Monday, April 16, 2018

5 Fabulous Biographies of Women in STEM Fields

Each one of these women have a story that will inspire young women and men. They overcame obstacles--physical and social--to find success and fulfillment in STEM fields.  They made important contributions in their fields of study. 


Claire A. Nivola, author and illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Sylvia Earle was a biologist and botanist long before she even knew what those words meant.  As a child, she spend hours observing plant and animal life on her family’s farm, but it was when she moved to Florida and Sylvia discovered the Gulf of Mexico that she lost her heart to the ocean.  These early investigations inspired her along the path to becoming a prominent and compelling advocate for the ocean. 

Sylvia dives deep and reveals the wonders of an underwater world of whales, angelfish, coral reefs, and tiny creatures that glow in the darkest depth of the sea.  Whether she’s designing submersibles for exploration, living underwater for two weeks, or taking deep-water walks, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to learning more about, and urgently calling on all of us to protect, what she call “the blue heart of the planet.” 


Why It’s Fabulous:
Earle’s story is a celebration of curiosity, patience, and observation.  These are skills she practiced in her earliest years in her notebooks and sample collections.  She also sought information in the library to feed her unquenchable desire to know more. After earning a degree in science, she joined an expedition in the Indian Ocean (as the only woman).  Her STEM degree took her to many exciting places from a deep-sea laboratory off the U.S. Virgin Islands to a deep-seas station fifty feet underwater. She walked on the ocean floor, traveled 13,000 feet below the surface in a Japanese submersible, and swam with the whales.  As a world-renowned oceanographer and environmentalist, she taught people to care about and to protect the ocean.


Jeanette Winter, author and illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.


Why It’s Fabulous:
Hadid was inspired by her homeland of Iraq—ancient cities, rivers, dunes, and marshes.  As a young girl, she dreamed of designing her own city.  During her time in college, her imagination was the driving force behind her work and study of architecture.  After graduation, she rented a room in a old school building.  Along with some fellow visionaries, they drew and planned endlessly.  Her designs were not like anyone else’s. The buildings swooshed and zoomed and flowed and flew.  She believed the world is not a rectangle.  Despite many rejections, Hadid “made a conscious decision not to stop.”  Using nature as her inspiration, she created tall buildings like the marsh grass, a stadium that looks like a shell, and an opera house like a pebble in the sand. Eventually every room in the old school building was filled with people designing and planning her buildings.  Her belief in the impossible and her dedication allowed for her unique visions to come to life. Even after her death, her architect firm “[kept] their lights on” and “her flame blazing bright.”


Jeanette Winter

Publisher Summary: 
At five years old, Jane was already a watcher.  Little Jane Goodall loved to watch all the animals in her world—the earthworms and insects, the birds and cats.  She loved to read about Dr. Dolittle, who could talk to animals. 

When she grew up, Jane followed her dream and traveled to Africa to study chimpanzees.  She watched them, she listened to them, and, in time, she became their friend. 


Why It’s Fabulous:
Goodall worked to earn the money to go to Africa.  Then, she bravely traveled across the ocean in hopes of finding an opportunity to study animals in their natural habitat.  She finally received a post to study chimps.  Out in the middle of the jungle, she heard their calls.  However, they stayed hidden.  Even after suffering from malaria—she was determined to wait it out.  Finally, after many months, they revealed themselves.  At first she acted uninterested and watched quietly.  Eventually, they trusted her.  She spent every day with them—observing and taking notes.  She revealed many things we did not previously know about chimps specifically and animals in general. Later when men began to kill and to kidnap them, she fought to save them.  She spoke for the chimps and against deforestation.


Emily Arnold McCully, author and illustrator

Publisher Summary:
With her sketchbook labeled My Inventions and her father's toolbox, Mattie could make almost anything – toys, sleds, and a foot warmer. When she was just twelve years old, Mattie designed a metal guard to prevent shuttles from shooting off textile looms and injuring workers. As an adult, Mattie invented the machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags we still use today. However, in court, a man claimed the invention was his, stating that she "could not possibly understand the mechanical complexities." Marvelous Mattie proved him wrong, and over the course of her life earned the title of "the Lady Edison."

Why It’s Fabulous:
Mattie began inventing small things as a child by sketching, problem solving, and building.  She used her factory experience during the industrial revolution to make the lives of workers safer.  Through perseverance and hard work over a two-year period, she invented a complex machine from sketch, to prototype, to final product. She problem solved when things did not work out.  For instance, there was a problem in the initial testing of her first prototype.  Mattie worked to figure it out and to fix it.  She fought against sexist views, but she did not give up even when a man stole her idea.  Instead, she took him to court and won her case.  Rather than sell her invention, she opened up her own business.  Mattie spent her life inventing new machines and trailblazing for women in STEM fields.


Cheryl Harness, author
Carlo Molinari, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Mary Edwards Walker was always an outspoken woman.  She was one of America’s first woman doctors, and she fought for women’s rights and gave speeches around the country.  But she could also make a statement just by walking down the street—wearing pants in a time when women always wore dresses!

When the Civil War struck, she set out to serve her country and treat wounded soldiers—not as a nurse, but as a doctor.  She faced extreme danger behind enemy lines and for her bravery she received the Medal of Honor, the highest a war veteran can receive.  She remains the first and only woman to ever hold this honor. 

A hero far ahead of her time, Dr. Walker encountered prejudice and ridicule as well as glory.  And she always insisted on living—and dressing—on her own terms. 

Why It’s Fabulous:
Dr. Walker volunteered when the Civil War began, doing anything she could from writing letters for wounded soldiers to raising money to help with medical care.  She wanted to do more.  She wanted to use her medical knowledge and skills.  Patriotic and determined, she followed the troops and helped in the makeshift battlefield hospitals.  Though her perseverance, she was finally appointed “to serve as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army, a first for the military and a first for women.”  While moving back and forth between enemy lines helping the wounded, she was taken as a prisoner of war for several months until being released in an officer exchange.  People laughed at her for her clothes, even after the war.  However, she stayed “true to her ideals.”  She wore her suit and her Medal of Honor with pride.  She wanted women to live and to think freely “unbound by a corset or her society’s expectations.”

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