top of page

Amazing Women in STEM

Picture Book Biographies are not what they used to be. Dry, factual, information and photos have been replaced with engaging, fun, and creative illustrations that portray the most fascinating people. I don't know about you, but I want my kids to be well-rounded and knowledgeable about the people who've made a difference in the world. So keep reading, and allow me to introduce you to some of the finest minds in history.

Coding genius, Margaret Hamilton, is celebrated in this extraordinary book. The simple illustrations are 60's style, dipicticting the mood of that specific time period in U.S. history. Margaret is a math genius who led Project Apollo. Before landing Apollo 11 on the moon, the computer started to overload, putting the astronauts in danger. Margaret's code made the computer ignore the extra tasks, resulting in a successful landing. In 2003, she won NASA's Exceptional Space Act Award for her revolutionary contributions to the space program. Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley will inspire and motivate the littlest of STEM whizzes.

White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia is special for several reasons; 1) it's the home of my mother-in-law, creating many family memories of visiting great-grandma in the majestic mountains, 2) it's the home of The Greenbrier Classic (a getaway I highly recommend), and 3) it's the birthplace of NASA mastermind, Katherine Johnson. Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk, tells the bold story of how Katherine saved Apollo 13.

Katherine got hired at NASA as a "human computer". Still, she was kept out of the research team's all-male briefings. Asserting herself into the position of aerospace technologist, she broke the mold for women and African-Americans alike. She developed a key backup navigation system that used stars as guideposts along with many other accomplishments. The New York Times Best Seller, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, featured Katherine as one of the three mathematicians who helped win the space race. And the movie was nominated for three Oscars and made 231.3 MILLION dollars. Wow!

Ever wonder where the term "Computer Bug" originated? Look no further. It came from the brilliant, Grace Hopper, Queen of Computer Code. She taught the computers to recognize words not just 0's and 1's and accomplished a slew of groundbreaking technology. It all started with a clock at seven years old. She took an alarm clock apart and seven clocks later, put it back together again. The rest is history. Born in NYC, she graduated from Yale with a PhD in mathematics and went on to earn some of our nation's highest medals. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, hosts 10,000 people each year, making it the world's largest conference of women in technology. This year the conference is September 26-28, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

Imagine having an unstoppable mind for math during a time and place you'd be thwarted from using it. That's what happened to Sophie Germain. However, she took the risk of expressing herself as an intellectual, being a target of ridicule. All the odds were against her. Sophie's parents took her candle away to keep her from studying math. She had to do homework under a male pen name, otherwise her work wouldn't have been accepted. Conquering her adversaries, she tackled a math problem that male scholars said was impossible to solve.

Sophie was born in Paris during the French Revolution. Women had little rights--no voting or schooling. Girls were lucky to receive an education at home. Sophie's gentle mannered demeanor saved her from becoming a social outcast. Her claim to fame was her work on vibration. Dying from breast cancer at age fifty-five, her work on the Fermat's Last Theorm was cut short. The Theorm was finally proven in 1994. Nothing Stopped Sophie, by Cheryl Bardoe and Barbara McClintock, shares another true story of bravery and brilliance and courage.

STEM is a booming effort in schools across the nation. I hope you find the book that inspires your future STEM groundbreaker. Even if your child doesn't grow up to be a STEM phenom, she should know about these authentic role-models, encouraging her to strive toward her fullest potential in life!

There are many other picture book biographies about Women in STEM. Click Women in STEM for more information on these books and more.

Want to know why Computer programming once had much better gender balance than it does today? What went wrong? Read the New York Times article The Secret History of Women in Coding.

Thank you for reading my post and bye for now.

bottom of page