Female genius has been overlooked and under-celebrated throughout history.
It’s easy to understand why when you consider the derivation of the word ‘genius’ and societal norms that have long-held women back from claiming their rightful place as intellectual or creative giants.
In fact, the concept of genius as a male trait is actually written into our Latin language and manifest in the basic tenets of our history. For the Ancient Romans, the word ‘genius’ stems from a belief that every male was born with a ‘genius’ and every female a ‘juno.’ Women were the protectors of love and marriage and not fated for exceptional intelligence or creative talent.
While women have certainly disproved this theory, mathematicians like Hypatia or physicians like Agnodike were often sentenced to death for challenging societal norms about a woman’s place. You’ll be horrified by Hypatia’s brilliance and terrible torture, but relieved to know Agnodike was saved by the women of Athens who protested for her release.
While scientists agree genius is not gender-based, there has certainly been a gender bias in favor of a male focus. In fairness, the National Geographic magazine does share some enlightening stories about a number of women. But until the contributions of astonishing women are better known and we begin to fill in the historical gaps, women like Ellen Swallow Richards will remain under-appreciated.
In case you missed our feature articles about Ellen this week, Anything But a Normal Life and The Genius of Ecofeminism, it’s critically important today to see just how difficult it was for her to succeed in the field of science.
Given the breadth and complexity of so many of our current global challenges, there has never been a more pressing time for creative, inclusive, and diverse problem-solving skills and answers to the problems on our planet.
Ellen’s courage, determination and unwavering commitment to improving the environment in the late 1800’s and our relationship to nature, led to unprecedented breakthroughs in understanding water pollution. You could say Ellen laid the groundwork for our modern definition of ecology and the human footprint.
Environmental champions like Stella Bowles are the evolution of Ellen’s moral commitment to our world.
Like Ellen who took it upon herself to start testing the polluted waters in the Boston area and measuring their contamination levels, Stella embarked on a similar campaign as a young middle school student.
Yesterday’s feature article about Stella, “The Teenager Who Saved the LaHave River”, describes Stella’s discovery and the social media campaign to clean up the LaHave River in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The ensuing $17 million remediation project is inspiring to other students, especially other young women who might consider a career in science.
It’s unnerving to think about the genius of other female scientists we’ve lost over the course of history, had they the confidence or access to mentoring programs that supported their scientific curiosity. But, thankfully progress has been made and awards across schools, businesses and governments are one way to bring attention to impactful ideas and solutions. Stella received a Youth Nature Inspiration Award in 2017 and has started mentoring other young girls with her love of nature.
Heading into Fun Friday tomorrow, WomanScape provides a few interesting scientific takeaways. We’ll “tech” you through some neat Apps and shed some startling news behind a new movie called Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, a must-see to add to your watch list.
The documentary film explores the impact of humans on our Earth’s geology and our ecosystems.
It’s the collaborative result of Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier with photographer Edward Burtynsky.
As always, WomanScape supports any initiatives that help to improve our environment, so we hope readers will purchase Stella’s book about her experience cleaning up the LaHave or the Anthropocene book as a holiday gift.
Both the Anthropocene movie and book are the culmination of four years of research. They are a rally-cry for environmental change.
As a companion edition to the movie, the book is part of an exhibition series of photographs at a number of places including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Other keepsake products include the Glass Eye Studio Cresting Wave Blown Glass Paperweight, which represents the beautiful blue waters and is handmade by the Glass Eye Studio in Seattle, and the Cresting Wave Sculpture. Customers love the colors in these special glass piece as each is uniquely handcrafted and brings a little bit of the ocean inside.