Women in STEM have an incredibly long history of defying the odds, jumping hurdles in academics and breaking boundaries in these male-dominated fields. Today, instead of more recent female inspirations, I want to turn back the clock and focus on these three women from the past who have helped pave the way for STEM women in society today.
In case you missed it, Inspiring Women in STEM: part 1 and part 2 each share three more inspiring woman breaking boundaries in the STEM field.
History of women in STEM
The disparity between men and women in these fields is wide, but female representation has also grown very, very slowly over time.
According to Science News for Students, “In the 1800s, women scientists were rare. Few women were allowed to get a college degree or hold down a job in any field, let alone science. Gradually, universities opened up to women. Soon, they began entering the world of science.”
In the 1960’s and 70’s there was a wave of feminism, yet only about 1 in 100 U.S. engineers were women.
Slate tells us about women in STEM in the U.S. from 1940-1980. Throughout this time various organizations popped up (like the Society of Women Engineers founded in 1950), as well as many leaders and government agencies who advocated for women in STEM.
During World War II, “demands for more of what was often called ‘scientific manpower’ and a shortage of civilian male workers prompted government and industry to start programs to train women in science and engineering.” This gave many women their starting point.
We still have a long way to go, but couldn’t have gotten where we are today without these women!
Inspiring Women in STEM
Here are 3 more inspiring women who made important contributions in STEM history. You can print this page and make copies for your students, or pull it up on the SMART board as class begins.
My goal is to make it easy for you to educate your students on the powerful women who have made progress in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field!
Ruth Ella Moore
According to American Society for Microbiology, in 1903 Ruth Ella Moore was born in Columbus, Ohio and went on to become the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in the natural sciences.
She studied tuberculosis and earned her PHD in Bacteriology. She went on to teach and research blood groupings and enteriobacteriaceae, as well as work her way up to become the Head of the Department of Bacteriology at Howard Medical College.
Ana Roqué de Duprey
According to the White House Archives, Ana Roqué de Duprey was born in Puerto Rico in 1853, and at just 13 years old, she started a school in her home. She was passionate about science and about educating girls.
“Roqué wrote the Botany of the Antilles, the most comprehensive study of flora in the Caribbean at the beginning of the 20th century, and was also instrumental in the fight for the Puerto Rican woman’s right to vote.”
BBC tells us Marie Curie was born in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She was a physicist and chemist, and one of the most well-known scientists in her time. Most of us already know of Marie Curie, who deserves a lot of credit for breaking through barriers to become a famous women of STEM long before most others.
She worked with her husband, Pierre, to investigate radioactivity, and eventually discover two elements, polonium, and later, radium. Later, the Curies won the Nobel Prize in 1903, and then she won another in 1911.
One more honorable mention for today is Joan Clarke, who studied cryptography and helped save lives during World War II working with enigma machines.
As a code-breaker for the British Government, Clarke was able to help find out about enemy U-boat attacks ahead of time and help the British army to prevent and defend against them. She and her colleagues saved many lives. She was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her work intercepting and decoding the Germans’ plans during the War.
Students can try their hands at code breaking and learn more about the math behind the enigma machines of World War Two in this fun cross-curricular activity pack.
We all know so many male scientists from history; let’s make sure these amazing women are remembered, as well!
Stay tuned for Part 4 where three more young, inspiring women in STEM will be featured!
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