are going to love her too. I’ll fully down to run towards her and work together to create the community we all envision.

Shine a light on it, Part 2

Do you have the Batdance stuck in your head yet? I still do. Vicki Vale…Vicki Vale… If you know of any other songs about female journalists, send me a comment. I’m pretty desperate to get a new song in my noggin. I’m ok with still having female groundbreaking journalists on my mind though. I keep finding more to read about but you really can’t beat the founding sisters of print. I shared just a little about Ida B. Wells-Barnett last time (I’ve already learned more about her since – she was remarkable). Another great kick ass lady journalist was Nellie Bly. While Ida focused on shining a light on race, prejudice, and inequities, Nellie was about fighting against men telling women what they could do.

I have to admit that my introduction to Nellie Bly was SUPER late. I think I heard the name in high school but it wasn’t until Abby Bartlett schooled her husband, President Jed Barlett, on one of the BEST SHOWS EVER, West Wing, that I learned about Nellie. I wasn’t sure if she was real or if she was a brainstorm of the immensely talented show writers so I googled (I’m looking at you, Qumar and the Republic of Equatorial Kundu). Or rather I did the paper version of Google – I encyclopediaed (not sure that’s a word).

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At 16, Nellie (born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) was irritated by a column titled “What Girls Are Good For”. I’m annoyed by the title so I can imagine how Nellie felt. She wrote the editor and after a few steps, she received a column of her own. Her pseudonym became “Nellie Bly”, thus the name change. She focused on working women and their daily lives. Unfortunately sexism reared its ugly head again and she was pressured to write about “lady” issues. She wasn’t having it and left to become a foreign correspondent. She returned to the States after being threatened by the Mexican dictator. At 23, she convinced The New York World newspaper to let her go undercover at a women’s asylum. She spent 10 days in and her resulting report highlighted the mistreatment and the frequent misdiagnosis of the other inmates (including herself). It led to a grand jury investigation which called for an increased $850,000 increase in budget for the asylum.

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After her reporting of the insane asylum, Ms. Bly decided to travel the world in less than 80 days, to prove the Jules Verne plot could be achieved. She beat the record and the book’s plot by 8 days. There had been another reporter chasing the same dream but she beat them too.

She retired for a while from journalism at 31 when she married a millionaire 42 years her senior. She started inventing things including a milk can and a stacking garbage can. She returned to the written word by reporting on the front lines of WW1 and the Women’s Suffrage March of 1913. She also accurately predicted that women wouldn’t gain the vote until 1920. I tried to find more on that story because that’s some eerie predicting but there’s very little about it.

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Shine a light on it, Part 1

This weekend, as it does every once in a while, the epic Prince classic, “Batdance (Vicki Vale mix)” popped up in my head. Actually, just the “Vicki Vicki Vale” portion. Over and over on repeat. After all, Kim Basinger was very memorable as Vicki Vale in the film (and we can all agree that every Prince song is catchy). I used to think she and Lois Lane (Superman) were awesome. Inadvertently, those characters were amazing at demonstrating that women in media could dominate in a male-centric world. What I didn’t know when I was little was that there were real women kicking butt in journalism that could easily have been my cinematic heroes. I’m fairly convinced that films based on Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Nellie Bly’s lives would inspire millions of little girls around the world. If Prince was still blessing us in our world, I bet he would even write a catchy tune about it.

On the chance that your English/History/Journalism/Social Studies/Literature teacher didn’t share the awesomeness of these women, let me help you out a little. There will be a quiz at the end.

