Four area students were recently recognized as award winners in a Washington Health System Teen Outreach Women’s History Month essay and poetry contest.
Canonsburg Middle School seventh-grader Ella Branagan won first place for an essay in the middle school division. Washington High School student Angela Batson won first place in the high school essay competition, while Trinity High School student Kaylee Spadaro was awarded second-place honors. Shea Hatfield, a home-schooled student, won first place in the poetry competition.
The winning essays are included below; Hatfield’s poem appears on Page D2 .
Women of the past, future and present
By Ella Branagan
Women have endured countless trials and tribulations, but that has never stopped them from achieving greatness. Even now, they are not done making history. You could probably turn on the TV and see just how high the success of women has reached.
When I began writing this essay, it dawned upon me that I was so caught up in the present that I never stopped to think about the past. Without the women of history, we would never have the women of today. That being said, I do not want to undermine the achievements of the women of today or even in the future. Success can be found in all generations, so I have chosen to write about women from the past, present, and future.
Rosalind Franklin was a brilliant English chemist born in 1920. Her work on the molecular structures of DNA, more specifically the nucleic acid double helix, was critical to our knowledge of it today.
Her genius was only recognized after her death in 1958. Franklin had been at King’s College at the time, when one of her graduate students, Raymond Gosling, took the first picture of a strand of DNA scattered in an X-ray beam. It was due to her help with perfecting x-ray diffraction photography that he was able to take the photograph.
Without Franklin’s knowledge and least of all her permission, her fellow researcher, Maurice Wilkins took the photograph to James Watson. Watson, using the photograph as a blueprint, created a model of the double helix. James Watson and his partner Francis Crick published their work in the journal Nature in 1953. Wilkins published his work in the very same issue of the journal.
Almost a decade later, Wilkins, Watson and Crick received a Nobel Prize for their work on the nucleic acid double helix. Franklin, however, never got an ounce of credit even though it was her work that helped unravel the missing parts of the double helix. In recent years, people have discovered Franklin’s major contributions to the double helix and became outraged that she never got recognition.
Unfortunately, the Nobel Prize committee doesn’t confer awards posthumously, which means Franklin can never truly get the credit she deserves. While she was never officially recognized, people who hear her story today think of her as a hero in the science world. She is truly an inspiration to woman like me, striving to make a contribution to the science world.
While Rosalind Franklin was renowned for her contributions to science, a woman of the present, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is known for her involvement in politics. Alexandria is an American Democratic politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district. She is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress, taking office at age 29.
Ocasio-Cortez is also among the first female members of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to serve in Congress. Her gender and age alone make her stand out, considering that only 24% of Congress is female and, sadly, that’s the highest this percentage has ever been.
“A record number of women ran for congressional and gubernatorial posts in 2018, but women remained less than 25% of candidates on primary ballots across these levels,” said Rutgers Eagleton, from the Institute of Politics.
In her time in office, she has advocated a progressive platform that includes Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, a Green New Deal, and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or “ICE.” She is an icon for many young females everywhere for thriving in the male-dominated world of politics and many hope to see her go on to accomplish more great achievements.
While the past and present are focused on science and politics, I believe the future is about the environment. The state of the world, in a literal sense, is tragic. Global warming is growing worse as the days go on, but, thankfully, we have people who take notice and action upon this matter – one of whom is Greta Thunberg.
She is a renowned young Swedish environmental activist. She has had success in forcing world leaders to take notice of the climate crisis. Neither her age nor her gender has ever gotten in the way of her movement. She has been striving to help the environment from a very young age when she started to spend her school days with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet, which means, “School strike for climate,” outside the Swedish Parliament. Inspired by her tenacity, other students began to engage in other environment-related protest.
Together, they organized “Fridays for Future,” a school climate strike movement. With perseverance, she went on to participate in other environment-related protests and conferences. It would be easy to say she inspires others, but it has already been proven. Since her 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes take place every day around the world.
