In 1983, Sally Ride made her mark as the first woman to ever go into space. Just like others did before her, Ride paved the way for more women in male-dominated fields like astrophysics. (Photo in Public Domain)
Radia Perlman, Cecilia Payne, and Grace Hopper.
These women are just a few who have played important roles in the evolution of science and mathematics. Unfortunately, people forgot the names of these women and many others for no reason other than their work contributed to a male-dominated field.
“It is important to note early that women’s historically subordinate ‘place,’ in science (and thus their invisibility to even experienced historians of science) was not a coincidence and was not due to any lack of merit on their part, It was due to the camouflage intentionally placed over their presence in science.” wrote Margaret Rossiter, a science historian in her book Women Scientists in America.
These noteworthy women listed below all deserve to be remembered as world-changing people.
Antonia Novello (1944 – present)
Antonia Novello “shattered the glass ceiling” when she became the first woman and Hispanic to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States in 1990. As Surgeon General, Novello spent her time campaigning against drinking, smoking, and drug abuse, as well as raising public awareness on the subject of AIDS. She is also credited with creating national legislation regarding organ transplants.
Novello’s inspiration for becoming a doctor came from a disease she had throughout her childhood twenties. The disease, congenital megacolon, often sent her to the hospital for long stretches of time. Eventually she decided to become a doctor so she could help other children like her.
Grace Hopper (1906 – 1992)
Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. She is also credited with creating COBOL — Common Business Oriented Language — the first programming language to use English, and also with coining the term “bug” to describe a glitch in computer software.
Before creating COBOL, Hopper started her career as a mathematics professor at Vassar College. In 1943, she joined the Navy and then the Bureau of Ordinances Computational Project where she worked with Mark I, a precursor to modern computers. Working on the machine, Hopper wrote A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, the first extensive computer manual.
Susan Kare (1954-present)
Susan Kare is a graphic designer best known for illustrating some of the most well-known interface elements in computer history. Using a pixelated style, Kare created images for the Apple Macintosh computer including the paintbrush, save icon (the floppy disk), and even the iconic trash bin that we still see variations of today.
Besides working for Apple, Kare has worked with companies like Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, and Digg creating similar logos all with different themes to fit each company.
Florence Seibert (1897-1991)
Florence Seibert was an American Biochemist who contributed greatly to the development of a tuberculin test which allows doctors to accurately screen patients for Tuberculosis. While this disease is now mostly eradicated due to the regular use of antibiotics, in her time this test was as important as the one created for Covid-19.
Besides creating the tuberculin test, Seibert studied how intravenously injecting patients with contaminated distilled water caused a fever. She then created a procedure that eliminated all bacteria and decontaminated the tools used in injections. In 1990 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Sally Ride (1951-2012)
Sally Ride was an American Astronaut who made history in 1983 as the first woman to go to space. Ride started her career at NASA as a “mission specialist” where she was one of only five women in the class of 1978. Chosen for her scientific skills as well as her athletic ability, her training consisted of learning everything from parachute jumping to scientific instruction.
When she graduated from NASA space training, her first mission was on the Challenger STS-7. Over the week-long mission she launched two satellites, operated the shuttle’s mechanical arm, and ran multiple experiments.
Edith Clarke (1883-1959)
In 1919, Edith Clarke became the first woman to earn a degree in electrical engineering. Clarke did not start her career expecting to become an electrical engineer. Originally, she graduated from Vassar College with a degree in mathematics and astronomy. Clarke started studying civil engineering in 1911, but AT&T offered her a job as a human-computer, so she quit in order to take that position. It was at this job that she studied radio and electrical engineering.
After World War One Edith enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned her degree. Later in life, she invented the “graphical calculator” which is used for solving complicated electrical engineering computations, and even became the first female electrical engineering professor.
As one can see, though they are often not mentioned in our history, women play an equal role to men in shaping the world we live in. These people and countless others blazed trails so that the girls and women of today can go further than they did, and our generation will do the same for our children.
That process is called progress, and though it is slow, it pushes us towards a world where life is not determined by our physical traits, but by how hard we are willing to work for success.
“[Women are] outnumbered by men at most companies, and it’s not unusual to see men getting credited for certain things and women being pushed to the side, because of this, I’d just like to see women get treated with respect and recognized for their achievements in their careers,” said Grayson Trout, a student at Leesville Road High School.
One day, this idea will be more than just an idea: It will be a reality for women everywhere.