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I first learned about Ida B. Wells-Barnett through one of those amazing-women-in-history compilation books. Reading it lead me down a rabbit hole (as most books/Interwebz do). Ms. Wells-Barnett was born a slave and was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation (thanks, Lincoln). At 16, she convinced a school system administration that she was old enough to be a teacher and started supporting her family.  She first started highlighting the injustices around her when she bought a first class train ticket and was pissed when they tried to remove her to the African-American car. She even bit a guy on the hand when they tried to move her forcibly.  She sued and WON! But the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned it and they ruled that she needed to pay court cases. In response she started writing about race in the South. She was a prolific writer and railed against segregated schools. She also wrote extensively about a brutal lynching of three African American men who were pulled from a jail by a mob, who were only in jail after they defended their store from a  mob that was angry they were pulling business away from a white-owned store. Her pamphlet “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” infuriated white men and she was threatened regularly for writing about lynchings and speaking around the South. She only moved north after her office was trashed and she was warned about being killed if she returned to the South. Once she settled in Chicago, she focused on inequities in the area until her death.

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Ms. Wells-Barnett wasn’t just a journalist. She also was a community organizer. After she moved north, she organized a protest with Frederick Douglass of the World’s Columbian Exposition since they didn’t collaborate with the black community on African American exhibits. She also was involved in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the NAACP and was heavily involved with the National Equal Rights League.  I mean, this woman was BUSY. She couldn’t rest when she saw injustice.

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Other fun facts about Ms. Wells-Barnett:

  • She was one of the first American women to keep her last name and adding her husband’s — the birth of the slashy name
  • In 1990, the USPS created a 25 cent post stamp for her (although I asked my local post office for it and they didn’t have it anymore)
  • There’s a museum in her honor in Holly Springs, Mississippi, featuring African American history. I haven’t been but it’s on the list!
  • She got a Google Doodle (featured above) and I think it’s sooo pretty but I don’t really understand why the boat and car is on it.
  • She had some really interesting ideas about marriage and romance. I’m not going to get into but she was so focused on fighting injustice that she didn’t her personal life to get in the way.
  • My single favorite description of her is “Word Warrior”. I can not think of a better way to describe her.

I have already started casting this movie in my brain. This post doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg on Ida. She was amazing and once she started fighting for her community, she was laser focused.

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*Check out the next post to learn about Nellie Bly*

Bookworms unite!

Of the many interests, Queen Jules and I share, one of which kombucha is not, reading is greatly enjoyed by both of us. I don’t hold a candle to the sheer quantity of books Queen Jules can read in a year. This woman is RABID for books. I mean she read like 1,572,391 books last year!

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My love of books started as a child and oddly enough Nancy Reagan played a huge part of it. When I was a kid in the 80s, there were two dangers everyone was aware of by watching TV — drugs and illiteracy. Since there was no real danger of me falling prey to the former, let’s discuss the latter. An early episode of Saved by the Bell back when it was called Good Morning Miss Bliss featured a new kid (it’s almost always a new kid) who ended up bullying his classmates and cheating off their exams because he couldn’t read.

This trope was so prevalent it was also featured on The Cosby Show, Mr. Belvedere, Charles in Charge, Good Times, Mama’s Family, Little House on the Prairie (understandable), and Star Trek Deep Space Nine (this makes absolutely no sense to me!). Anyway, before I digress too far… this was such a major concern that the Reagans partnered with Pizza Hut to create Book It which promoted reading and rewarding kids with a personal pan pizza. This is such an awesome 80s solution that I am beside myself by how easily I was tricked into reading and EATING a ton of pizza. Like my Mom would pick me up from school, and I would have a coupon for a free personal pan pizza and I would smugly demand a pepperoni pizza because I DESERVED IT for reading Super Fudge or whatever Judy Blume book I picked up at school.

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To this day, I have an unhealthy relationship with pizza. It’s the best comfort food imaginable, all the cheese, carbs, and no need for utensils make it the most perfect food ever.  And to be fair, I still very much love reading. All my closest friends are good readers and we chat about the best books we’ve read recently.

