Tag Archives: WWII

This Documentary is Awesome. Makers: Women Who Make America

What a wonderful series. How have I not seen this until now?  I made it through all three episodes available on PBS.org this weekend, and was blown away.  I’ve always considered myself something of a feminist, so I was embarrassed to find out from a TV documentary just how woefully ignorant I am of the women’s movement in the United States.

The series first aired beginning in February of 2013 and covers from WWII through the present.  It is absolutely fascinating and well made.  It also made me very, very angry to see just how nasty a fight women have had so far.  For example, I didn’t realize that until are recently as my own childhood, there were essentially no laws on the books protecting women (or anyone else, for that matter) from domestic violence and rape.  In the 1970s, there wasn’t even a term for domestic violence.  Heartbreaking.  I’m glad we’ve come so far, but oh, boy do we still have a very long way to go to achieve equality.

What I found most interesting is how cyclical the fight has been: a push for rights, achieving those rights when enough support is achieved, and then the backlash.  Two steps forward and one step back.  Women going to work in WWII, gaining recognition and respect, then being fired and pushed back into the role of housewives in the 1950s.  Getting the ERA through congress and most of the states, and then women leading the fight against it in the last few states and getting the whole thing shot down.  And on and on.  To the current day, where sexism is still rampant at home and around the world (if you don’t believe me, check out the global Everyday Sexism Project or ask any woman who has ever done Cosplay at a con), and many countries in the developing world still treat women as property or worse.

If you’re interested, the series is free to watch online on PBS:

http://video.pbs.org/program/makers-women-who-make-america/

And since I now feel the urge to do more research into this history, I’ll post anything else interesting that I find.

Have you seen it already?  What did you think?

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Filed under Equality, Opinion pieces

STEM Female Role Model Spotlight: Irene Curie-Joliot

photo from nuclearfiles.org bio

Just about everyone has heard of Marie Curie and her contributions to science.  But not so many have heard of her daughter.  Irene Curie-Joliot was a tremendously successful scientist in her own right.

Born in Paris in 1897, Irene Curie was the daughter of already-famous Marie and Pierre Curie.  Irene served as a nurse radiographer alongside her mother in WWI before finishing her doctorate in 1925 and marrying chemical engineer Frederic Joliot in 1926.  The two of them collaborated in life and science until her death in 1956, sometimes working on separate projects, sometimes working together.

In 1935 Irene Curie-Joliot and Frederic Joliot won the nobel prize in chemistry for their work on synthesizing new radioactive elements.  This was monumental in that they had managed to turn an element into something else, a feat out of the old myths of alchemy.  They achieved it by bombarding naturally occurring elements with alpha particles, making it possible to achieve radioactive isotopes from lighter elements.  This discovery was especially critical to nuclear medicine research.

Irene worked in research, as a lecturer, in politics, and as a mother.  She started lecturing in 1932 and became a full Professor in the Faculty of Science in Paris in 1937.  She and frederic had a daughter, Helene, and a son, Pierre, both highly regarded scientists in their own rights –  Helene in nuclear physics, and Pierre in biochemistry.

Irene Curie-Joliot also worked to advance nuclear power in France, serving as a Commissioner for Atomic energy.  Her efforts in this area led to the development of France’s first atomic pile and the many efficient plants that would follow.  Fearing the weaponization of their work on nuclear fission and development of nuclear reactors, she and Frederic sealed their notes on that subject in the vaults of the French Academy of Sciences until 1949.

In addition to all those efforts, she was the Director of the Radium Institute, which was started by her parents, and she worked on improving education infrastructure in her field and served as France’s Undersecretary of State for Scientific Research starting in 1936.  She was also a champion for women, both socially and academically.  She served on the World Peace Council and Comité National de l’Union des Femmes Françaises.  The Jolie-Curies involvement with socialism and communism in the French resistance during WWII did cause them later troubles during the cold war.  This could partially explain why they are so much less well-known than Irene’s parents.

While the Nobel Prize is arguably her biggest achievement, she received numerous awards, honorary degrees, and prestigious memberships to foreign academies and scientific societies, even serving as an Officer of the Legion of Honor.

After contracting tuberculosis during WWII and frequently convalescing in Switzerland, Irene succumbed to leukemia in 1956.  If you would like to know more and can manage to find it anywhere (let me know if you do –  none of the links I found worked!), PBS put out a film in their Women of Science series called Out from the Shadows: The Story of Irene Joliot-Curie and Frederic Joliot-Curie

Sources:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1935/joliot-curie-bio.html

http://www.famousscientists.org/irene-joliot-curie/

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1353203/Frederic-and-Irene-Joliot-Curie

https://www.aip.org/history/curie/2ndgen1.htm

http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/library/biographies/bio_curie-irene.htm

http://www.nndb.com/people/410/000100110/

http://www.wgbhinternational.org/index.php?sid=yvktsfgceb5msb4ykwjngev1rqpmlnwa&lang=english&page=search&query=irene+curie&advanced=on&title=on&description=on&producer=on&dle_pp=0&dle_od=asc&pr_act=details&pid=542

http://www.wgbh.org/programs/Out-From-the-Shadows-The-Story-of-Irene-and-Frederic-Joliot-Curie-330

http://www.mphpa.org/classic/HF/Biographies%20-%20Women/i_curie.htm

http://www.chemheritage.org/discover/online-resources/chemistry-in-history/themes/atomic-and-nuclear-structure/joliot-curie-joliot.aspx

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