Monday, April 09, 2012

You Go Girls

I've found this to be something of a women's month for me, reading articles and watching tv shows about feisty, tenacious women.

First up, from Germany, Amalie Noether who Einstein called "the most significant and creative" female mathematician of all time.  What did she do?  From the NY Times:

She invented a theorem that united with magisterial concision two conceptual pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation. Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty Higgs boson. 

It wasn't just that she was a great mathematician but she did it during a time when most German universities didn't have women enrolled and she was "a Jewish pacifist in the midst of the Nazis' rise to power."

Next, women in elective office from the great state of Washington.  These women were highlighted in a recent article in the NY Times entitled, "What Gender Gap? Washington State Has a History of Women Who Lead."  I love the lead paragraph:

It was 2009, floods had inundated western Washington and the state’s politicians were flown up to survey the damage. When asked who would scoot down to the open end of the C-17 cargo plane, where they would have to be tethered down for safety, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray volunteered.


As Ms. Cantwell tells it, the men declined.

“Everybody thinks that the macho men would do that,” Ms. Cantwell said. “But it was the three of us willing to go back there.”


There's a long history of strong women in Washington state:


When Ms. Cantwell, Ms. Murray and Ms. Gregoire reflect on how their state became comfortable with female politicians, they hesitate to mention the pioneer women who traveled to the Northwest by wagon (“That would leave out the strong women of Maine,” Ms. Murray said) and note that women lead many Northwest Indian tribes.

And finally from the PBS American Masters series are profiles of women authors who each only wrote one classic American novel  - Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone with the Wind and Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird

Mitchell was a Southern belle but with ideas of her own.  Mitchell (and Lee) had been writing since childhood.   She set on the road to writing GWtW when her second husband said,  "For God's sake, Peggy, can't you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?"  Everyone needs a push. 

It was frustrating to learn that she had refused to attend a class at Smith College with a black classmate but in later life secretly paid for scholarships for black medical students at Morehouse College.

Harper Lee, also a Southerner, wrote To Kill a Mockingbird 50 years ago.  It has sold nearly a million copies a year since it was published and is widely used in American classrooms.   Lee finished writing her novel when good friends gave her a year's salary so she could stop waitressing and write.

One of her closest childhood friends was writer Truman Capote.  Just as she finished To Kill a Mockingbird for her publisher, she then helped her friend do research in Kansas for his book, In Cold Blood.  

Both women operated in their own fashion despite the norms of their time for women.  Both won the Pulitzer Prize.

These are women for girls to look up to for inspiration and courage.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

And we have two more strong women on the school board since the last election, and Michael DeBell needs to get over it.

There has been not-so-subtle sexism regarding the new majority of women on this board. I simply don't think that DeBell would have gone where he went had his new colleagues been male.

They are independent, intelligent, educated and fair--like Betty Patu has been all along.

--enough already

Patrick said...

As long as you're mentioning women politicians from Washington who do more rigorous activities than their male colleagues, you should mention Maria Cantwell for climbing Mount Rainier.

Jamie said...

When my kid was in 4th grade (5 years ago) her class went to Olympia to tour the capitol. They had been learning about the branches of government, etc. and who their elected representatives were. It was pretty amazing to see the list - all women at the time. Mary Lou Dickenson, Helen Somers, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Christine Gregoire at the state level, and then Patty Murray & Maria Cantwell at the Federal level. It was very inspirational to my daughter, and me.

seattle citizen said...

Courtesy of our wonderful local history source, History Link:

"Bertha Knight Landes, elected mayor of Seattle in 1926, became the first woman to lead a major American city. She ran on a platform of "municipal housekeeping," vowing to clean up city government. She advocated municipal ownership of utilities such as City Light and street railways. Her single term ended in 1928, but she remained a civic leader and role model for women."

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

GIRLS ROCK!!!!!!
LETS NOT FORGET IT!!!!

girlpower

seattle citizen said...

Yes, girls DO rock, including Seattle's own Heart,aka Ann and Nancy Wilson!

Anonymous said...

And Merilee Rush.

But, you know, some of our female politicians sort of emulate the boys when they go to their various destinations. I wish they would support the values of the girls a little more.

Maybe just me...

n...

Catherine said...

@ enough already "There has been not-so-subtle sexism regarding the new majority of women on this board." would you mind pointing out a few examples? Because I'd LOVE to have quotes handy... thx.

hschinske said...

Margaret Mitchell? Really? Really?

I just don't see it.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

@Helen--exactly. There was so much of all kinds of wrong in that book, even allowing for the time it was written. May I suggest Alice Randall's "The Wind Done Gone" as a counterpoint?

Not a Mitchell fan

Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't say Gone with the Wind was a great book (that said, I liked it). This wasn't about a reading list.

But Margaret Mitchell was a woman bucking her time and she worked tirelessly during WWII and, as I posted, supported black students to become doctors.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Uh oh -- anonymous at 5:24. I am assuming maybe you are "enough already", but just didn't sign. I didn't want this comment to be deleted, because I really liked it I am dismayed by how often I don't pick up on this stuff (still consciousness raising, after all these years, I guess), but I think your points are correct here.

Annoyed Before, Now Mad

Anonymous said...

Oops -- what I meant to do was make a copy of the comment I liked, in case the blog reaper passes through:

Anonymous said...
@Catherine

Here's Exhibit A, in my opinion.

It has the complaining tone of "you know how they are" from "man to man", actually uses the word "difficult" (often a code word for bitch or unstable woman) and alludes to the last time there was this type of nonsense (also a female-dominated board).

Like most sexism or racism, it is in the tone, body language and/or unequal treatment, rather than out-and-out (overt) behavior.

page 13

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86530254/1620BP-Discussions-2

Annoyed Before, Now Mad

Purple mama said...

If you want to support your girls, how about signing them up for a summer math or science or computer camp? My daughter has been one of a handful of girls in these types of camps for years.

Anonymous said...

@Annoyed...Mad

That was from me. Thanks for saving it from deletion.

--enough already