So, while I was reading and eating my way through several pizzas, precocious 12-year-old Marley Dias was taking the children’s lit world by storm. It all started when Marley got completely fed up about reading books about white boys and their dogs. These were the only books available in her school, and I feel you girl, how many plots about white boys and their dogs can you read? Marley decided to do something about it, and thus a badass activist was born. In 2015, Marley started a movement called #1000BlackGirlBooks and her goal was to collect 1,000 books featuring Black female protagonists by February 2016. Well it’s been one year since her deadline and Marley collected over 8,000 books that meet her criteria!

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Look at this young social change maker! Other than wanting to be her best friend and read books and eat personal pan pizzas with her, I can’t wait to see what her future holds. But wait! There’s more!  We don’t need to wait for Marley to be an adult because she’s going full steam ahead with her activism.

Being the super hero that Marley is, she donated 1,000 books to a school in Jamaica where her mother grew up, as well as to schools in Philadelphia, Newark, and West Orange, New Jersey where it all began. Put down those books about white boys and their dogs, because there are choices now.

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Earlier this month, it was announced that Scholastic will be publishing a book written by Marley Dias in the spring of 2018. The book will be intended for other kids around Marley’s age to show them how to make their dreams come true. According to Scholastic, “This book explores activism, social justice, volunteerism, equity and inclusion, using social media for good (not just makeup tutorials and angry tweets), and shows how young people can galvanize their strengths to make positive changes in our world.” And most importantly it will be about literacy and diversity.

Wow, Marley! You amaze me. Keep being you, Marley.

P.S. Can we hang out? PUH-LEASE!

Happy Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s Day is finally here! And if you aren’t familiar with the best holiday of the year, it was created by Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec, and falls on February 13th.

“Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”

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Obviously Queen Jules and I love Galentine’s Day! What’s better than enjoying the best meal of the day than catching up and celebrating with your favorite ladies? We love our ladies so much, in fact, that we started a Galentine’s vacation in summer and get our friends together for 3 full days of breakfast foods, wine, and pretty much a lot of talking. It is a lot like Lilith Fair, minus the long lines and waiting for your favorite singer to go on stage. In our inaugural Galentine’s vacation we bedazzled tank tops, hiked waterfalls, and ran down the street with inner tubes. It was glorious.

In the spirit of Galentine’s Day we crafted these for you. Share them with the gals in your life!

For the lady who is regal in your life.

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For the lady who has the best opinions.

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For the absolute badass in your life.

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And for the lady who does her job plus everyone else’s.

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Shall we play a game?

My social media feeds lately are mostly overwhelmed by bad news or negative opinions but I was overjoyed to see the news that Yale University is renaming one of their undergraduate residential colleges after Commodore Grace Murray Hopper, who received her masters and doctorate from Yale in 1928 and 1930, respectively. The university didn’t choose her simply because she was one of the first women to earn a degree in mathematics. If you are reading this on a computer, you can thank Commodore Hopper.

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She didn’t invent the computer by herself but she did work on the first computers, Mark I and Mark II. She also developed the first compiler and the most popularly used programming language, COBOL, each based on her belief that computer programs should be written as close to English as possible rather than super dense code. She also was the first to start using the term “debugging” which actually refers to an incident where she found a moth that was clogging the computer she was using. I’m not doing the moth story any justice. I always ruin jokes.

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She was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama. Google even featured her on their Doodle to celebrate her birthday in 2013. She also had a Navy Destroyer named after her. I’ve always wanted a boat named after me.

Not only was Commodore Hopper an incredible brain, she was also witty and clever with words. In fact, she is responsible for one of my most oft-repeated phrases – “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission.” Another of my favorite quotes from her – “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that.”  See what I mean? Wicked clever.

Here’s her story in a nutshell (or a comic, call it what you will).

On a related side note, General Electric just created my new favorite commercial about the delightful idea of treating scientists like celebrities. A number of my friends have named their kids after famous women so this doesn’t seem like too much of a leap for me. After all, we already do it with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye.

* In case you didn’t quite get it, this blog post title references War Games, an amazing 80s movie starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. I don’t normally like remakes but I would love to see a new version starring a girl hacker.

