Women’s History Month | Ask Dr. Universe | Washington State University (2023)

March is a great time to celebrate women’s history and women in STEM.

I talked about Women’s History Month with Pamela Thoma and Jan Dasgupta of Washington State University. Thoma leads the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Dasgupta is the director of the Data Analytics program.

“The folks represented in different history and heritage months have always been important to the history of the United States—even before it was the United States,” Thoma said. “They push us to achieve its ideals.”

Those ideals include things like fairness.

Dasgupta is concerned about fairness in data science. Lots of decisions are made using data rules—called algorithms.

“If the people who are writing these algorithms are a very small, non-diverse group of people, it’s not a very good thing,” Dasgupta said. “We don’t like legislation without representation.”

That means people affected by rules should have a say in those rules.

Dasgupta thinks teaching kids about data science is a first step toward fairer data science. She said some people think data science is for math geniuses. But that’s not true. It starts with playing games and figuring out how you already use data to make good decisions. Being able to tell a story with data is just as important as the math.

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Have you ever played Uno? Sometimes you have two or three cards you could play. Do you just randomly lay one down? Or do you look at your options and think about the best choice for the game? You’re using data to decide.

Uno is one of the games Dasgupta uses to introduce data science. She hosts events for families who don’t have fair access to resources. She serves amazing food and guides people to think about games and activities in a new way. She pairs interested families with a data mentor.

The idea is that teaching kids about data science and helping them navigate the path to a data science career will bring lots of different people to data science. That would help make data-driven decisions fairer.

Dasgupta told me data science is a way to make a difference in the world. That’s what she did by seeing a problem and doing something about it.

I hope you enjoy these quick bios of historical women in STEM who also changed the world—and activities to explore their fields.

Data Science & Math

We couldn’t have gone to the moon without Katherine Johnson. She calculated the path to get there. Now she works on projects to connect kids with STEM.

Do you think “nurse” when you read the name Florence Nightingale? She was also a data scientist. She figured out that lots of soldiers were dying from preventable diseases. She made a graphic called a rose diagram to help people understand the data.

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Mollie Orshansky used math to understand poverty. Her guidelines are still used today to make policies that help people.

Computer Programming

One of the most notable computer programmers was Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. She wrote computer languages that use English instead of math code. That way more people could use computers to solve problems.

The first computer programmer was Ada Lovelace. She believed computers could do more than just solve math problems. She would be blown away by the internet!

The first programmable, all-electric computer—called ENIAC—was worked on by a group of six women. They didn’t get much credit back then, but their names were Betty Snyder, Kathleen McNulty, Jean Jennings Bartik, Ruth Licherman, Frances Bilas and Marlyn Wescoff.

  • Learn to code and share your projects with Scratch
  • Take free computer science and coding lessons at Code.org

Environment & Biology

One of the first scientists to inspire people to care for the environment was Rachel Carson. Her book Silent Spring showed that using too many pesticides hurts the earth.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas also cared about the environment—especially the Florida Everglades. She was a writer who fought for conservation, women’s rights and racial equality.

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It’s hard to hear the word “chimpanzee” without thinking of Jane Goodall. When she began studying primates, women weren’t accepted in the field—but Goodall’s work changed that. She’s the only human ever accepted into chimp society. She lived in a troop of chimps for nearly two years.

Molecular Biology

Jump! Jump around! Barbara McClintock is best known for discovering that some genes can “jump” or move around in chromosomes.

You might know the names of the guys credited with discovering the shape of DNA—but it was actually Rosalind Franklin who figured out the double helix. She didn’t get any credit for this work while she was alive.

The first coronavirus was identified by June Almeida. She was a famous virus scientist.

  • Make a DNA model with the American Museum of Natural History
  • Make an animal cell cookie with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
  • Learn about the Covid-19 Vaccine from Lisa Cooper and Jennifer Nuzzo
  • If you play Minecraft, try this Microbiome Map from the American Museum of Natural History


It used to be difficult to take care of clothes. Then chemists like Ruth Rogan Benerito figured out how to make wrinkle-free, stain-free cotton. She also worked out a way to turn seeds into something doctors could feed patients through an IV to save lives.

Mary Engle Pennington was a chemist who changed how food was processed, stored and shipped. She’s the reason we have safety standards for milk and other things that go in the refrigerator.

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Chemist Virginia H. Holsinger advanced public health around the world. She invented nutritious drinks that wouldn’t spoil. That’s useful for food donation programs. She also developed cereals to help people suffering from famine and war.

Tuberculosis is a serious disease that affects people’s lungs. Florence Seibert invented a test to detect the virus and keep people safe.

Engineering & Mathematics

Before computers became the norm, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden worked as “human computers.” They did complex math for NASA. Vaughan led the group. Johnson calculated the trajectory for the moon landing. She also wrote the first NASA report with a woman named as author. Jackson became the first Black woman engineer at NASA. Their story is told in the book and movie “Hidden Figures.”

Edith Clarke was also a “human computer.” She became the first woman electrical engineer in the United States.


Sally Ride was the first American woman to go to space. After she retired from NASA, she spent the rest of her life connecting students with STEM.

In the 1960s, a group of women trained to become astronauts. They were called the Mercury 13. They didn’t get to go to space, but they paved the way for the first women who did—like Sally Ride, Mae Jemison and Ellen Ochoa.

(Video) Talk 4: The Radio Universe by Dr. Barnali Das

The first professional woman astronomer in the US was Maria Mitchell. She discovered a comet and figured out its orbit.

