Georgia O'Keeffe

15 Inspiring (Sometimes Maddening) Biographies of Women in STEAM

7 min read

Women have faced numerous barriers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) throughout history, often having to overcome societal biases, institutional obstacles, and personal challenges to make their mark. As a result, the biographies of these pioneering women are both inspirational and maddening to read. They are a testament to the extraordinary resilience and determination required to achieve success in male-dominated arenas. These stories not only celebrate their groundbreaking achievements but also shed light on the systemic inequities they confronted, serving as powerful reminders of the ongoing struggle for gender equality in STEAM disciplines.

15 Biographies of Amazing Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

Brenda Maddox’s “Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA” is a compelling biography that uncovers the life of Rosalind Franklin, an important yet often overlooked figure in the discovery of the DNA double helix. Maddox, a seasoned biographer and journalist, meticulously portrays Franklin’s scientific brilliance and the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field.

The book delves into Franklin’s significant contributions to molecular biology, her struggles for recognition, and her untimely death, offering a nuanced portrait of a scientist whose work was crucial to one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells the poignant and powerful story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells, taken without her consent, became one of the most important tools in medicine.

Skloot, a science writer with a deep interest in the ethical issues surrounding medical research, weaves together the scientific, ethical, and personal narratives of Lacks’s life and legacy. The book explores the impact of HeLa cells on medical research, the Lacks family’s struggles, and the broader implications of medical ethics and racial inequalities in healthcare.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

In “Lab Girl,” geobiologist Hope Jahren offers an intimate and candid memoir that chronicles her life in science. Jahren, a renowned scientist with a passion for plants and the natural world, shares her journey from her childhood in Minnesota to her groundbreaking research in the field of geobiology.

The book is not only a celebration of science and discovery but also an exploration of the personal and professional challenges faced by women in STEM. Jahren’s lyrical prose and profound insights make “Lab Girl” an inspiring and thought-provoking read.

The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by Julie Des Jardins

Julie Des Jardins’s “The Madame Curie Complex” explores the often overlooked contributions of women in science, challenging the traditional narrative dominated by male figures. Des Jardins, a historian specializing in gender and cultural history, examines the lives of pioneering women scientists like Marie Curie, Lise Meitner, and Rosalind Franklin.

The book highlights the systemic barriers these women faced and their enduring impact on their respective fields. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Des Jardins brings to light the hidden history of women in science.

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life by Roxana Robinson

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life” by Roxana Robinson is a comprehensive biography of the iconic American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Robinson, an acclaimed biographer and novelist, provides an in-depth look at O’Keeffe’s artistic evolution, personal relationships, and the cultural context in which she worked.

The book explores O’Keeffe’s journey from her early years as an art student to her rise as a leading figure in American modernism. Robinson’s detailed narrative and insightful analysis offer a rich portrait of O’Keeffe’s life and legacy.

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait by Deborah Wye

Deborah Wye’s “Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait” delves into the life and work of the influential sculptor and installation artist Louise Bourgeois. Wye, a curator and art historian, focuses on Bourgeois’s extensive body of work, particularly her prints and illustrated books.

The book examines Bourgeois’s creative process, themes, and artistic evolution, offering a comprehensive view of her contributions to contemporary art. Wye’s expertise and in-depth analysis provide a profound understanding of Bourgeois’s complex and innovative oeuvre.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures” uncovers the remarkable stories of the African-American women mathematicians who played crucial roles in NASA’s space program. Shetterly, a writer and researcher with a background in economics and business, shines a light on the contributions of women like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.

The book highlights their perseverance in the face of racial and gender discrimination and their vital contributions to the success of the space race. “Hidden Figures” is a tribute to the unsung heroines of NASA and a powerful narrative of resilience and achievement.

Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age by James Essinger

James Essinger’s “Ada’s Algorithm” tells the story of Ada Lovelace, a visionary mathematician who is considered the first computer programmer. Essinger, a writer with a keen interest in the history of science and technology, explores Lovelace’s collaboration with Charles Babbage and her foresight in recognizing the potential of his Analytical Engine.

