March is Women’s History Month – Women in STEM

History has not always been kind to women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Some women , like Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, were recognized for their phenomenal work during their lifetimes.  However, many women have passed long days and nights in noxious laboratories only to see the credit awarded to others. Many others have spent years gathering and compiling heaps of data only to see their work obscured by a famous mentor. has chosen to honor the following three women in STEM for Women’s History Month this year.

Nettie Maria StevensNettie Maria Stevens was an early American geneticist and one of the first researchers to describe that an organism’s sex was dictated by its chromosomes rather than environmental or other factors.

Born in 1861 in Vermont, Nettie Stevens received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and continued at the college as a researcher studying sex determination. She was the first to recognize that females have two large sex chromosomes.

Nettie, unfortunately, fell victim to a phenomenon known as the Matilda Effect which is the repression or denial of the contributions of female researchers to science. Thomas Hunt Morgan, a prominent geneticist at the time, was credited with discovering the genetic basis for sex determination as he was the first to write a genetics textbook and Stevens’ name was not associated with the discovery.

Morgan was later credited with the Nobel Prize for Nettie’s hard work. To add insult to injury, he later posted an article in the journal Science saying that Stevens acted as more of a technician than an actual scientist throughout the whole experiment, though this was found to be quite untrue.

Her scientific career started late, and ended much too soon when she died of breast cancer on May 4, 1912. However, in her relatively short life, she had managed to contribute more to her field than many scientists have done with much longer careers.

Irène Joliot-CurieMarie Skłodowska-Curie, who conducted pioneered research on radioactivity, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person (and only woman) to win twice.  However how many are aware that her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie, jointly with her husband, was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.

Irène was born in Pars, in 1897, when her parents were making their discoveries.  Her whole life was dedicated to her studies though they were interrupted by World War I when she was sent to the countryside for safety.  After the war she returned to Paris and, as she neared the end of her doctorate in 1924, she also started teaching precise laboratory techniques required for radiochemical research where she met her future husband (& collaborator) Frédéric Joliot. In 1934, building on the work of her parents, they made the discovery that sealed their place in scientific history.

In 1956 Irène Joliot-Curie was admitted to the Curie hospital in Paris, where she died on 17 March at the age of 58 from leukemia which was brought on my years of exposure to radioactive materials.

Her legacy continues with her daughter Hélène Langevin-Joliot who is a nuclear physicist and professor at the University of Paris and her son, Pierre Joliot who is a biochemist at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Wangari Muta MaathaiWangari Muta Maathai was born in the village of Ihithe in the central highlands of the colony of Kenya on 1 April 1940. In addition to being the first woman in central or eastern Africa to hold a Ph.D., the first woman head of a university department in Kenya and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977.

She started her primary education at the age of eight and was able to pursue a higher education, a rarity for girls in rural areas of Kenya, when she was chosen for a special program to attend school in the United States as the end of East African colonialism was nearing. There she majored in biology and continued on to receive her M.Sc in biological sciences.

When she returned to Kenya, Wangari Maathai worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi, and despite the skepticism and even opposition of the male students and faculty, was able to earn a Ph.D. Working her way up through the ranks, she became head of the veterinary medicine faculty, a first for a woman at any department at that university.

In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. Over the next decades Wangari Maathai became an environmental activist in Kenya where she campaigned against deforestation and was arrested numerous times by the government.

In 2002, she was elected to Parliament and named as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife in January 2003.  Professor Wangari Maathai succumbed to cancer in 2011 however her legacy, the Green Belt Movement, lives on.

If you enjoyed the HERstory of these women you may also like to read other stories in this series.

March is Women’s History Month – Part 4 – Women in AVIATION
March is Women’s History Month – Part 3 – Women in WAR
March is Women’s History Month – Part 2 – Women in ART

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To My Mother-in-Law: I Was Wrong

You always stole my thunder. You gave them everything they wanted. You never said no when they asked for anything: a second helping of dessert; candy before dinner; a few more minutes in the bath; or money for the ice cream truck.

How I struggled to show you respect and appreciation while trying to make sure you didn’t spoil my children. I thought you would turn them into “selfish brats” by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.

Courtesy of Tina Plantamura

Courtesy of Tina Plantamura

You held each one of my babies long after they fell asleep. Didn’t you understand that I needed them to learn to fall asleep on their own?

You ran to them as soon as they made the tiniest sound. How would they ever learn to self-soothe?

I resented you for buying the best and most expensive gifts on their birthdays and on Christmas. How could I possibly compete with you? How do you think it feels to know that the very best presents, the ones they’ll be the most excited and aglow about, are not from their parents?

And how they loved afternoons spent with you. You made their favorite things for dinner — three different meals for three different boys. And you always had a little surprise. A present, candy or a special treat. I didn’t want them to associate you with gifts and sweets. I thought they should love you for you. I tried to tell you this, but you wouldn’t listen. You continued to indulge them in every way possible.

I spent a lot of time wondering why you did all these things and how I could get you to ease up. I know grandmothers are supposed to “spoil the kids,” then send them home, but you were… ridiculous.

Until you were gone.

I had to hold my boys and tell them that their grandma died. It didn’t seem possible – you were supposed to be there for all the other special moments: proms, graduations, weddings. But they lost their grandma too soon and too suddenly. They were not ready to say goodbye to you.

During those years when I wished you’d stop spoiling them, I never thought about how much you loved them. So much that you showed it in every way possible. Your cooking. The gifts. The candy and sweets. Your presence. The way you could recount every detail of a special moment, whether it was a perfect catch in the outfield or a sweet and slightly off-key note sung at a school concert. Your grandmotherly love for them knew no bounds. Your heart poured love from every place possible – your kitchen, your pocketbook, your words and your tireless arms.

It’s pointless to dwell on regrets, but I often think about how I had it all wrong. I was so wrong in how I perceived your generosity. My kids, now in their teens, miss you dearly. And they don’t miss your gifts or your money. They miss you. They miss running to greet you at the door and hugging you before you could step in. They miss looking up at the bleachers and seeing you, one of their biggest fans, smiling and enthralled to catch their eye. They miss talking to you and hearing your words of wisdom, encouragement and love.

