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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky - A Book Review by Fran Joyce

Rachel Ignotofsky is an author and illustrator. She finds inspiration for her work from history and science. According to Ignotofsky, “Illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting.” In her carefully researched books, she condenses lots of information into easily readable paragraphs – perfect for children and adults seeking quick information about a subject.

I could go on and on about why I like her books. She does her research and provides accurate information for her readers. She is able to break complex information down into understandable pieces without insulting the intelligence of her reader or over simplifying the subject.

Agora is a film about Hypatia's life

Agora is a film about Hypatia's life

For Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, Ignotofsky selected 50 women from all over the world who have made or are making significant contributions in their particular field of science.

Starting with one of the earliest recorded female mathematicians, Ignotofsky describes Hypatia’s life in Egypt and her many accomplishments in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. She also credits Hypatia’s father, a well known scholar, with educating his daughter and supporting her even when her abilities surpassed his own.

             Elizabeth Blackwell

             Elizabeth Blackwell

She also features Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Blackwell was admitted to Geneva Medical College, but had to sit separately from the males students to  attend classes. Blackwell helped pioneer better hygiene practices for hospitals and homes which helped reduce the spread of communicable diseases. Blackwell also founded the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary and the London School of Medicine to help other women becomes doctors.


                Rita Levi Montalcini

                Rita Levi Montalcini

Rita Levi-Montalcini’s father expected her to become a “proper lady” and marry well, but she wanted to be a doctor.  After graduating summa cum laude from medical school she faced a new obstacle. Anti-Semitic laws in Mussolini’s Italy forbade Jewish people to practice medicine. Rita worked in secret as a medical researcher until World War II ended. She eventually emigrated to the United States where she and her research partner received a Nobel Prize in 1986 for physiology.

The women featured in this book experienced gender discrimination. Many also faced racial and religious discrimination, and extreme poverty. Often the gender bias was reinforced by family members, but Ignotofsky is careful to credit the courageous mothers, fathers, siblings, and spouses who supported equal opportunity for their daughters, sisters and wives.

Reading these stories makes me hopeful for the future of women in science. The 50 women featured found ways to succeed while working alongside men in male dominated fields. They have not only opened doors for other women, but they have proved men and women can work together to make the world better. It’s not just a man’s world anymore; it belongs to everyone and these women have earned their way into our history books, text books and bedtime stories.

This is usually the place where you would expect me to say “Read this book to your daughters and granddaughters.” Ok, I’ll say that, but let me also say, “Read this book to your sons and grandsons because they need to know about these women too.” Let me also add, “Read to your children about men and women in science, sports, and politics. Read to them about civil rights activists, authors, artists, and musicians and anyone who has worked to make this world a better more inclusive place.”

Here is a list of the 50 women featured in this book. If their names are not familiar to you, buy this book and prepare to be inspired.

Hypatia.....Maria Sibylla Merian.....Wang Zhenyi.....           

Mary Anning.....Ada Lovelace.....Elizabeth Blackwell.....

Bertha Ayrton.....Karen Horney.....Nettie Stevens.....

Florence Bascomb.....Marie Curie.....Mary Agnes Chase

.....Lise Meitner.....Lillian Gilbreth.....Emmy Noether.....

Edith Clarke.....Marjory Stoneman Douglas.....Alice Ball

.....Joan Beauchamp Procter.....Gerty Cori.....

Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin.....Barbara McClintock.....

Maria Goeppert-Mayer.....Grace Hopper.....Rachel Carson

Rita Levi-Montalcini.....Dorothy Hodgkin.....

Chien-Shung Wu.....Hedy Lamar.....Mamie Phipps Clark

.....Gertrude Elion.....Katherine Johnson.....

Jane Cook Wright.....Rosalind Franklin.....

Rosalyn Yalow.....Esther Lederberg.....Vera Rubin.....

Annie Easley.....Jane Goodall.....Sylvia Earle.....

Valentina Tereshkova.....Patricia Bath.....Sau Lan Wu

.....Christiane Nusslein-Volhard.....Jocelyn Bell Burnell

.....Katia Krafft.....Elizabeth Blackburn.....Mae Jemison

.....May-Britt Moser.....Maryam Mirzakhani

Rachel Ignotofsky has authored and illustrated three books, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers  Who Changed the World, I Love Science: A Journal for Self-discovery and Big Ideas, and Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win.  

For more information, visit

Pictured in photo collages from left to right:

Collage 1: Mary Anning, Nettie Stevens, Marie Curie and Lillian Gilbreth

Collage 2: Gerty Cori, Grace Hopper and Hedy Lamar

Collage 3: Katherine Johnson, Rosalyn Yalow and Jane Goodall

Collage 4: Valentina Tereshkova, Mae Jemison, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and May-Britt Mose

All photos are in the public domain except:

Movie poster for Agora - a film about Hypatia’s life: By Source, Fair use,

Photo of Rita Levi Montalcini: Fair use,

Photo of Valentina Tereshkova: By RIA Novosti archive, image #612748 / Alexander Mokletsov / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

Photo of Jocelyn Bell Burnell: By Launch_of_IYA_2009,_Paris_-_Grygar,_Bell_Burnell.jpg: Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republicderivative work: Anrie (talk) - Launch_of_IYA_2009,_Paris_-_Grygar,_Bell_Burnell.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

Photo of May-Britt Moser: By Foto: Henrik Fjørtoft/NTNU Komm.avd. - This file has been extracted from another file: Bovim-MBMoser-statsministerSolberg-EMoser-Slørdahl NTNU 2014-03-04.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0,




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