Friday, March 6, 2009

Women's History Month 2009

On March 3rd, President Obama issued a proclamation for Women's History Month, declaring this year's theme to be "Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet." In this document are cited several women who have exemplified great leadership in this area, including:

Ellen Swallow Richards [1842-1911] -- the first woman accepted into a scientific school in the US, Richards graduated from MIT in 1873 and pioneered the assessment of water quality. The UNC Health Sciences Library has several of her works.

Rachel Carson [1907-1964] -- marine biologist, ecologist, and author; Carson's classic book, Silent Spring (1964), galvanized the American public concerning pesticides and other environmental dangers.

Grace Thorpe [1921-2008] -- a tribal judge for the Sac and Fox Nation and activist for tribal sovereignty, Thorpe opposed the dumping of nuclear waste on Native American lands; her father was the famed Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe.

Works by and about women figure prominently in Special Collections at UNC Health Sciences Library; two notable examples are:

Florence Nightingale [1820-1910], known as the “Lady with the Lamp” for her service during the Crimean War, was a pioneering nurse, statistician, author, and educator. In 1860 she opened the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London, for which her book, Notes on Nursing (1859), served as the cornerstone of the curriculum. Several of her handwritten letters from Special Collections have been digitized and are available online; many of her published works are also available in the library.

Closer to home, Susan Dimock [1847-1875] of Washington, North Carolina, was a pioneer among women physicians in America. Denied access to medical education, she pursued her studies abroad, graduating from the University of Zurich in 1871; her dissertation on puerperal fever, written in German, is available online as part of the International Theses Collection at HSL. In 1872, Dr. Dimock was appointed the resident physician of the New England Hospital of Women and Children, and played a key role in developing a formal training program for nurses. This same year she was granted honorary membership in the Medical Society of the State of North Carolina--it's first female member.

Lastly, March 8th is International Women's Day. Although often overlooked in the United States since its inception in 1911, it is recognized and celebrated in many countries around the world.

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