Tuesday, June 16, 2015

52 Women You Need to Know! My review of Headstrong

http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/9780553446791?height=450&alt=no_cover_b4b.gif
What an inspiring book!
This book chronicles the lives of 52 women who through their passion for their field made some amazing breakthroughs that largely went unnoticed (or were stolen--I'm looking at YOU Watson and Crick).
At first I was a little put off because the author only devotes a few pages to each woman and I craved more information. These women were incredibly impressive and mostly unknown. To be introduced to their fascinating lives and only get a teaser was a little annoying. But the author states in the introduction that there are 52 entries for a reason: You can read one entry a week and spend a year learning about these forgotten scientific geniuses. Still, I would have liked more information on each woman, especially if I decided to only read one entry a week!
Nevertheless, I was enthralled by the stories, even though most were redundant: brilliant girl, denied education due to her sex, struggled to find education, makes miraculous discovery, a man takes all the credit. This is most obvious before WWII when universities had to accept women lecturers to replace the men who went off to the war effort. Also a large portion of the women in this book managed to escape Nazi Germany and become successes in America. With all of that brain drain you'd think the Nazis should have figured out that the top minds in the country were supposedly "inferior".
My daughter is still a little too young to read this, but I will be saving it for her. She loves science but hates math which just breaks my heart. Actually she hates arithmetic because they haven't even gotten into real math. The section of the book that was the most fascinating was the women mathematicians because it seems most were self taught.
My favorite was Sophie Kowalevski, whose family didn't order enough wallpaper to cover her nursery so her dad improvised by plastering old calculus lectures to the walls. I also fell in love with Emmy Noether who Einstein recruited to help him work out the math for his equations! Amazingly enough, it was a female chemist who invented Kevlar--Stephanie Kwolek. That's not usually the fabric I think of when I associate women and fabric.
All in all, I give this book 4 stars out of 5. It was a marvelous read, but I think the "1 woman a week" idea to be too limiting and it seemed almost gimmicky. I understand the book would have been too long otherwise, so maybe a series of books would be in order? Also there is a bibliography and notes section that has all the references so you can do your own research if you'd like. Maybe this book was aimed at a more general audience and not at women already in the field of science? Maybe the author though this was all she could include and interest the largest population? I don't know, but I will definitely pick up any book I see that is devoted to these women because I need to know more!
Here is the authors bio, and here is here is the publisher's blurb.
I was sent a copy of this book for free from Blogging for Books for me to read and review. A long time ago I worked as a bookseller and I loved getting the advanced readers copies. I felt like I was getting special treatment by getting a book before it was published and in return I got to share my opinions on what I read. Sadly, I don't have the influence over which books people choose that I did when I was selling them, but I will use my little soap box to tell people what I think. I wish I could go take a math class now...

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