If I could speak to you one more time, I would tell you that every time a precious moment steals my heart, every time I watch them arrive at a new milestone, and every time they amaze me with their perseverance, talents or triumphs, I think of you. And I wish that they could have you back.

Come back and love them one last time, like no one else in the world but a grandmother could. Bring your sweets and surprises. Reward them with gifts for the smallest accomplishments. Painstakingly prepare their favorite meals. Take them anywhere they want to go. All and only because you love them.

Oh, how I wish with my whole heart that you could come back and sit for endless hours in the bleachers with me.

Come back and watch his determined stance, his all-out effort, and his anxious rituals. We could study my boy’s face, and both know without a doubt if he’s confident, intimidated, thirsty or bored.

Come back and listen to the sound of his saxophone, and watch his face with me. We both know which songs are his favorite just by studying his eyes while he plays. Watch him with me as he shifts in his seat, makes eye contact with friends and sighs with relief after the end of each song.

Come back and hear his voice as the bellowing bass in the high school choir. Delight in how he sings with his whole heart and soul. His green eyes bright with passion, then gently closed for the longer notes. I could glance your way and know that no one adores him quite like you or me.

Come back and watch him walk in his cap and gown. Watch the wind blow his hair away from his face, and be awestruck with me as we glimpse the man he is becoming. Stand with me as we, without a word exchanged, simultaneously wonder how the years tumbled by so fast.

The more I long for you to come back, the more I realize that in a way, you never left.

I understand now. I know you loved them in every way you could. I know that being their grandma gave you joy and purpose. And of course I know that you can’t come back, but I do know that your love for them will always remain.

Your love built them and sheltered them in ways that cannot be described. Your love is a big part of who they are and what they will become as they grow. For this, and for every treat and gift, and every time you held them too long or consoled them too much, or let them stay up too late, I will always thank you.

And I will wish a million times that you could do it all again.


Contributed by Tina Plantamura. Tina is a seamstress by trade, a writer at heart, and a standup comedian in her imagination. She lives on the NJ Shore with her family, loves to run and blogs at For the Love of the Run.

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Value in Loss

My Mom was a person who valued people and time. She valued the relationships she had with others with respect, respectful honesty, thoughtfulness, insight, intelligence, humor and love.

Jenn Schneider with her Mom, Roberta

Jenn Schneider with her Mom, Roberta

Some people may say that one sees something “very black and white”. My Mom did just that but with a lot of understanding and compassion.  She had the uncanny ability to see a situation for what it was and was able to offer so much comfort and joy to all of those in her life.  When you were in her presence you were surrounded with a sense of love and joy.

She was a true problem solver that had a way to speak the truth without creating disrespect or meaningful hurt.  Friends and family were amazed at how “strong” she was during her fight against Lymphoma and that she didn’t complain. She did what she had to do and that was to courageously fight her illness. That is just who she was.

I’ll never forget, while she was on Hospice, many friends and family wanted to say their good- byes and well wishes. Even in her last days she greeted everyone with a smile.  Some people say this is a rare gem and it was.  I do miss that a lot, however, there is so much value in a loss.

As my Mom used to say, no one knows or understands the situation until you are in it, so you can’t judge.  Yes, I am sharing this and maybe you are thinking, well of course she was your Mom, you would feel that way.  If my Mom weren’t my Mom, she would definitely have been my friend.

One of the greatest memories at her viewing was my meeting her clients, people that I didn’t know. Hearing how deeply and genuinely they were touched by her and feeling the love they had for her was priceless. Just last week, someone said to me, your Mom was the kind of person that could put two enemies in a room together and she would have them coming out of the room hugging each other.

Value in loss. How?  Your life is your legacy.  Abraham Lincoln said “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” 

As history proves over and over, we learn from our past. Yes, we mourn the loss of those that have touched us deeply, but there comes a time that we bring the value of the loss to the surface.

Being strong is who she was, it was her character. Strength is character; however it is our choice to exercise it. The character of her being had so much value. The interesting thing is that her character lives on more deeply now.

I was told by a wonderful grief counselor “You will never be the same, especially after suffering the loss of a Mother, but you will in time see the value.”  Yes, I see and appreciate the value in loss. The value of my time and how I spend it. The value of what is acceptable and what is not. The value of tolerance among reality.  The value of respect and thoughtfulness. The value of compassion and understanding.

I’ve learned to not get the value mixed up in expectation either. You are who you are. As my Mom once said, you can’t always expect others to do as you would. You are who you are, that is a gift, but you become smarter of what is acceptable through experience.    Becoming wise with the gift of the value she left behind is what I would like to believe and that it can only become richer in time.

“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

 Yes, I value all the qualities of my mother, Roberta, and I value those qualities in myself – not as a victim, not as feeling entitled, but appreciating the gift in time and seeing its true value.


This story was contributed by Jenn Schneider.  She is a teacher, volunteer with the American Cancer Society, and blogs at Thank You Isn’t Enough. She was inspired to write after the passing of her Mom and her battle against cancer, but most importantly inspired by the person her Mom was and all the lessons and memories she left her with.

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Kayla Mueller : The Daughter that Every Mother Hopes She is Raising

Kayla Mueller had been held hostage by the Islamic State since 2013.  She was kidnapped while leaving a Doctor’s Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria on August 4th – just 10 days shy of her 25th birthday.  She was working with refugees on the Turkey-Syria border at the time of her capture but she had also been making trips into Syria to help reconnect family members separated by the fighting.  It was one of these trips that took her to Aleppo where she was kidnapped.

Kayla Mueller with her mother, Marsha Mueller.

Kayla Mueller with her mother, Marsha Mueller.