The biography delves into Lovelace’s intellectual upbringing, her struggles with societal expectations, and her lasting impact on the field of computing. Essinger’s engaging narrative brings to life the pioneering work and enduring legacy of Ada Lovelace.

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo” by Hayden Herrera is a definitive biography of the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Herrera, an art historian and biographer, meticulously chronicles Kahlo’s tumultuous life, from her early years and devastating accident to her passionate relationship with Diego Rivera and her rise to international fame.

The book delves into Kahlo’s unique artistic vision, her political activism, and the personal pain that shaped her work. Herrera’s comprehensive research and vivid storytelling offer an intimate portrait of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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Margaret E. Knight: Girl Inventor by Marlene Targ Brill

Marlene Targ Brill’s “Margaret E. Knight: Girl Inventor” is a biography of Margaret E. Knight, a prolific inventor known for her many patents, including a machine for making flat-bottomed paper bags. Brill, an award-winning author of children’s and young adult books, brings Knight’s story to life with engaging narrative and historical context. The book highlights Knight’s ingenuity, determination, and contributions to industrial technology, providing an inspiring tale of creativity and perseverance.

Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer

Kurt W. Beyer’s “Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age” is a detailed biography of Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist and naval officer. Beyer, a historian of technology and innovation, examines Hopper’s groundbreaking work in computer programming, including the development of the first compiler.

The book explores Hopper’s contributions to the field of computing, her advocacy for programming languages, and her influence on the development of modern computing. Beyer’s thorough research and insightful analysis make this a compelling account of Hopper’s legacy.

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney

Grace Bonney’s “In the Company of Women” features interviews with over 100 women from diverse fields, including technology, art, and entrepreneurship. Bonney, the founder of the popular blog Design*Sponge, curates a collection of stories that highlight the achievements, struggles, and advice of these inspiring women. The book offers a rich tapestry of experiences and insights, celebrating creativity, resilience, and the power of female entrepreneurship.

Lee Krasner by Eleanor Nairne

Eleanor Nairne’s brand-new biography of Lee Krasner offers a fresh and comprehensive look at the life and work of this influential abstract expressionist painter. Nairne, an art historian and curator, provides new insights into Krasner’s artistic journey, her complex relationship with her husband Jackson Pollock, and her struggle for recognition in the male-dominated art world. This biography promises to illuminate Krasner’s significant contributions to modern art and her enduring legacy, making it a valuable addition to the literature on one of the 20th century’s most important artists.

Women in Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories by Tarah Wheeler

Women in Tech” is an inspirational book that offers practical advice and real-world insights from women who have succeeded in the tech industry. Tarah Wheeler, a cybersecurity expert and advocate for women in tech, compiles a series of personal stories, career tips, and guidance from women who have broken barriers and achieved success in various tech fields. The book serves as a roadmap for women looking to advance their careers in technology, providing both inspiration and actionable advice.

Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans

Claire L. Evans’s “Broad Band” highlights the contributions of women who played pivotal roles in the development of the internet. Evans, a writer and musician with a keen interest in technology and culture, explores the stories of women like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and many others whose work laid the foundation for the digital age. The book combines historical research with engaging storytelling to shed light on the often-overlooked achievements of women in tech, offering an inspiring narrative of innovation and resilience.

Final Thoughts on Succeeding as Women in STEAM

The biographies of these remarkable women in STEAM serve not only as sources of inspiration but also as reminders of the enduring challenges and systemic barriers that women have faced and continue to overcome in these fields. Their stories highlight the importance of perseverance, resilience, and innovation. For women pursuing careers in STEAM today, there are numerous resources available to support their journey.

Organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), Girls Who Code, and Women in Technology International (WITI) offer networking opportunities, mentorship programs, and educational resources. Additionally, initiatives such as the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) and the Ada Lovelace Fellowship provide funding and support for women in STEM education and research. By utilizing these resources and drawing inspiration from the trailblazing women who came before them, the next generation of women in STEAM can continue to break barriers and make significant contributions to their fields.

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