THEY Persisted

I don’t know about you, but I work with a bunch of men, and most are fairly outspoken. It’s hard enough getting a word in, and it’s even harder conveying my opinion on whatever matter before being interrupted. In a previous job some years ago, I interrupted my boss’s boss about a matter and he was so boiling mad about being interrupted that he literally had to leave the room and go for a walk. I was then told to never interrupt this man ever, even if he was wrong. No, I was not working for Donald Trump, but this sounds eerily familiar, right? In the history of history… women have been interrupted by men or reprimanded for interrupting men in the work place. This is nothing new, although extremely unfortunate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren was essentially “Kanye-ed” by a turtle Senator McConnell last night while attempting to read a letter during the Jeff Sessions examination for Attorney General.

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How often do you think women are interrupted in the work place? Go ahead and guess. One study by George Washington University concluded men interrupt women 33 percent more than men.

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There are two things wrong with this recent event. 1) Invoking a rarely used rule in the senate on a woman, but allowing her male colleagues to read the same document is problematic, if not outright sexist. 2) Silencing a woman who was referencing Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and woman of color who has since passed, is a double whammy especially during Black History Month.

Coretta Scott King is typically referred to as the wife of the late and great MLK, but Coretta Scott King carved out her own legacy and was involved in civil rights well before marrying Martin Luther King Jr and well after his assassination.  Mrs. King took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, worked to pass the Civil Rights Act, performed in Freedom Concerts, established the Full Employment Action Council, moved mountains to cement MLK’s legacy and made his birthday a federal holiday, and founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Center for Social Change.

Yet, her legacy has been largely overshadowed by her husband. An article in the Washington Post by a reporter and friend of Ms. King explained that the film Selma misrepresented Coretta Scott King.

But this image of Coretta, as a strong-willed woman independently committed to the global struggle for human rights, is often missing in characterizations of her. It wasn’t perpetuated only by the media and outsiders. After her husband’s death, Coretta bravely and graciously warded off attempts by the male-dominated black leadership to sideline her. This was characteristic of the civil rights movement, which often obstructed women from public leadership roles. The flawed narrative that marginalized Coretta in life continues to diminish her role after her death.

Unfortunately, Coretta Scott King’s misrepresentation persists to this day, and Mrs. King was acutely aware of her own public image.

During my 30 years knowing her, Coretta made it clear that she was troubled by her wholly incomplete public image. “I hope someday people will see Coretta,” she told me. “Often, I am made to sound like an attachment to a vacuum cleaner: the wife of Martin, then the widow of Martin, all of which I was proud to be. But I was never just a wife, nor a widow. I was always more than a label.”

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It’s important to acknowledge the efforts and work of Coretta Scott King so that they don’t become footnotes in the history of today’s Attorney General nomination or opposition. Senator Warren may have been hushed this week, and while it was wrong, Senator Warren is alive and well and has multiple platforms to speak her mind, something that is not afforded to the late Mrs. King.

I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation. – Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King passed in 2006 and left us more than a letter condemning Jeff Sessions, although we should be grateful for what this document is raising awareness about today. Coretta Scott King was the very embodiment of persisting through the injustices of our country, through the tragic death of her husband, and for later on securing MLK’s history. It took 15 years to make MLK Day a national holiday. Like many fierce women today, Coretta Scott King truly persisted.

Flunking out of February?

How did February get here so fast? I finally packed my pink foil Christmas tree away a week ago and was reminded today at the grocery store that I need to buy or receive heart shaped chocolates to feel some sort of special. You know who is feeling special today? If you guessed someone who has zero experience running public education, contributed piles of money to Republican campaigns and whose name rhymes with Fretsy LeFloss then boy golly – you got it right!

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But let’s be honest if you wanted to read about Fretsy LeFloss’s meteoric rise to Secretary of Education, you could read fake news sites or read her bio. Your call and we’ll wait for you to check those things out and we’ll be waiting for you. Let’s talk about some real educators, let’s go way back.

