Historical Women of Color in Science
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.
**Amigxs is the inclusive form of the Spanish word amigos.
Zelia Nuttal (1857–1993), México
Bertha Parker Pallan Cody (1907–1978), Native American, US
Astronomy and Astrophysics
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
Ālenush Teriān (1920–2011), Iran-Armenia
Carme Adelina Gutiérrez Alonso (1925–2015), Chile
Ynes Mexia (1870–1938), US- México
Helia Bravos Hollis (1901–2001), México
Luisa Eugenia Navas Bustamante (1918 — ); Chile
Maharani Chakravorty (1947–2015); India
Mary Golda Ross (1908–2008); aerospace engineer, Cherokee
Mary Jackson (1921–1942). NASA engineer, US, African American
Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1900–1980) US, African American
Marjorie Lee Browne (1914–1979), US, African American
Maryam Mirzakhani (1977–2011), Iran
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
Rakhmabi Bhikaji (1864–1955); doctor + woman’s rights activist, India
Anandibai Joshi (1865–1887); India
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
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912–1997), experimental nuclear physics, Chinese-American
Sameera Moussa (1917–1952); nuclear physics, Egyptian
Maggie Gee (1923–2013); Chinese American
Dorothy Vaughan (1910–2008). NASA Computer Scientist, US, African American.
Annie Easley (1933 — 2011). NASA computer scientist + mathematician, US, African-American.
Roger Arliner Young (1889–1964); USA