In March 2013, the New York Timespublished an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began- "She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children." It wasn't until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Timeshad devoted several hundred words to her life- Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The obituary--and consequent outcry in response--highlighted not only that women in science are often treated with less respect than their male counterparts, but also that there are still so few women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and medicine). This is in part because they are lacking the critical encouragement and support they need to help them advance.
Headstrongdelivers a powerful and entertaining response to the question- Who are the role models for today's female scientists? Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, these engaging profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each subject's ideas developed, from their first moment of engagement with science through the research and discovery for which they're best known. Finally, it gives these 52 lives the attention and respect they deserve--with the aim to encourage and inspire a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.
In the wake of the disrespectful 2013 New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, in which her beef stroganoff took top billing over her scientific achievements, journalist Swaby was inspired to seek out many other women scientists who might have likewise been overlooked or carelessly dismissed. She dug deeply in international archives to find innovators and inventors across the scientific spectrum, and the result is a group of achievers who excelled in fields ranging from physics to biology, astronomy, and engineering. Swaby covers more than 350 years in her survey, and her short biographies give readers just enough information to make them eager for more. Alice Hamilton’s work on poisons in the workplace! Grace Hopper’s manual on computer programming! Hertha Ayrton on arc lighting! These are truly fascinating women with a wide range of experiences both personal and professional, and Swaby’s exuberant portrayals make this a compulsively readable title. There is no good reason why every single woman here is not a household name, and now, thankfully, Swaby is helping rectify history’s oversight.
Recommended for teens (YA)
There’s a dearth of women in STEM fields, and sharing the inspiring stories of these trailblazers with teenagers will be a firm step in rectifying that problem.