Friday, February 12, 2016

Headstrong: The First Post


Happy Friday, everyone! I'm reading Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World as part of the readalong at Doing Dewey Decimal. The book is written sort of like an encyclopedia, with a few pages about each woman. I feel like I am learning a lot, although I am so frustrated that this is the first time I'm hearing about the majority of these scientists.

The encyclopedia-like format is a great way to learn, but I'm finding it hard to keep track of who did what. In an effort to combat that a little bit, I've started telling my eight year old about some of these women. Teaching someone else is a really good way to retain information and I'm glad to know my son will know about scientists besides Einstein and Tesla.

The first few sections are about scientists who worked in the fields of medicine, biology, the environment, and genetics and development. Mary Putnam Jacobi disproved the idea that women couldn't work in science because of their periods, Alice Ball figured out a way to successfully deliver medication to patients with leprosy, Helen Taussig was the first pediatric cardiologist, and of course, Virgina Apgar was the scientist who determined that babies needed to be examine after birth and the namesake of the Apgar Test. Mary Anning was an early paleontologist, Ellen Swallow Richards fought for safe drinking water and healthy cooking, Rita Levi-Montalcini studied the spinal cord and nervous system, and Ann McClaren was a pioneer of in vitro fertilization.

Here are the discussion questions for this week:
  1. What did you think of the obit beginning with Brill’s domestic accomplishments?                                                                                                                  I think it was really striking to see a literal rocket scientist celebrated for her parenting and cooking skills instead of her scientific accomplishments. It's horrifying, but I think it really exemplifies how women's accomplishments are ignored or credited to their male counterparts. 
  2. How do you like the vignette style of this book?                                                                                                                                        It's a great way to dispense a lot of information, but I find myself forgetting the names of the women or exactly what each one did. I feel like I need to take some serious notes, just like cramming for a test in high school or college.                                                                      
  3. Do you have a favorite story so far? If so, which one and why?                                             I don't think I have a favorite, but I am thrilled to be learning about so many amazing women and the incredible things they accomplished. I can definitely see having my daughter read this some day (you know, when she's older than 2 and can actually read...). 
  4. Do you think something should be done today about the many female scientists who are known not to have received the credit they were due in their time, from paper authorships to Nobel prizes?                                                    Sure, although I'm not sure what that would be. I think, unfortunately, a superior taking credit for the work of someone else in their department is still pretty commonplace in the sciences and other fields.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What do you think about the way women in the sciences have been treated? Do you have a favorite female scientist we should all be reading about?           


  1. It seems we are all having a similar experience with the vignette aspect of the book. There is a lot of good information in the book, but I'm not sure how I'll retain it. Your idea of teaching someone else is a good one, though.

  2. Haha, I felt the same way! I'd be reading along and think how hard it was going to be to remember any of this later. I'd love to read more about every woman in the book.