Sunday, November 15, 2009

What a noble mind


What a noble mind is here o'erthrown.

She was her class valedictorian in high school, and went to Berkeley at 17. She got a degree in Chemistry, and then during World War II was on the Manhattan Project. She met my Dad there, and after the war they got married on Groundhog Day, and went to graduate school at Brown University, where she was the first woman to get a PhD in Chemistry.

After they graduated, Dad went to teach at Washington State College. In those postwar days, when women were being shoved out of the jobs they had done so well during the war, anti-nepotism rules said that she could not work under the same dean as her husband, so that meant she couldn't teach in Math, Physics or Chemistry, all of which she was qualified for. A neighboring college had an opening for someone to teach Thermodynamics, which she had taken. Instead, they hired a man with a Master's who was taking it from my Dad while teaching it next door. And you know that in those days, a man with a Master's degree was not cheaper than a woman with a PhD.

So she worked odd jobs in many departments while raising their kids, and it was only long later that she got to teach in Chemistry, after suing the university. Their loss all those years; she was an excellent teacher. After Dad died, she went to law school at the University of Washington, at age 60. (She said she wished she had done it while she was "young & brilliant".) Then she worked at the EPA on a pesticide project that used both the law & chemistry.

She ran for state legislature twice (this news photo was taken then), and was one of the few people who actually enjoy the process of running. She was on her state board of medical examiners for years, and president of her local water board.

And now she asks the same question 5 times in 5 minutes, and never remembers the answers.
She said yesterday "How am I supposed to know whether I want to drink more milk or not?"

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