Although rumors of their daughter’s death had been circulating for several days prior, the family was still holding out hope.  However, upon receiving confirmation of their daughter’s death yesterday, the Mueller family released the heart-wrenching letter that Kayla had written to them while in captivity. The extraordinary message she struggles to write to her parents  and family exemplifies her strength, bravery, compassion, and love for her family.

“Everyone, if you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released. I have asked them to contact you +send you this letter.

It’s hard to know what to say. Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness.

I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.

If you could say I have “suffered” at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God.

I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.

I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another…

I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation. I have had many a long hour to think, to think of all the things I will do w/ Lex, our first family camping trip, the first meeting @ the airport.

I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally @ 25 years old come to realize your place in my life. The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support.

I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden.

I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already, [REDACTED] can contact [REDACTED] who may have a certain level of experience with these people.

None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.

I wrote a song some months ago that says “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left…” aka ­ the thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength.

Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.

All my everything,


In their statement, Kayla’s parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, said “Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue on in peace, dignity, and love for her. She lived with purpose, and we will work every day to honor her legacy.” is deeply saddened by the death of this formidable young woman and joins others around the world in sending their condolences to the entire Mueller family.

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And, I am an African.

Over the years, I have taken up a new identity. I have embraced a wide and broad title. A title which sometimes feels bigger than I am, but one which nonetheless I am carrying with the utmost pride and dignity. Now, I am African.

Jane OmaAt first, I was amused when people referred to me as an African. It was both exasperating and infuriating when I saw how some struggle to pronounce correctly, the name of my country of birth or sometimes even question its existence. Then, I’d get mildly irritated when non-Africans assumed that there is actually a country called Africa, when they talk about Africa and Africans as if they have no individual presence.

As a matter of fact, there are people who don’t know where my country is, and even though it is sometimes still extremely annoying, instead of wasting time explaining where I am from, it has become convenient to simply say that I am African. So, now, I am simply, “African”.

The fact that I am accepting this broad identity delightfully and humorously does not in any way excuse or justify the ignorance that has informed it. The act of acknowledging this identity does not excuse the off-handedness with which non Africans reach the sweeping conclusion that I am just “African”.

I still call a French French, an Italian Italian, an Irish Irish, etc, before I call them European. Actually, unless I am referring to the European Union, or to the continent in general, I do not use the term “European”. I understand individual identities and people’s right to them. But then, I am an African. So, I’ve come to accept and embrace the fact that I am, in fact, African, not minding the fact that it is a continent of about 54 countries of which I know only a few. I am wearing the badge of “an Africa” and very proudly so, not minding the fact that I have spent a good part of my life outside Africa.  And, I am African.

As I laid claim to my new insignia, I got curious and started reading everything I could lay my hands on about Africa and Africans. I started watching documentaries, even You-tube videos and the variety of information are as mind-blowing as some of them are bogus. In the process, I have discovered things and I am still discovering more…

So, now, I am African. And, I have never felt prouder. Not a conceited and uninformed pride. I am just simply proud of an identity that has, over the years,  proved impossible to describe and defied all tags.  I have therefore become proud of a supposedly inexistent status. Because, I found that Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist, was probably right when he said in his book “Shadow of the Sun” that Africa does not in fact exist.

Then I ask, who really is an African? What is Africa? How do you begin to describe or define this phenomenon? For, Africa is indeed a phenomenon. An amazing continent, the hearth to humanity, home to over a billion people. Covering all four hemispheres, with oceans, highlands, mountains, jungles, deserts and even a glacier.  Africa is a place of superlatives, a continent of such extraordinary diversity that almost anything you say about it collectively is both true and untrue, depending on where you stand literally and figuratively. However, one thing is common to all of Africa: it is subject to entirely different rules. What is true in Europe and indeed in the rest of the world will probably not hold waters in Africa; and what is an article of faith in Africa will be totally incomprehensible for the rest of the world.

Africa is different and Africans are different. They seem to operate by a different set of rules. For an African, time is not, in the European sense, a master to which one is enslaved. On the contrary, time only exists when things happen. Thus a bus will leave a terminal when it is full, a ceremony will take place when everybody turns up. A meeting will be declared open when the participants arrive. You might criticise this notion all you want, but it is Africa. Not necessary right or wrong. It just is what it is.

Hospitality means different things to different people at different times, but the door of an African will be permanently open to the stranger, not minding the time of the day, when mostly the rest of the world is hospitable only when it’s convenient (and I’m not in the least saying this wrong).

Marriage and family life is different and the confines are as wide as the excesses that abound. Every child you see in African is your own and you see people being generous with food as well as with instructional discipline towards every child they encounter.

Most people who have visited Africa are overwhelmed by both the beauty and the squalor of the continent, and puzzled both by its generosity and its extremes. Some are fascinated by the states of mind, the essential beliefs, of the myriad people called Africans: some have obsessions with ancestors, others with portents, others with cattles and some with religions and spirits.  There are some people who are stuck with their ideas of Africa as a place of darkness, poverty, sickness, hunger and evil.

I am African, and I stand tall and proud.
I’m neither poor nor wretched.
I have a good education.
I wear shoes and I wear clothes.
I might not yet claim to be a millionaire in monetary terms, but I have a full and very rich life and I have enough to take care of myself and my own.
My life is so full of love and miracles and I feel both grateful and blown away.
I have the heritage of a rich and diverse culture.
I do not have HIV nor Ebola.
And, I am African.

When people write about Africa, they depict it as a place and a people to be pitied, abhorred or dominated. There seems to be an unwritten agreement between most authors and writers, and indeed most media houses when it comes to writing about Africa. An agreement to make Africa a place of gloom, of barbaric people and of untold hardship.

I have personally felt enormous pity for Africa as I devoured books and articles. I have also been engulfed by an anger, rage, and indignation as I perused some of these write ups. I have gone from exasperation to a feeling of forlornness as I saw the picture that is still being painted of Africa. But, I am African.

As a non-African, as you explore information, all sorts of emotions will be stirred up in you every time you hear about Africa. You will be made to cringe in both horror and embarrassment. You might be appalled and mystified by the bizarre and outlandish ways.