Mary Jane Patterson is a badass educator who was America’s first African American woman to graduate from a four-year university in 1862 and according to historians likely the first African American woman to earn a bachelors degree in the entire world, although that is not confirmed. The daughter of slaves, not many details are available about her youth, other than Mary’s family moved to Ohio with the hopes of getting their children educated. In addition to enrolling African Americans, Oberlin became the first co-ed university. There were two different programs: a program that consisted of two-year studies for women, and “gentleman” courses which led to a four-year degree. Mary chose the latter and took classes in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics.

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Mary Jane Patterson

Upon graduation, Mary taught in Ohio and years later moved to Washington D.C. and became the first African American Principal of the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth which is now known as the prestigious Dunbar High School. It was the first time an African American woman had become a principal in the entire city of D.C.

Mary resigned over ten years later after growing the enrollment from 50 to 172 students. At the time, the administrators of the school believed that the school was so big, a man was needed to be principal.

I know. You’re probably thinking…

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Despite Mary Jane Patterson’s probable early retirement, her colleagues recognized her tireless work ethic and involvement in the school as exceptional.

She was a woman with a strong, forceful personality, and showed tremendous power for good in establishing high intellectual standards in the public schools. Thoroughness was one of Miss Patterson’s most striking characteristics as a teacher. She was a quick, alert, vivacious and indefatigable worker. During Miss Patterson’s administration, which lasted altogether twelve years, three important events occurred: the name “Preparatory High School” was dropped; in 1877, the first high school commencement was held; and the normal department was added with the principal of the high school as its head.

Notable Black American Women quoted a description of Patterson written by Mary Church Terrell, another Oberlin alumna, in the July 1917 Journal of Negro History.

We’ll have more posts celebrating the lives and achievements of African American women for Black History this month.

IT’S SCIENCE!

I LOVE scientists. Honestly, if someone tells me they are doing research or want to share a new breakthrough in their field with me, I am RAPT. Sometimes I understand, sometimes I don’t but either way, I am down for some knowledge. If there is a graph or statistics, gracious me, I am into it.  Data science, physical science, biological science, psychological science – I don’t care, I want to know it all. That’s probably why I loved Dana Scully so much when I was younger and why Hidden Figures is my pick for best everything in the movie awards.

That said, there still aren’t enough lady scientists. This is hardly news. There’s always a “new” article published that states the “new” concept that there needs to be more women in STEM. Bestill my heart when I read news of women scientists being AMAZING in their field. This is how you get more women and girls in STEM – you highlight the women who are already killing it in their fields.

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For example, Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the most important mathematics honor. First in the 78 years of the award! I will not BEGIN to pretend that I have any idea what she won for. Something to do with Riemann Surfaces, which have something to do with complex multi-surfaces and hyperbolic geometry. I got a B- in Geometry in high school so I feel like I can be forgiven for not completely understanding. If I ever meet Ms. Mirzakhani, you can bet that I’ll be buying her a drink or two and demanding she explain it to me. I need to understand, mostly because I currently don’t, and partly because the few papers I read in connection to her work are intriguing.

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Another great example is Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green. She was only the second African American woman to receive a doctorate in physics from her alma mater, University of Alabama – Birmingham but has been focusing her career on fighting cancer after two of her family members fought the awful, hateful disease. She recently received a $1.1 million grant from the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Research Scientist Training Program. Her research, which has already excited a lot of people in the cancer research field, focuses on inserting nanoparticles into cancer cells. Once they are inserted, a laser can pinpoint them and destroy them. I’m envisioning a type of lock&load Star Wars-kind of process. The grant will allow her to continue testing and hopefully we will see this process more widely available. I hate cancer like it’s a sentient being so I’m always down for new ways to kill it.

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Do you have a favorite current lady scientist? Tell us more in the comments!

 

***Want to read more about women in science, read “Women In Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” or visit this rad website that highlights amazing women scientists.