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What is the theme for this years womens history month? ›

What is the theme for Women's History Month 2023? In 2023, the theme of Women's History Month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” This theme, designated by the National Women's History Alliance, will recognize women of past and present who have been active in all types of media and storytelling.

Is women's history month nationally recognized? ›

Women's History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub.

What are good questions to ask females? ›

Best Questions to Ask a Girl

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? What are three things that make you smile? What was the worst date you ever went on? What do you like to do on the weekends?

What questions should I ask a woman on women's Day? ›

International Women's Day – Questions Answered
  • Innovation and technology for gender equality – what does this mean to you? ...
  • Which women inspire you the most? ...
  • What do you think is the biggest issue women in tech/business are facing today? ...
  • Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman?
Mar 1, 2023

What are 7 ways to celebrate women's history month? ›

TL;DR - 8 Ways to Celebrate Women's History Month
  • Learn About Women in History and Share Their Stories.
  • Support Women-Owned Businesses and Professionals.
  • Watch Movies or Shows Directed by Women.
  • Read Books Written by Women Authors.
  • Play Games Created by Women.
  • Listen to Podcasts Featuring Women.
Mar 31, 2023

What is the color for women's history month? ›

Symbolically, purple is a hue that has been used for centuries to represent wealth, nobility, luxury and power. It is also a color used throughout modern history to represent the fight for gender equality and International Women's Day.

What are some of the most important events in women's history? ›

Understanding the history of women's representation helps to inform our work for gender parity.
  • 1776. Women's Advocacy in the White House. ...
  • 1848. The First Women's Convention. ...
  • 1872. First Woman to Run for President. ...
  • 1894. First Women State Legislators. ...
  • 1916. First Congresswoman. ...
  • 1920. Women Achieve the Right to Vote. ...
  • 1922. ...
  • 1924.

What is the 2023 theme for women's history month? ›

2023 Theme: Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.

What is the message of women's history month 2023? ›

The 2023 theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." This theme recognizes "women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, news, and social media."

What WTF is women's history month? ›

March marks a historic event: Women's History Month, which is important because it highlights the achievement of women both past and present who have helped build and mold this country.

Who is the most influential woman? ›

1. Kamala Harris — 34% Kamala Harris, 57, is the first female vice president and the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, as well as the first Black American and first South Asian American vice president.

What kinds of topics does women's history focus on? ›

Women's Stories of...
  • Migration & Immigration.
  • Engaging with the Environment.
  • Developing the American Economy. Women in the Labor Movement.
  • Shaping the Political Landscape. Black Women and the Struggle for Equality.
  • Arts, Culture & Education. Women and the Arts.
  • Science and Technology. ...
  • Encountering the World Community.
Jun 20, 2019

Why should women's history be taught in schools? ›

For girls, knowing women's achievements expands their sense of what is possible. For all of us, knowledge of women's strengths and contributions builds respect and nourishes self esteem — crucial to all children and adults now, and in the years to come. Educators are willing, often eager, to introduce women's history.

What is the hardest question to ask a woman? ›

Deep Questions to Ask Your Girlfriend
  • What's the biggest problem in the world? ...
  • Do you have any regrets in life?
  • If you could see into the future one time, what would you want to see?
  • What's your deepest secret?
  • Who comforts you the most?
  • How do you want people to remember you?
  • Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?
Feb 15, 2023

What are the 21 questions? ›

21 Questions List
  • What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?
  • If you could travel to any year in a time machine, what year would you choose and why?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What's one of the most fun childhood memories you have?
May 5, 2021

What are 3 random questions to ask a girl? ›

Random questions to ask a girl list
  • What word do you always misspell?
  • What is the ugliest vegetable?
  • What is the absolute worst movie you have ever seen?
  • What food do you crave most often?
  • What is the grossest sounding English word?
  • What silliest thing you get nostalgic for?
  • When is lying the right thing to do?

What is an interesting fact about women's history month? ›

National Women's History Month traces its roots to March 8, 1857, when women from various New York City factories staged a protest over poor working conditions. The first Women's Day celebration in the United States was in 1909, also in New York City.

What is the most important event in women's history? ›

Women Achieve the Right to Vote

On August 26, 1920, the women's suffrage movement came to a head with the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in all 50 states.

What is the history of the woman question? ›

The querelle des femmes or "woman question" originally referred to a broad debate from the 1400s to the 1700s in Europe regarding the nature of women, their capabilities, and whether they should be permitted to study, write, or govern in the same manner as men.

What is a fun trivia about women's Day? ›

21 Interesting International Women's Day Facts
  • Women's Day Was Officially Adopted In 1975. ...
  • Women's Day Is A Combined Holiday In Some Places. ...
  • Women's History Month. ...
  • Economic Growth Is Proportional To Educated Women. ...
  • Girls Are More Likely To Perish Due To Child Marriage. ...
  • Women Are Slowly Catching The Lead In Organizations.
Mar 13, 2023


1. 2021 Women’s History Month Assembly
2. The Interview That Ruined Katherine Heigl's Career Overnight
(Nicki Swift)
3. MOGULTalk® Celebrate International Women's History Month with Dr. Sharon H. Porter.
4. OperaCréole Celebrates Women's History Month
5. The Architecture of the Universe, Dr. Paul Davies, Arizona State University
(Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture Series)
6. Celebrate National Women's History Month 2023; The Theme “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
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