Today, she is currently 18 and still thriving. Greta Thunberg and women like her are the future of not only environmental change, but the world.
Rosalind Franklin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Greta Thunberg are three individual females that have inspired women everywhere but, in truth, there are so many others that have made history. It’s because of those women that we have so much good in the world. So, to all the women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I offer you my thanks!
Women treated unfairly in STEM fields
By Angela Batson
When you think of a scientist, who do you think of? Is that person male or female? Most likely male, correct? When thinking of a job that may require a higher intelligence level, people often lean more towards a male figure filling out that job position. Although there are multiple factors as to why this may be, gender norms and stereotypes have continued to affect the global thinking of who should be working specific jobs.
Despite this being a problem for all job fields, this is particularly a problem in STEM fields.
From the beginning of time, women were seen as inferior to men. Women were supposed to stay home and take care of the house and children while men went out and made money to put food on the table. Compared to that time period, today, society has made a huge improvement.
There is still a long way to go though. Social norms and stereotypes continue to present problems all over the world. Women are told where their place is in the world. Their work is also continuously overlooked.
In STEM fields, this happens quite often.
When you look back at all the scientific discoveries, your textbook usually only tells you the men who made groundbreaking discoveries, never the women. This is called the Matilda Effect. The Matilda Effect is the repression or denial of the contributions of female researchers to science. Throughout history, there have been many examples of this.
Some women that have been victims of this include Rosalind Franklin with the discovery of the double helix, Chien-Shiung Wu who participated in the development of the atomic bomb as well as disproving a physics law, Nettie Stevens with the discovery that an organism’s sex is dictated by its chromosomes, and many more female scientists.
All of these women had men take credit for their work.
Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, once said that women fought hard for their achievements only, “to have the credit attributed to their husbands or male colleagues.”
Not only were women’s discoveries stolen and credited to men, but they were treated unfairly overall.
Unfair treatment of women in STEM often discouraged them from even joining the field. Numerous studies have discovered that women in STEM fields publish less, are paid less for their research, and do not progress as far as men in their careers. Even after continuous movement for women’s rights which then made women in the workplace more of normalcy, women were still not treated as equals.
Persistent gender norms and stereotypes made men believe that women were not educated enough for this field of study.
Men would still overlook any work or research that women conducted. Although women have every right to be working in STEM, men still continue to degrade women for what they say and what they discover.
While the influence of gender norms and stereotypes on society today has significantly decreased over time, women are still treated unfairly in STEM fields of study. Women are often deemed to be not intelligent enough or unqualified to be researching sciences.
This can be seen all throughout history, even after women were able to start conducting research in the twentieth century.
After some time, maybe your textbooks will start to recognize the true scientists behind many groundbreaking discoveries, women.
Grace Hopper: The “Amazing Grace” of code
By Kaylee Spadaro
Grace Hopper once said, “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper lived by this quote in almost every aspect of her life. In 1906, when Admiral Hopper was born, it was rare for women to pursue higher education and even more unlikely for them to remain, unmarried, in a sophisticated profession.
She did not stop there, however, she also joined the navy and then helped develop the first computer programming languages. Her work in computer science created a whole new way to interact with and develop computers. Without it, advancements in technology would likely be much behind where they are today.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper paved the way for programming with her work in the late 1950s.
Since childhood, Grace Hopper was filled with curiosity about machines and their innermost workings. Both of her parents, being academics themselves, were wholly supportive of her curious nature and acted as an inspiration for her.
Once at age seven, Admiral Hopper disassembled all of the clocks in her house in order to understand the alarm mechanisms. Later, when she was eighteen, she paid a young stranger $10 to fly in his flimsy airplane. In today’s dollar value, she had paid almost $300 for this risky trip. Hopper made it through the airplane ride unharmed, and continued on to college in 1924. She attended Vassar College when many women her age would be settling down with their life partners.
