Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. If you'd like to read about women in math for the occasion, you’re in serious danger of coming across an article about Hypatia, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, or Sofia Kovalevskaya. Of course, these are inspiring women with compelling stories, and more people should know about them. But there are so many other women mathematicians out there! When we talk about these women, and only these women, we run the risk of playing into the idea that mathematically gifted women are a rarity. Luckily, we are not, so there are a lot of other stories to read.
A few years ago, Steve Wildstrom wrote a post on this same theme listing other women whom he believes belong in the mathematical pantheon: Julia Robinson, Ingrid Daubechies, Cathleen Synge Morawetz, Irene Stegun, Mina Rees, Olga Tuassky-Todd, Mary Ellen Rudin, Jean Taylor, Karen Uhlenbeck, and Fan Chung. Currently, Maryam Mirzakhani may be the most famous living woman mathematician due to the fact that she recently became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal.
Agnes Scott College, a women’s college in Decatur, Georgia, maintains an excellent archive of biographies of women mathematicians, including almost all of the women listed above. Of particular interest this Ada Lovelace Day is Freda Porter, whose birthday is today.
The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) is the largest organization that promotes women mathematicians. On its website, you can read about women mathematicians in the news and find out about opportunities for women at all points in their mathematical careers. The AWM also runs an essay contest in which students write biographies of contemporary women in mathematics, and many of the winning essays are available online.
Harvey Mudd College math professor Rachel Levy collects stories from women in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics on her blog Grandma Got STEM. What I love about those stories are that they are often told by the women themselves or their children or grandchildren. Of course, the mathematics tag is recommended reading. The remembrances of Mary Ellen Rudin by her colleagues are particularly moving.
I have featured several interviews with women mathematicians here on Roots of Unity. You can read conversations with Laura DeMarco and Amie Wilkinson, Victoria Booth and Trachette Jackson, Constance Leidy, and Evelyn Boyd Granville. I also wrote about British mathematician Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, who recently passed away, in honor of her 100th birthday in October 2012.
Finally, I’d like to point you to my Twitter list of Mathy Ladies. The list has a wide variety of students, teachers, and other women who tweet about math. There are plenty of us out there!