Long before Lawrence Summers’s unfortunate remarks at Harvard University a few years ago, there have always been powerful forces which assigned all manner of illogic to women’s "inability" to excel at math and science. Their brains were too feeble to handle such difficult concepts, they claimed. And besides! Math and science were "right brain" and therefore "masculine" sciences so it wasn’t in a woman’s nature to be interested. Although there were some textbooks written to give women the knowledge they would need to carry on a polite conversation if the subject of science should arise, these books framed mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry in ways that the authors felt women could understand—through the lens of romantic love. Compound these shoddy arguments and weak study materials with the practice of barring women from attending universities and there was a pretty good chance you would not have seen an overwhelming number of women studying calculus 200 years ago.
However, there was certainly one women determined to pursue her love for mathematics, and she is the subject of our Adventure in Feministory today.