In 1928 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics and won a fellowship to continue her education at Yale University. By 1930 Hopper had received a master’s degree in mathematics at Yale. Shortly after, Grace married English professor Vincent Hopper and secured an assistant math teacher’s position at Vassar, where she simultaneously earned her Ph.D.
From 1934 until 1943, Hopper taught at Vassar until tensions in the United States began to rise with World War II.
In 1943, two years after the United States entered World War II, Grace Hopper broke every rule to be able to join the U.S. Navy. She chose the Navy because her grandfather was a Rear Admiral and served as an inspiration to her.
Although mathematicians were not allowed to join the war effort- they were seen as more valuable at their current jobs- Hopper left her teaching position to gain eligibility. She also did not meet the weight requirement to be eligible for service in the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES). However, she was able to acquire a waiver and was subsequently sworn in.
This stint in the Navy was one of Hopper’s greatest contributions to the concept of Americanism. World War II was a fight for democracy, something that the dictator-run Axis powers were wholly against. Democracy is the backbone of the United States and Americanism, so her service in the Navy during this time helped to conserve these ideals.
In 1944, Hopper was promoted to Lieutenant, junior grade and reassigned to Harvard University to work on the first computer.
In desperate need of “the upper hand” in World War II, the United States turned to one of the first computers to hone their combat skills. Grace Hopper was the third person to program the Mark I, one of the first computers in existence. The Mark I was used to compute firing tables for the United States military.
It was during this time, programming the Mark I, that Hopper famously coined the phrase “computer bug” when a moth flew into the processor and overloaded the system. This term is used today to describe an error in coding that prevents the code from compiling. After the end of the war, she joined Harvard’s Computation Laboratory as a research fellow in engineering and a physicist in 1946. Three years later, Hopper joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation to work on the UNIVAC I, the first large-scale digital computer in existence.
Hopper created the A-O compiler on this computer. The compiler would translate mathematical symbols into binary code.
This opened the door for what could be considered Hopper’s largest accomplishment, the B-O compiler (also known as the FLOWMATIC) which could understand up to twenty statements in English. Many people doubted that writing to machines in English would ever be possible, but Hopper knew that she could achieve it.
The FLOWMATIC greatly influenced the first standardized programming language (also partially developed by Hopper), COBOL, which could be completely written in English. These languages have enormously influenced nearly every computer scientist that succeeded Hopper and advanced technology as it is known today.
In conclusion, Grace Hopper was a very influential woman both to the computer world, the naval world, and to all other women. She not only proved that it is possible for women to exist in sophisticated careers, but she also made enormous technological advances in what has generally been considered a man’s field.
Those men have no right
By Shea Hatfield
All through history women have been oppressed,
To the point, it turned many depressed,
Harming their right to vote and even dress,
When all they ever wanted was to live a fulfilling life.
But the men wouldn’t allow it,
Nowadays you’ll get detention if your skirt doesn’t exceed the below-knee line,
Sometimes as a woman, I feel as though I’m living a lie,
Am I supposed to be sweet, and kind,
Or am I supposed to stay quiet?
As a wise woman once said, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
In reality, it’s all about you,
What you do to create the change.
Women are raped, assaulted, and harassed each day,
It truly pains me to say,
That things have pretty much always been this way.
Women are fought with abortion,
Men say, “You can’t kill human life,” then end your obsession,
Every woman’s body is hers to control,
You have no right to make her pay a toll,
Of having a baby she can’t afford,
Or having to look after her abuser’s child,
Or even being a child, who has a child,
The men have no right.
No right to ask for pictures,
No right to not listen when we say, NO,
Those men have no right.
In reality, we’re all children,
Wondering around life with only a vision,
Of what you want to look like,
Who you want to be like,
The men may want a woman with an hourglass shape,
But who are they to say?
What I should look like, who I should be like,
Her body may be nice but, listen to her voice.