Friday, October 7, 2011

Gender Role Models in the Classroom (My Sister Writes...)

My sister recently wrote this facebook message to her friends, and I'm reposting it with her permission, because it says so very much about the way subtle information about role models gets shared.
So last night I went to my (10th grade) daughter's back to school night. Her very passionate English teacher had the walls plastered with black/white photocopied pictures of well known figures. They spanned history and included artists, writers, politicians, activists, etc. It was a very cool display, with the big caveat being that 85% of the pictures were of men, and as we all know, 52% (or thereabouts) of the population are women.
On my way out, I asked him what the pictures were for. He said they were for inspiration--pictures of inspiring or influential people who had influenced the thinking of himself and of his students over the years. I said--it's great, but you know, there are a lot more men up there than women. He kind of winced and said-- "I know. I'm kind of pained about it." Feeling somewhat dissatisfied with that answer, I said, "Well, knowing's the first step..." and left it at that, running to the other side of the high school to get to my "next class."
Apparently, today at school he asked my daughter to relay a message to me--Tell your mom to send me names of inspiring influential women. :) I have some, of course, but I'd like to send him a BIG list.
So now I ask you all to help--please send me the names of women who have inspired or influenced your thinking- I think they need to be of the somewhat famous or public figure variety.....thanks!
And in response to a friend's comment, she says:
The pictures are added as students (and he) come up with ideas so the problem is that people often don't think of the women! Not that he is being lazy. He was asking for my own ideas about it. I am simply broadening to the next. Also, to note--Anne Frank, Rosa Parks and Oprah Winfrey were represented. Not sure about the others......
When I told my sister that my daughter doesn't like it when I get involved with her teachers, and that when my daughter heard this story, she said sarcastically, "Oh, I'll bet my cousin loved that," my sister wrote me that,
Yes, she hates it too, but I couldn't let it pass by. It was too blatant. She actually took it relatively in stride.
Parents, sometimes you have to take action. (Sorry, kids! I think my daughter learned from this story that this is a family trait.) And I'll bet that this teacher will a) learn from this experience and b) really appreciate the list--and isn't teaching really about learning as well?
So--help us out. 
Share your ideas for women who should be up on this illustrious wall in the comments. I'll share them with my sister, and she in turn will share the Big List she is compiling, and I'll post it.

To get you started, I'll put up these ideas: Billie Jean King, Susan B. Anthony, Aung Suu Kyi, Louisa May Alcott, Abigail Adams, Willa Cather, Mary Shelby, Marie Curie...


  1. My friend says, for those of you interested in this topic, check out this web site: Today--October 7--is apparently Ada Lovelace Day, and you are asked to "This Ada Lovelace Day on October 7, share your story about a woman — whether an engineer, a scientist, a technologist or mathematician — who has inspired you to become who you are today. Write a blog post, record a podcast, film a video, draw a comic, or pick any other way to talk about the women who have been guiding lights in your life. Give your heroine the credit she deserves!"

    It goes on to say, "Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.

    The inspiration for Ada Lovelace Day came from psychologist Penelope Lockwood, who carried out a study which found that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male role models."

    And that's exactly what my sister said!

    And I didn't even realize that today was Ada Lovelace Day when I wrote the post!

  2. Jane Goodall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie...

  3. Limor Fried ( is inspiring in the engineering field. She also creates an anual list of inspiring women for Ada Lovelace day as well (

  4. Double bump on Marie Curie.
    Barbara Jordan
    Rachel Carson
    Clara Barton
    (cringing slightly) Sandra Day O'Connor
    Harriet Tubman
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Dorothy Day
    Jane Addams
    Just to start....

  5. Wangari Mathai
    Sojourner Truth
    Fanny Lou Hamer
    Tamora Pierce :-)
    Rufina Amaya
    Mary Shelley
    Alice Walker
    bell hooks
    Frida Khalo
    Georgia O'Keefe
    Paula Poundstone
    Helen Keller (if he'll put up a picture of a socialist)
    Mary Harris Jones (AKA Mother Jones)
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Queen Latifa
    Opera Winfrey
    Ellen Degeneres
    Jane Austin

    (My wife, Nancy, helped with this list. I don't want to re-create the history of men taking credit for women's efforts)

  6. Hello, some of my favs

    Amelia Erhart
    Sally Ride
    Mother Therasa
    and my biggest hero JK Rowling who ignited a passion for reading in so many children and adults all while being a single mom!