But, if you ever get to visit Africa, you will be taken-aback by the smiles on the faces of most Africans. You will be witness to the joy they express in simple things. The happiness and a sense of contentment they still posses. You will be blown away and astounded at not only the beautiful sunset, but also the warmth from the heart of the African.

Undeniably, there will be lots of sentiments about Africa. But, I find that, no matter how strong or fleeting they are, these feelings and emotions are usually only half-informed. They never tell the whole story. Because, nobody has been able to describe in words what or who Africa and Africans really are. The diversity and the richness of Africa easily shatters all stereotypes about the continent. Its landscapes, its cultures and its people makes it absolutely impossible to put this beautiful continent and its countries in a tag.

And today, as I lay claim to this identity, as I accept the bold title of “an African” I am aware that when people refer to me as an Africa, it is with equal ease that they concede the same citizenship to leopards, and lions and elephants and the black mamba and the mosquito and recently also the Ebola virus.  But, I am not fazed. Because, you see, I am African.

Being an African qualifies me to define for myself what I want to be.
So, I constantly chose my own identity.
And I rise above the negativity, the condescending attitude from others, the patronising and complaisant way some people look at me.
And, I stand tall, like the eagle. I wear the badge with pride.
I am proud of Africa and I am proud to be an African.
I am, indeed an African.


Contributed by Jane Oma of My Ruby Heels. Jane writes from the heart and is a coach, teacher, business communications consultant and motivational speaker who currently resides in Madrid, Spain.  You can also find Jane on Facebook.

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The Gift of Sally Ride’s Secret

I stayed up until 4 a.m. last night reading Lynn Sherr’s biography, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, an unwise choice, given my schedule for today. Now, I’m sitting on my flight home to Seattle from NYC, where I just finished it, sniffling quietly, hoping my seatmate doesn’t notice my tears. After I read the last page, I spent several minutes flipping through the photographs in the center of the book, staring at the various renditions of this famous woman, pictured from infancy into her fifties, then rereading snippets of pages, marveling at her complexity and wondering at the price she paid for the choices she made.

Sally RideIt’s an amazing story of a remarkable woman. I am crying again as I type. I don’t really know why, though. Yes, Sally Ride inspired me. Purposeful, poised, fantastically competent, wildly successful, all that is true. Beyond being the first American woman astronaut to launch into outer space, she advised Presidents, served on national commissions, founded a social enterprise (Sally Ride Science). But at heart, she was a scientist who loved sharing her passion for physics and learning, asking questions and seeking answers. She not only showed what women are capable of doing in an era far different than today and paved the way for others to follow her, but she helped widen the road for all girls to imagine themselves doing anything they set their sights on.

Not merely an advocate for expanding girls’ access to science and improving science education for everyone, Sally Ride created innovative and engaging learning opportunities that reached millions of girls in their critical learning years and altered their self-perceptions and their futures. Countless girls not only discovered science, but developed their own lifelong passions for delving deep into the universe’s many mysteries.

The litany of Sally Ride’s accomplishments is impressive, but it was her authenticity that really struck me. That’s an odd thing to say, because she hid the fact that her life partner for 27 long years, way back to 1985, was a woman. She never mentioned that fact in public, and only on extremely rare occasions did she acknowledge this most intimate and important of relationships to her friends. In fact, she even lied outright on occasion to keep her secret. Of course people in her inner circle knew, but they followed her silent lead, in collusion to keep not just her image pristine, but her ability to impact others’ futures intact.

What did that cost her, I wonder? I fell in love with a woman for the first time in 1982. A year later, unable to align the mismatch between my public face and my private passion, I unceremoniously dumped my girlfriend. I hated myself for doing it, but I hated myself more for feeling like a fake and a liar. The risk of losing the respect and love of people important to me was simply too steep. So, I sacrificed a core part of myself, and kept it underground. So deeply did I bury this part of myself that I got married 18 months later, created a family with my husband that grew to include three children and simply forgot that I might be gay. But can one forget something so essential about oneself?

Sally Ride led a bifurcated life too. She didn’t forget part of herself, she just chose not to present it to the world. I am fascinated by her success in transforming the world while hiding part of herself. She was hyper-aware that her success would determine the extent of opportunities for the women who came after her. That was a responsibility she both welcomed and respected. And clearly, a pragmatist to the core who faced the facts despite the potentially high emotional cost of doing so, she was determined to succeed, as much for herself as for the future.

I understand Sally Ride’s decision to remain in the closet. In seeking to change the world’s outlook in important ways, she rightly sensed that public awareness of her sexuality would only hurt her ability to fulfill her highest purpose. Painful to admit, but she would have accomplished far less. Sally was deeply wedded to generating social change, and I can only admire her willingness to keep that goal front and center. Courageous and authentic, she lived her life to accomplish what she saw as most important.

Looking from afar, I’d guess Sally was satisfied with the life she led. She reached for the stars and got damn close. She didn’t stop to ponder the trade-offs, she just did what the job required. Her longtime partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ph.D. maintains that Sally was an optimist, always looking forward, not one to regret or resent past events, although she also consistently avoided delving deeply into her feelings. That approach makes sense. Keeping focused on the public good likely gave Sally Ride enough sustenance to justify her secret-keeping. I’m only sorry she wasn’t able to live long enough to realize the progress of American culture and relax the rigid boundary between her public image and her full identity. Now I know why I’m crying; because Sally gave up so much to give us so much.


Ginny Gilder is two-time Olympian, a serial social enterprise entrepreneur, co-owner of WNBA’s Seattle Storm and a dedicated humanitarian. The mother of three children, step-mother of two, and grand-mother of one, Ginny lives with her wife, Lynn, and their two poodles in Seattle, WA, USA.  Her memoir “Course Correction” will be released April 14th, 2015 from Beacon Press.

 This story was originally posted on December 19, 2014 and has been re-printed with permission from  You can follow Ginny on Twitter or Facebook

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The Gift of Life

“They said it’s cancer,” my mom said on the other end of the line.

