When the book “Women in Science: Then and Now” was first published in the year of 1983, the title was “Women in Science: 100 Journeys into the Territory”. The book included the portraits of 100 gifted and spirited women scientists painted by Vivian Gornick, and it was the first time that many women in science saw their own doubts, fears, and frustrations—“to see their own experience mirrored”—in pages of the book..
Twenty-five years later, the effort for women throughout the academic world has been measurably made, and the situations of women scientists have also been largely improved. But more subtle forms of inequalities and obstacles in women’s science career still exist, and prejudices and discriminations become institutionalized and are not very apparent unless we know where to look.
In this new volume, besides keeping the powerful portraits of 100 uncommon women scientists, Gornick further includes the stories of the women scientists she has revisited twenty-five years later, which completely revealed those pioneering women’s rigorous minds, passion for discovery, and their overwhelming efforts to balance a productive life and professional survival. From those stories, we could not only read women scientists’ life, persistancy and struggles, but also see the changes and efforts done from 1980 to 2008 to improve the situation of women scientists, as well as the necessity and urgency of further improvement in real equality for females in science.
The author, Vivian Gornick, is an American critic, essayist, and memoirist. She wrote for Village Voice during the early 1970s and reported on the explosion of American feminist consciousness through the prism of her own experience, and her willingness to use her own life experiences to tell a larger social story has become the hallmark of her writing.
In this volume, she narrated the stories of women scientists by describing her interview experiences with them and compared women scientists’ situations in mid-eighties with that in the year 2008. Instead of writing a collection of women scientists’ biography, Gornick distributed those stories into the three parts of her book as supportive evidences: The first part is about the thinking pattern for scientists and the women scientists’ passion for discovery; the second part is about the negative influence of prejudices and discrimination in women scientists’ careers; the third part involves the women scientists’ efforts to balance a productive life with professional survival. And each part involves two sections: then and now. “Then” describes the women scientists’ situations in mid-eighties, while “Now” compares the situation in past with that in present (2008). This structure provides a clear narrative line, which exhibits the changes and efforts in the real equality in women scientists’ careers in the past twenty-five years.
Vivian Gornick is good at writing impressionistic journalism, and this volume is a good example. Besides, Gornick also likes using comparison, analogy and metaphors in developing her thoughts. For example, when she was trying to illustrate scientists’ mind, she first described a writer’s mind of conceiving a fiction, then compared it with scientists, concluding “scientists do what writers do.” Also, in her words, science—like feminism—becomes a means of “demystifying the self and the environment.” All those vivid descriptions and interpretation make readers engaged in her writings and get to her points quickly and easily.