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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Steampunk Granny Presents A Few Unsung Female Heroes
What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to celebrate the unsung heroes in the world; past, present and future. Here are a few ladies who made worthy contributions to the world
Alice Evans (1881-1975)
Alice Evans was an American microbiologist who worked in the Animal Husbandry division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the early 20th century. While researching the bacteriology of dairy products, she discovered a bacterial infection of cows that could cause serious illness in humans, and advocated for the pasteurization of milk to prevent such illness. She published her findings in 1918, but no one really took them seriously, partly because she was a woman and partly because she didn’t have a Ph.D. About a decade later, other scientists (presumably men with doctorates) replicated her findings, which led to the federal government enacting laws requiring milk to be pasteurized.
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
Mary Anning was a British fossil collector who made significant contributions to the field of paleontology at the very beginning of the discipline. She discovered many important fossils, including the first Ichthyosaurus and some specimens that provided transitional links between species. Her discoveries advanced the idea of animal extinction, which was very upsetting to many people because it seemed to counter the prevailing religious views. Like Alice Evans, many of Anning’s discoveries were downplayed at the time because people didn’t believe that she had the knowledge or the skills to have made them.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Watson and Crick’s discovery also would not have been possible without the contributions of Rosalind Franklin, who took the X-ray crystallography pictures that showed the structure of DNA. Studying DNA structure with X-ray diffraction, Franklin and her student Raymond Gosling made an amazing discovery: They took pictures of DNA and discovered that there were two forms of it, a dry "A" form and a wet "B" form. One of their X-ray diffraction pictures of the "B" form of DNA, known as Photograph 51, became famous as critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA. The photo was acquired through 100 hours of X-ray exposure from a machine Franklin herself had refined.
It is thought by some that the pictures were taken from her and shown to Watson and Crick by her colleague Maurice Wilkins. The story behind the DNA structure discovery, and how much credit Franklin deserves for it, continues to be a topic of debate.
Despite her cautious and diligent work ethic, Franklin had a personality conflict with colleague Maurice Wilkins, one that would end up costing her greatly. In January 1953, Wilkins changed the course of DNA history by disclosing without Franklin's permission or knowledge her Photo 51 to competing scientist James Watson, who was working on his own DNA model with Francis Crick at Cambridge.
Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010)
In July 1987 Wilma Pearl Mankiller became the first woman elected as chief of the Cherokee, the second largest Indian nation in the United States. Born on November 18, 1945, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, she was the sixth of eleven children born to Charley and Clara Irene (Sitton) Mankiller. Her father, who died in 1971, was full blood Cherokee. Her mother has Dutch and Irish ancestry. Before Wilma Mankiller's election as chief of the Cherokee, she served as the first woman deputy chief of the Cherokee beginning in August 1983 and became principal chief in December 1985, when Chief Ross Swimmer resigned to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. Mankiller was elected in 1987 and reelected in 1991, serving as principal chief until 1995.
As chief of the Cherokee Mankiller served approximately 140,000 enrolled members and handled a seventy-five-million-dollar budget. Increasing tribal membership and revenues by almost 200 percent, opening three rural health centers, expanding the Head Start program for Cherokee children, and starting a center for prevention of drug abuse are among her many achievements during office. In addition to her achievements as chief, she was a founding director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department. Mankiller helped establish an Office of Tribal Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice and helped found the Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations.
Several life events as well as her Cherokee heritage motivated Mankiller to become active in Cherokee tribal affairs. Under a federal program that attempted to urbanize Indians and to help them find work, her family moved to a housing project in San Francisco in 1957. The American Indian Movement protest mounted at Alcatraz Island in 1969 and her volunteer work among American Indians in California during the 1970s provided a catalyst for her future activism. Also, her family debated politics and other national issues at the dinner table.
I'm trying to raise the level of consciousness in the world. I want us to celebrate all the great works done by great people. Two of the women featured today were scientists and one woman was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and fought for social justice for native tribes. We need to encourage our children to read books, to imagine a better world and to act on making a peaceful and an equal future for all. The time for Harvesting is ripe.