Mathematics for Ladies: Read exclusive poems on women in science - Hindustan Times

Mathematics for Ladies: Read exclusive poems on women in science

ByJessy Randall
Jun 08, 2024 03:07 PM IST

Take a look at three hilarious and heart-breaking poems from the book of verses on historical women in STEM

A librarian at Colorado College, Jessy Randall, 54 would often pore through books on historical women in science. She had read several biographies, memoirs, scientific articles, which prompted the idea of writing poems on the most interesting anecdotes she had read. After a while, it felt like some of the poems almost wrote themselves, she says. She compiled 70 such verses into the book, titled Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science (2022). “I’m very glad to be a writer in the age of the internet, because I don’t have to explain the entire back story for each poem – the reader can pursue more information without even getting out of their chair,” she says.


Take a look at three of her poems on: Bertha Benz, the German automotive pioneer known for setting off on the world’s first long-distance drive in the Patent-Motorwagen built by her husband, Karl Benz; British mathematician Charlotte Angas Scott and American professor and botanist Rachel Bodley.

Bertha Benz (1849–1944)

I wanted to see how far I could drive in one day.
We left at dawn, my sons and I.
No, I didn’t tell my husband. Why
should I have? I didn’t need his permission.
It was my money built those cars.
My sons thought it was a lark, stopping
in the little towns, the wind in our faces.

Those things you drive now are more like
tanks. We were picnicking on wheels.
A formidable bike. We made 66 miles
from sunup to sundown. Mannheim ate
our dust. Pforzheim was like another planet.

We didn’t return right away. We let Karl stew.
The car cooled down. I bought a new hat
and ate pastries. The boys ran about, taking
all the credit. As if anyone could’ve done
what I did. It’s all right. Their names may be
emblazoned on the signs, but I know
who I am and what drove me.

Charlotte Angas Scott (1858–1931)

When I was at college for mathematics
I attended Cambridge lectures

from behind a screen, of course.
So the male students couldn’t see me.

(I might have distracted them.)

And so I had to picture all the numbers
in my head. I had no view of the board.

Maybe the strain of all that imagining
is why I tied for 8th place on the exam.

Being female, I was not allowed
to attend the ceremony.
Nor could my name be read aloud.

But when the list got to 8th place
the men called out SCOTT
and cheered, and waved their hats.

Or so I’m told. I wasn’t there.

Rachel Bodley (1831–1888)

I was quite boring.
I did science.
I was meticulous.
I don’t have any funny stories about it.
Stop requiring women to be charming and delightful!
Just let us do our work.
Thank you

(Excerpted with permission from Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science by Jessy Randall, published by Goldsmiths Press; 2022)

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