Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins is an inspiring book for young people to read (or to read as a family read-aloud). Atkins highlights seven remarkable women, beginning their biographies when they were children and tracing their lives through adulthood. The book is written in free verse with short sections focusing on specific events in their lives. If read aloud, the verse can be read as prose.
The women featured are:
Caroline Herschel – the first woman to discover a comet and earn a salary for scientific research
Florence Nightingale – known most for her contribution to nursing, she also pioneered the field of medical statistics.
Hertha Marks Ayrton – the first female electrical engineer who registered twenty-six patents
Marie Tharp – co-created a map of the ocean floor
Katherine Johnson – who helped calculate trajectories for NASA
Edna Lee Paisano – the first Native American to work full-time for the United States Census Bureau
Vera Rubin – studied galaxies and found evidence for dark matter
It was fascinating to learn about these women. Their stories have value not only for their place in history but also to inspire girls who love math to aspire to careers in these fields. It helps show girls what is possible.
Another book about inspiring women is Sew Sister: The Untold Story of Jean Wright and NASA’s Seamstresses. Jean Wright was a little girl who loved sewing but who dreamed about working for NASA. She couldn’t afford to go to college and married a Navy man when she was still young. After years of travel, they settled at Cape Canaveral. She learned of women who sewed blankets on the space shuttles. She strove to learn all she could about the process and applied to be one of these Sew Sisters again and again until, finally, she got the chance! This book shows the value of domestic arts even in the world of science and space. It also speaks to the value of perseverance.