A Captivating Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA
Guest blog written by Maitri Chattopadhyay
I recently took a trip to Philadelphia, PA, USA and was visiting Independence Hall when I noticed a poster for a new exhibition in the American Philosophical Society Museum celebrating Pursuit & Persistence: 300 Years of Women in Science.
Exploring the Exhibition
Upon entering the exhibition hall, I was immediately struck by the beautifully curated displays that trace the contributions made by women in science over the last 300 years. The displays were divided into different time periods, showcasing the remarkable milestones achieved by women throughout the centuries.
The exhibition commences with displays highlighting the courageous women who defied societal norms and ventured into the scientific realm during the 18th and 19th centuries worldwide. Their journeys into STEM served as a reminder of the challenges they faced in an era when opportunities for women in science were severely limited. I was introduced to luminaries such as Maria Sibylla Merian - a naturalist, entomologist, and scientific illustrator, and Caroline Herschel - an astronomer who made significant discoveries in the cosmos. (Learn more about Ms. Merian through this My Girl Heroes video and Ms. Herschel from this Kids Britannica article.)
Moving forward, the displays delved into the 20th century, a period marked by increasing recognition and opportunities for women in scientific fields. Notable figures like Marie Curie PhD - physicist, chemist, and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and Rosalind Franklin PhD - physical chemist whose work was instrumental in the discovery of the DNA structure, were celebrated for their groundbreaking research and tireless dedication. A virtual reality experience transports viewers into the laboratory of Barbara McClintock - a pioneering geneticist who won a Nobel Prize for her discovery of ”genetic transposition” in corn! (Learn more about Ms. Curie in this National Geographic Kids article, Ms. Franklin’s discovery from this Science Sparks file, and Ms. McClintock’s work in this Nobel Prize highlight.)
The final section of this exhibition focuses on contemporary female scientists who continue to push the boundaries of knowledge. These displays showcase diverse fields of study, from astrophysics to genetics. They highlight the accomplishments of luminaries such as Jane Goodall PhD - an ethologist, primatologist, and conservationist, and Dr. Mae Jemison PhD - doctor, engineer, physicist, astronaut, and the first African - American woman to travel to space. (Learn more about Ms. Goodall in this CBC Kids News interview. Dr. Jemison shares her journey in this NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers video.)
Beyond celebrating the individual achievements of these incredible women, the Pursuit & Persistence: 300 Years of Women in Science exhibition also sheds light on the systemic gender barriers and biases that have hindered the progress of women throughout history. It highlights the importance of inclusivity and the need for continued efforts to promote gender equity in all areas.
Although the challenges that women face might compel you to think otherwise, I wholeheartedly believe that being a woman is a privilege. While it is true that we often encounter additional hurdles and have to work harder to prove ourselves, our abilities, and our caliber, this recurring pattern of resilience and perseverance prepares us to become leaders and change makers in our respective fields! This exhibit is yet another example of that. It serves as a powerful reminder of the grit, brilliance, and determination of brilliant women who followed their passions and, in doing so, have helped shape our world!
Maitri Chattopadhyay is a Senior Software Engineer at Disney Streaming and a highly regarded GLAM Advisor. She often leads Coding sessions for both Online and In-Person GLAM leadership and STEAM events as well as inspires girls through her Keynote presentations. Maitri is deeply passionate about driving positive changes in people's lives through technology, with a firm belief in the significance of diversity and inclusion in this domain. Apart from championing young women to pursue STEM careers, her interests extend to history, painting, and travel to name a few!