I got up from the table where I was playing ‘Princesses’ with the little girls I was babysitting and paced the hallway.  “Oh?” I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking.

“Yes,” mom continued. “Al amyloidosis with multiple myeloma. They said it’s usually found in people with Mediterranean descent, so maybe Nana (her mother) secretly slept with someone other than my father,” she laughed.

Images courtesy of Natalya Jones

Images courtesy of Natalya Jones

I backed up against a wall and slowly eased myself to the floor as I forced myself to laugh. “Oh, that Nana,” I lamely said, ignoring the tears springing to my eyes.

I hung up the phone and resumed babysitting. I remember not being able to concentrate on the drive home, missing the highway exit and having to reroute. Seriously? Cancer? That doesn’t happen to my mom, or people I know. This happens in stories or movies where the main character has a bucket list or cheesy romance of some sort. Not in my family. Not with my mother.

I couldn’t even wholeheartedly enjoy the Heat basketball Championship that night, one of my favorite teams.

I even remember thinking, “Well, shit. She’s handling it well. How can she even joke at a time like this?” I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my mother could laugh despite such a horrendous setback. She is always able to keep it together, always. Whether it was concerning a messy divorce, raising five children, working four jobs or even attending to things I needed help with, like a collegiate term paper, she always seemed to make things work. How? Don’t ask me. I only admire what she does. I do, however, wish I could duplicate it.

I mean, come to think of it, my mother really does have an impressive rap sheet. Ph.D, daughter, mother, sister, teacher, friend, author, lover, she wears many hats. And she does it gracefully and with humor. The fact is, throughout this whole terrible ordeal, she STILL manages to give to others. Like how I come home at midnight after working two jobs and she tries to stay awake to say hi. Or how she sits down at the table to help my brothers with their homework with the absolute utmost patience and drives to see my sister for lunch, even if it’s only for half an hour.

People in her workplace are astonished by her. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen her get hugged and thanked by parents she works with, or how her students look at her in admiration.  Even fellow coworkers have a big smile on their faces after a chat with my mom. “Claudia,” they say. “It’s Dr. Jones,” she playfully shoots back, grinning. It’s truly inspiring to see how many lives she touches and has touched.

I can set up and help out with a few fundraisers here or there. I can create a Facebook page and a fundraising site. I can make a binder to help her organize her various medications and doctor visits. But can I take cancer away? No. Can I take away the pain she’s feeling, the swelling in her ankles, the uncomfortable cathe in her chest, help her grow her hair back? No, but I wish. I wish it were me so she didn’t have to go through this.

She doesn’t deserve this. She doesn’t need to be inflicted with this horrible disease. But you know what? The joke is on cancer. It really is, because cancer doesn’t affect people long term who are fighters or who have a strong spirit. My mother has all that and more.

She’s a survivor. Years from now, this is going to be just a minor bump in the road. She’s going to be at our weddings, see my brothers graduate, see me and my sister excel in our careers. I can’t wait till she holds her grandkids and I can tell them what an amazing person she is. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without her and I thank her for everything but most importantly, the gift of life.


Contributed by Natalya Jones who graduated from Stetson University with a major in Communication Studies and minors in Journalism and Marketing. She is currently a project manager at and a freelance writer for the Broward New Times, The Atlantic Current, and the South Florida Gay News.

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Why I Wear My Mother’s Robe

My mother died four years ago. Every morning I wake up, and without thinking I put on her robe. Of all the precious things she gave me; a sense of humor, a love of Mondays, her favorite ring and her golf shoes, it is her robe I love the most. It is soft, pink, and what was. It has a hole in the pocket where she stuffed her Kleenex. It is the robe she drank her coffee in each morning, and now without fail, I do the same.

Michelle Sweeney Frost and her mom, Olive Sweeney

Michelle Sweeney Frost and her mom, Olive Sweeney

As her beautiful mind diminished and her frail body followed its lead, she wore this robe. As the things that once held importance for her became less important; talking, reading, cooking, driving, traveling, shopping, and even lipstick, she wore this robe. She wore it on the good days and she wore it on the bad days.

Looking back at the early stages of her illness I am reminded of the subtle messages she was giving us as the dementia nestled in her brain. Shopping, one of her favorite outings, we went regularly as she would say with delight, “let’s go buy something cute!” One day as we entered the doors of the frequently visited department store she questioned, “everything looks different, I think they have remodeled?” Days later she called to ask me, “do you ever just look in the cupboard and everything looks different?” The answer to both of these questions was a resigned no. The question as perplexing to her as it was to me.

During the early descent to the hiatus of her memory my mother still had awareness, and by extension, shame of her little foibles. She became quite clever at the resultant cover-ups. How many times she endured the in-turn shaming comment “mom, I told you that” by saying, “oh that’s right you told me that.”

One day, while playing her favorite game of golf, I watched in astonishment as she teed off the same mat she had teed off of countless times before, only this time, 90 degrees in the wrong direction. The golf ball seemed intentionally sent into the apple orchard, as opposed to the fairway. She was embarrassed.

When the brain scan revealed atrophy and a likely diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease I heard her say for the first time in her life. “I am scared.” Soon there were gaps in our daily conversations. As those gaps widened the depth of our conversations narrowed and soon we didn’t talk by phone at all.

There were other signs of her decline. Mom reflexively read and re-read the same book. Her signature colorful and sassy clothes were replaced by a go-to beige wool coat. It was as if her brain were somehow matching the messages she was sending in her wardrobe.

Knitting, once a favorite pastime, she knit over a hundred wool scarves, hanging onto the well worn directions that would tell her how many rows she needed to finish her project. As time wore on her pace was slowed by the need to constantly measure her progress. Every five minutes the retractable measuring tape provided the same answer. Before long, she put her knitting needles aside too.

