Women Becoming Mathematicians
Women Becoming Mathematicians looks at the lives and careers of thirty-six of the approximately two hundred women who earned Ph.D.s in mathematics from American institutions from 1940 to 1959. During this period, American mathematical research enjoyed an unprecedented expansion, fueled by the technological successes of World War II and the postwar boom in federal funding for education in the basic sciences. Yet women's share of doctorates earned in mathematics in the United States reached an all-time low. This book explores the complex interplay between the personal and professional lives of those women who embarked on mathematical careers during this period, with a view to understanding how changes in American society during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s affected their career development and identities as mathematicians.
The book is based on extensive interviews with thirty-six women mathematicians of the postwar generation, as well as primary and secondary historical and sociological research. Taking a life-course approach, the book examines the development of mathematical identity across the life span, from childhood through adulthood and into retirement. It focuses on the process by which women who are actively involved in the mathematical community come to "know themselves" as mathematicians. The women's stories are instructive precisely because they do not conform to a set pattern; compelled to improvise, the women mathematicians of the 1940s and 1950s followed diverse paths in their struggle to construct a professional identity in postwar America.
About the Author
Margaret A. M. Murray, formerly Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Tech, is a Visiting Professor of Mathematics and English at the University of Iowa.
"A sophisticated, scholarly, and readable study—this is without a doubtthe best book yet written on American women mathematicians. It is a 'mustread' for women (and men) of the mathematical community, as well as forspecialists in history of science, sociology of the professions, andwomen's studies."
—Ann Hibner Koblitz, Women's Studies Program, Arizona State University
"By making vivid the constraints facing the women mathematicians coming ofage in the forties and fifties, Murray enhances our understanding of thelegacy of the discriminatory structure under which they worked."
—Mary W. Gray, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, American University
"This book is not only an insightful and useful study of women inmathematics—it is a page-turner. As thirty-six women mathematicians comealive in these pages, Margaret A. M. Murray destroys the myth of the cloisteredmathematical life, and implicitly challenges us to find a new mythologythat works for the next century. I couldn't put it down."
—Howard Georgi, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University, andFormer Co-chair, Committee on Women in Science and Engineering, NationalResearch Council