March 2003 - Mothers of Invention

Editor's Note

Talkin’ About a Reinvention

In this issue, we honor some of the women who are inventing a whole new way of looking at - and working with - science and technology.

In 1991, the year that I entered college, two things happened simultaneously that changed my life. The first was that I got an A in a college-level statistics class. It was the first time that I’d not only excelled in a math class, but that I’d actually understood what the hell I was doing. A whole new world of numbers and equations opened up to me - after four years of dreading math and science classes, I suddenly felt like I’d become fluent in a new language. Because of that class, and the self-confidence I gained, I went on to get a BS in psychology.

The second thing that year that changed my life? My roommate got a Teen Talk Barbie as a gag birthday gift. While Teen Talk Barbie’s slogans quickly became dorm-room quips (“Meet me at the mall, girls!”), it was the phrase “math class is tough” that made us want to gag ourselves with our protractors. For the second time that year, I felt my science/math paradigm shift, and I learned another new language - that of feminism. I began to wonder: Did I struggle with math because I was a girl? Or did I struggle with math because I was taught that girls were supposed to struggle with math?

Today, more than 10 years later, that debate still rolls on. Every few years, a new study comes along which implies that women aren’t “making it” in the world of science, that there just aren’t as many women scientists as men or as many girls taking computer classes.

But when you look beyond the studies, it seems women are everywhere, using science and technology in ways that can’t be studied by facts and figures, can’t be calculated or computed. How do you quantify the women who are turning something as faceless as an Internet Web site into a supportive community of friends? What value is placed on women who use their scientific knowledge to save the environment? How many daughters are teaching their fathers how to use email so they can communicate from across the country?

Look at what women have already accomplished with their science, math and inventive abilities:

  • In 1953, Dr. Virginia Apgar designed a scale to determine the physical status of an infant at birth. Her Apgar Scale is still widely used in hospitals today.
  • In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson combined science with her love of nature to warn the world about pesticide’s potential harm in her book, Silent Spring.
  • Tired of spending her days doing laundry and dishes, Frances Gabe used her housing design experience to invent a self-cleaning house in Newberg, Ore.

And this list doesn’t even begin to touch on women like Florence Nightengale, Marie Curie, Jane Goodall…

In this issue, we honor some of the women who are inventing a whole new way of looking at - and working with - science and technology. Women who are inventing fabulous and fascinating things (Gallant Efforts, 22) and Wild and Wacky Inventions, 32). Women who are using their knowledge to save the world (Cleaning up the World, 36) or to destroy it (Piece Makers, 28). Women like you and me, who may have heard Teen Talk Barbie tell them that “Math class is tough,” but who never believed it long enough to let it slow them down.

Happy Inventing, Computing and Compounding,

Stay Nervy,

Shanna Germain, Editor-in-Chief

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ISSN 1536-9897 Copyright 2003 by Nervy Girl!, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.