Dementia is a tricky thief. Like Swiss cheese, on good days, she held up the cheese and saw me through the hole. On those days we remembered our life together. Our family vacations to the San Juan Islands and the record shop she owned in the 50’s. On other days she saw the cheese. The cheese was reflected in her now pin-point pupils and ever present blue eyes. It was on these days she involuted; quiet, sullen, bored and vacant.

If I could take anything back it would be the “mom, I told you that” comments. I think more perceptively I would have said, “Mom, I am sorry you don’t remember.” I wonder how my own super-charged-fear fueled those comments. My fear of losing her slowly, painfully, and in front of me.

My mother died on November 2, 2010 with her family by her side. I am not sure that I can assign the words, “Died in peace” to her exit, or to our experience of bidding her farewell. I can say she loved her life, and going on without us was not easy for her. I do take comfort in the fact she told me earlier in the day, “My sister is coming to get me.”

My grief is not the grief of missed opportunity or the grief of searing pain that comes in waves. My grief is like the robe, soft and pink and a little tattered. It is the place that I find her and the place that I lost her. I will continue to wear the robe and like a child with his favorite blanket, will likely need to cut it down to size, until it fits nicely in my purse. For like her, it will go with me, for as long as I remember.


Contributed by Michelle Frost, Resiliency Coach, Writer, Cancer Mom, Palliative and End of Life Care Consultant.  Through her work, as well as her personal experience as a Cancer Mom and as the daughter of parents, both of whom had Alzheimer’s disease, Michelle shares her perspective.  You can read more on her blog.


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How Maya Angelou Inspired Me to Write

I was seventeen and at my best friend’s house for her seventeenth birthday party. Despite being really good friends I couldn’t bring myself to share with her what had happened to me when I was aged seven, such was the shame and guilt I had wrongly heaped upon myself.

But my friend, her name was Jennifer was not only very smart, she was also very intuitive and in the middle of her birthday celebrations she handed me a book and said to me with compassion and conviction, “I think this book will help you.”

The book my friend gave me that day was I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya About Maya 1Angelo. By the time I woke up the next day and opened to the title page and read her inscription:

I was hooked. Do you know that feeling you get in your tummy when you know you’re onto something but you don’t know exactly what? When turning the page of the book feels exciting, an adventure in print, filled with anticipation and not knowing all wrapped into one. That’s what it was like as I began reading.

Up until that point in my life I had never read a book by a black author, someone who had the same skin colour as me. The fact that Maya was a black woman was in my mind revolutionary, a revelation and at the same time deeply affirming.

In a moment my perception of what was possible for me to achieve and become in my lifetime, changed fundamentally.  If Maya was similar to me and could write and be published then maybe so could I. Maya planted the seed.

Reading on I discovered from those very first pages how much we shared in common. Even though we lived thousand of miles apart in different countries and in geographically very different landscapes.

I lived on the edge of London in what my friends at the time called the suburbs and Maya had grown up in the rural South. We shared the experiences of racism also Maya was at the deeper end of living in the segregated South.

Where our lives joined was that we both grew up in the arms of the black church, hers rural, mine in the inner city.  Where our lives deeply connected and became the medicine because Maya told the story I so needed to hear was our shared early childhood trauma experiences of sexual abuse and rape.

Reading Maya’s story was medicine for me. Here was a woman, not so different from myself, having the courage to tell her story despite her rapist being found dead after she revealed his name and her not speaking for five years because she believed her voice had the power to kill.

There it was in print for the world to see. She had thrown light on her story, taken it out of the dark and made it visible. There it was in black and white print. Her story could not be erased. It was a powerful early lesson demonstrating how writing about our wounds heals.

By sharing the story of being raped Maya bought my story out of hiding. For so long I had imagined that I was a freak, that I was alone in my suffering and that I could never recover from what had happened to me. Maya’s story offered me the possibility of a new and different ending.

By the time I had gotten to the end of the book I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to write and share my story in the hope that my words would touch the souls and spirits of other young women like myself who were living in a prison of shame, guilt and feelings of worthlessness.

Such was the impact of Maya Angelou’s story and the subsequent volumes of her autobiography and poetry that when my daughter was born in 1988 I named her Aida Maya after my sheroe.

Twenty years later after first reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings I wrote my first book “Soul Purpose”, which was also autobiographical. On page one I dared to write about what had happened to me even though at the time I wasn’t willing or should I say ready to go into the fuller details.

But there’s no doubt in my mind that reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was the catalyst for writing my first book and for me having the courage to reveal what had happened to me. Maya had planted the seed. She awakened the thirst in me. She made me hungry to get to know myself by writing and claim a life as a writer and a story teller.

Jackee Holder meeting Maya Angelou

Jackee Holder meeting Maya Angelou

Years later thanks to the generosity and friendship of Tony Fairweather from the Write Thing literacy agency I got to meet Maya several times when she performed in a regular show she did when in the UK at Lewisham theatre in the heart of South London.

Over the years I’ve met many writers and authors that I’ve admired and have been as equally disappointed by some of the behaviour and attitudes displayed off stage.

But not Maya. She was exactly as she was on stage as she was off. She was open, warm and welcoming. She would not favour one person over another. When she spoke to you she gave you and only you her undivided attention and presence. She would call us by our names in the deep velvet, honey voice that was loved and admired.

At the after show receptions held for her she stayed until the last hand was shaken and the last person spoken with. Such was her presence, her grace and her generosity of spirit.

When she spoke with you it was that same dialect, the same tone and pitch that would have you rocking in your seat as she recited the words of one of her poems,

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still like dust I rise.

I cannot tell you how many boardrooms and corridors of power where the words of that poem vibrated in my head causing me to anchor my feet to the floor and stand my ground and find my voice. It was Maya coming to my rescue, helping a sister out, her voice singing in my ears.

So Maya is no longer with us but she has left behind a rich legacy in her stories, her writing, her poems and the multitude of speeches and talks she gave in her lifetime.

I am deeply thankful for her life and the impact her story had on me as that young seventeen year old. I am thankful to my dear friend Jennifer who had the foresight to reach out to me through Maya’s book.

