Historical Women of Color in Science

A Reference List

All right, readers. I’m writing this because I’m angry. I’m annoyed, I’m exasperated, and I’m just plain TIRED of hearing the false narrative that women, especially women of color, are newcomers to the world of STEM.

Initially, my reaction to this feeling was to start a podcast*, which has been a whole lotta fun, but at 2 episodes a month I can hardly hope to point to the show as a reference list, and while I make it a point to make my subjects diverse, it is not exclusively a show about women of color in STEM. However, my research for the show has led me to create somewhat of a small database, so I’ve decided to type it up and put it out there.

Hunting down historical lady scientists is hard, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. In reading articles about modern day lady scientists, I get the feeling that people think women being given the opportunity to join the ranks of male academics only now in the 20th century. Well, amigxs*, not only do historical women in STEM exist, but they didn’t wait to be given the opportunity to excel in science. They, like women in STEM today, made the opportunities.

This list cannot hope to be comprehensive, but I’ve yet to find a satisfactory or accessible list of its kind online so far, so here you go. I’ll be adding to it as my research continues, and hope to receive suggestions from readers who stumble upon this page.

And, next time someone presents you with the narrative that historically, women in science (especially WOC) are rare, kindly point them to this page.

*The Femmes of STEM podcast was released in January 2017 and is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Google Play.

**Amigxs is the inclusive form of the Spanish word amigos.

Archaeology

Zelia Nuttal (1857–1993), México

Bertha Parker Pallan Cody (1907–1978), Native American, US

Berth Parker Pallan Cody. Photograph via Smithsonian Institution Archives

Astronomy and Astrophysics

En’Hedu’Anna (23rd century BCE), Babylonian Empire [1][2]

Ban Zhao (2nd century CE), China

Al-ijliya Al-astrulabi (10th century CE), Syria

Fatima de Madrid (10th century CE), Islamic Spain

Wang Zhen Yi (1768–1797), China

Paris Pishmish de Recillas (1911–1999), Turkey, US, Mexico [1]

Ālenush Teriān (1920–2011), Iran-Armenia

Carme Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso (1925–2015), Chile

Botany

Janaki Ammal (1887–1984), India [1] [2]

Ynes Mexia (1870–1938), US- México

Helia Bravos Hollis (1901–2001), México

Helia Bravos Hollis. Image source unkown.

Luisa Eugenia Navas Bustamante (1918 — ); Chile

Biology, Biochemistry

Maharani Chakravorty (1947–2015); India

Kamala Sohonie (1912–1998), India [1][2][3]

Chemistry

Asima Chatterjee (1917–2006) India [1][2]

Marie Maynard Daly (1921–1993) US, African-American [1][2]

Ruby Hirose (104–1960). Bacteriology & biochemistry. US, Chinese-American [1][2]

Ruby Hirose. Photograph via Smithsonian Institution Archives

Alice Augusta Ball (1892–1916); African American [1][2][3]

Engineering

Mary Golda Ross (1908–2008); aerospace engineer, Cherokee

Mary Jackson (1921–1942). NASA engineer, US, African American

Mathematics

Sutaya Al-Mahmali (10th Century), [1] [2][3]

Lubna of Córdoba (10th Century), [1] [2]

María Andrea Casamayor y de la Coma (1700(?)–1780), Spain [1][2]

Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1900–1980) US, African American

Marjorie Lee Browne (1914–1979), US, African American

Maryam Mirzakhani (1977–2011), Iran

Medicine

Merit Ptah (3rd century BCE)

Gevher Nesibe (13th century)

Jang geum (15th century), Royal Physician, Korea

Mary Seacole (1805–1881) Army Nurse, US, Jamaican-British

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831–1895) first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the US

Anna Galvis Hotz (1855–1934) gynecology, Columbia

Kadambini Ganguly (1861–1923) [1][2][3]

Rakhmabi Bhikaji (1864–1955); doctor + woman’s rights activist, India

Dr. Rakhmabi Bhkaji. Image via Google Arts & Culture

Anandibai Joshi (1865–1887); India

Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865–1915), Omaha Tribe, US [1][2][3][4]

May Edward Chin (1896–1980); US, Chickahominy and African American

Hilena Sedarous (1904–1998) Egypt

Nise da Silveira (1905–1999)

Azar Andami (1936–1984) physician + bacteriologist, Iran

Đặng Thùy Trâm (1942–1970), Vietnam

Physics

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912–1997), experimental nuclear physics, Chinese-American

Sameera Moussa (1917–1952); nuclear physics, Egyptian

Maggie Gee (1923–2013); Chinese American

Technology

Dorothy Vaughan (1910–2008). NASA Computer Scientist, US, African American.

Annie Easley (1933 — 2011). NASA computer scientist + mathematician, US, African-American.

Annie Easley. Image via NASA

Zoology

Roger Arliner Young (1889–1964); USA