This life is but a feather in the wind. At some point we all cease being in this form, in this body. But whilst we are here with breath still in our bodies, still able to move our hands and our finger lets remind ourselves how much our lives matter, our stories matter. Writing and telling our stories matters.

When we write the truth on the page it will be medicine for someone, not everyone, but someone somewhere, will be touched. So we have to write. We must write. We must share and tell our stories.

Writing changes lives and lives are changed by writing is my strap line, and Maya Angelou is a testimony to this.


Contributed by Jackee Holder who believes that “every time a woman dies a library of books goes up in flames”.

Jackee is an executive leadership coach and coach trainer working across a range of sectors  She loves writing and is the author of “Soul Purpose”, “Be Your Own Best Life Coach” & “49 Ways To Write Yourself Well”. This year she has introduced a six-week online course that shows how journal writing is a restorative practice that will help you become more of who you truly are.

You can visit her website or follow her on Twitter @JackeeHolder

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20 Inspiring Women We Lost in 2014 : A Tribute

Every year we lose many women that have led incredible lives however some of them may not been remembered in the lists that are compiled at year’s end.  Inspired By My Mom is starting a traditional of paying tribute to women that led fascinating and inspirational lives yet may not have been as celebrated for their achievements and contributions as they deserve to be.  These ladies need to be brought to the forefront of herstory and recognized for their contributions.  This may not be a complete or exhaustive list but it is done with heart and includes women from various walks of life, countries and occupations.

Alice Coachman Olympics

Alice Coachman arriving home from the Olympics.

Alice Marie Coachman was an American high jumper and the first African American woman to become an Olympic champion by winning a gold medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England.  She was also the only American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics that year with her medal being was presented by King George VI. When her athletic career ended, she went on to become a teacher where her accomplishments served as inspiration for her students. This ground-breaking athlete passed away this summer at 90 years young.

Anahita Ratebzad was the first Afghan woman to play an active role in government and one of the few Afghan women to become a medical doctor. On May 28, 1978 she wrote the famous editorial in the New Kabul Times which declared: “Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country … Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.” She died in September at the age of 82.

Anna Niedringhaus, a German photojournalist with the Associated Press, was shot and killed at the age of 48 in an attack in Afghanistan while covering the country’s 2014 presidential election in April. The journalist was part of an independent election commission convoy delivering ballots under the protection of the Afghan National Army and Afghan police. An Afghan policeman opened fire at the car she was waiting in at a checkpoint, part of an election convoy.

Barbara Washburn

Barbara Washburn

Barbara Washburn was an American mountaineer who became the first woman to climb North America’s highest peak Denali (Mount McKinley) in 1947. She did not realize her achievement until after the ascent. With her husband, she completed a large-scale map of the Grand Canyon, published as a National Geographic magazine supplement in July 1978. The Washburns later produced the most detailed and accurate map ever made of Mount Everest. Barbara passed away a few weeks short of her 100th birthday.

Christine Daure-Serfaty was a French human rights activist and writer who arrived in Morocco in 1962 where she embraced the fight of the victims of King Hassan II during the “Years of Lead”.  She was the first person to denounce the existence of the secret prison of death, Tazmamart and  helped pen “Notre ami le roi”(“Our friend, the King”) by Gilles Perrault, a book that exposed the prison and Hassan II’s regime.  As a result, many prisoners were saved from certain death. In 1991, she was expelled from the country and was only allowed to return after Hassan II’s death. Christine Daure-Serfaty died on 28 May 2014 at a hospital in Paris at 87.

Eva Antonie Kløvstad (née Jørgensen)  Despite the fact that she was a female and very young, she took part in resistance work during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. From 1944 she served as assistant to the leader of Milorg district 25 (D-25), who was shot by the Gestapo later in 1944 at which point Eva became the de facto leader of the district which had about 1,200 underground soldiers. It was not until the 1980s, when the interest in women’s efforts during WWII grew, that Eva Kløvstad (Codename “Jacob”) spoke publicly about her work with the resistance in Norway. She passed away at the age of 92.

Florentina López de Jesús

Florentina López de Jesús

Florentina López de Jesús was a traditional Amuzgo weaver born into a poor family in Xochislahuaca, Guerrero, Mexico in 1939. She learned to weave cotton garments by watching and imitating her mother starting at age six.  Tina, as she was known by friends and family, worked to promote Amuzgo textiles and the rights of indigenous women. In 1969, she founded the first cooperative for women weavers in her hometown. Her work was recognized worldwide by various awards she received and has been exhibited in museums and various international exhibits, including one in Spain in 2001 that attracted the attention of Queen Sofia. López de Jesús died at age 74 from a heart attack and most of the town attended her funeral.

Geraldine Fredritz Mock (Jerrie Mock) was the first woman to fly solo around the world. Her trip started on March 19, 1964 in Columbus, Ohio and ended 29 days, 21 stopovers and almost 22,860 miles (36,790 km) later when she landed her single engine Cessna 180 the “Spirit of Columbus”.  She was subsequently awarded the Louis Blériot medal from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1965. This American pilot and flying pioneer died in September at the age of 88.

Hazel M. Sampson (nee Hall) was an American Klallam elder and language preservationist. She was the last native speaker of the Klallam language though some younger members continue to speak it as a second language.  Born in 1910 to William Hall and Ida Balch Hall, she was the granddaughter of Lord James Balch, the founder of Jamestown and the namesake of both the town and the Tribe. Her parents taught her the Klallam language though she later learned English as a second language. She was a member of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe of Washington and the oldest member of the Klallam communities at the time of her death in 2014 at 103 years old.

Jadwiga Piłsudska-Jaraczewska

Jadwiga Piłsudska-Jaraczewska

Jadwiga Piłsudska-Jaraczewska was a Polish pilot, who served in the Air Transport Auxiliary in Britain during the Second World War. She was the younger of two daughters of Marshal and Naczelnik Józef Piłsudski, a Polish statesman and Poland’s de facto leader until 1935.  Jadwiga left her homeland when Poland was invaded in 1939 and she acquired her aircraft pilot’s license in Britain. With the rank of Second Officer, she flew unarmed military aircraft in the dangerous skies of wartime Britain and was one of several Polish women who served as wartime ferry pilots. She passed away at 94 in Warsaw, Poland where she returned after the fall of the Communist government.

Mae Keane, at the age of 107, was the last of those known as the “Radium Girls” who worked at a watch factory where she and her co-workers were taught a specific technique for applying luminous paint to the numbers on wristwatch dials. Instructions were “Put the tip of the tiny brush between your lips to shape the bristles into the finest of points.” One by one, the dial painters began, mysteriously, to fall ill.  Their teeth fell out, their mouths filled with sores, their jaws rotted, they wasted away, weakened by an apparently unstoppable anemia. Soon after, nine of the dial painters – women in their 20s – were dead. The “glow-in-the-dark- paint” was radium and it was killing them.  Fortunately for Mae, she only lasted at her position for a few months. Even after working there such a short while, she lost all her teeth and suffered from bouts with cancer.

Maya Angelou, an American author and civil rights activist, left us mourning her passing in May having lived 86 full and amazing years.  She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including as a journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa. She published autobiographies, books of essays and poetry as well as being credited with a list of plays, movies and television shows spanning over 50 years.  She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.  In 2010 she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  Maya Angelou had not only lived to see the first African American elected president but had also been recognized by him for her important contributions.

Molly Lamb Bobak

Molly Lamb Bobak

Molly Bobak (née Lamb) was the first Canadian woman artist to be sent overseas to document Canada’s war effort, in particular the work of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC).  She was sent to London after V-E Day in Europe where she met her artist husband who encouraged her work throughout her life. Molly Bobak received numerous awards during her artistic career, including honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada in 1995.  She died in March at 92 and will be remembered through her works that are in museums and private collections around the world.

Nadine Gordimer was a South African writer and anti-apartheid activist who passed away in July at 90 years old.  She grappled with the injustices and politics of apartheid, and her works, such as Burger’s Daughter and July’s People, were banned by the then regime. When she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, Alfred Nobel recognized her as a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”.

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, better known as P. D. James, was a British crime writer.  Born in Oxford, England in 1920, she left school at sixteen to help support her family. She married in 1941, but when her husband returned from World War II with health issues, she became the family provider.  She worked for a hospital board in London from 1949 to 1968, but started writing in the mid-1950s.  Her first novel ,Cover Her Face, introduced the character of Adam Dalgliesh who was featured in many of her novels.  She received numerous honours throughout her life and, in 1991, James was created a life peer as Baroness James. She died at her home in Oxford on November 27, aged 94, and is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Princess Jin Moyu

Princess Jin Moyu. aged 19 on left

Princess Jin Moyu, also known as Aisin Gioro Xianqi or Aixinjueluo Xianqi, was the last surviving Manchu princess. Born in China in 1918, she lived in Japan as a student however chose to move back to Beijing when she was nineteen years old. Her older brothers lost most of the family fortune in 1948 following the Chinese Civil War and fled to British Hong Kong, leaving Jin Moyu destitute and taking care of her daughter and a large extended family. In February 1958, Jin was arrested at her home and imprisoned, solely for being a descendent of the Qing Dynasty imperial family. She was released to a forced labour camp in 1973 and continued to struggle until 1978 when she wrote a letter to Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping pleading for a job, a request he eventually granted. During the 1980s, Jin began planning to create a Japanese language school in China which she opened in 1996.  Jin Moyu, the last living Manchurian princess, died at a Beijing hospital in May at the age of 95.

Shirley Temple Black, US delegate to the United Nations

Shirley Temple Black, US delegate to the United Nations

Shirley Temple Black, an American child actress and diplomat, passed away in February at the age of 85.  She began her film career when she was only three years old and was “American’s Sweetheart” and Hollywood’s number one box-office star from 1935 to 1938.  Her popularity waned as she reached adolescence however, in later years, she re-invented herself and entered politics.  In 1972, Shirley Temple Black was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. In deciding to announce it to the media she became one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer and encourage other women who required the surgery and treatment.

Sonia d’Artois (nee Butt) was born in Kent, England in 1924. Raised by her mother in the south of France, they returned to England when World War II broke out. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and at only 19, she was interviewed by the SOE (the Special Operations Executive).  She had just turned 20 when she parachuted into Nazi-occupied France as an undercover British agent with the code names Blanche and Madeleine. Working as a courier, she and her partner on the mission also recruited and trained people in the French resistance for sabotage and intelligence operations. After one of the other agents with her was shot during a battle, Sonya took on the additional role of Weapons Instructor. Sonia was made a member of the Order of the British Empire, and, about 10 years ago, received France’s Légion d’honneur. She passed away in Canada in December at the age of 90.

Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh was a Nigerian physician who is credited with having curbed a wider spread of the Ebola virus in Nigeria by placing patient zero, a Liberian-American, in quarantine despite pressures from the Liberian Government. After having dealt with a potential crisis and treating the patient, it was confirmed that she tested positive for the Ebola virus strain and she died at 57 in the afternoon of August 19th. Her only son, Bankole Cardoso, still mourns the loss of his mother, saying it’s becoming “more and more apparent exactly what she had done” by identifying patient zero.


Stephanie Kwolek. Her invention of Kevlar has saved countless lives.

Stephanie Louise Kwolek was born to Polish immigrant parents in the United States in 1923.  She attributed her attraction to science to her father who was a naturalist by avocation. Although she was interested in teaching, chemistry and medicine once she stated with DuPont on polymer research she found it so interesting and challenging that she decided to drop her plans for medical school. In 1965 she succeeded in creating the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness with the best known being Kevlar.  Having received many awards for her invention of the technology behind Kevlar, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994 as only the fourth woman member of 113.  She was 90 when she passed away this summer.


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