While substitute teaching recently, I saw a large poster on the classroom wall showing 4 famous women mathematicians.  Two in particular struck me as interesting.

One was Grace Murray Hopper, a Navy programmer until she retired at 60.  She was so important that the Navy recalled her to active duty 4 months later, and she retired for good at 80, the oldest officer serving on active duty in the armed forces and the first woman admiral.  She was instrumental behind the development of COBOL.

Amalie Noether, a German, received her Ph.D. in 1907, but prejudice against women kept her from anything other than volunteer jobs until 1929.  She taught in Germany for 4 years as a full professor, until the Nazis came to power, when she emigrated to the US, taught at Bryn Mawr and worked nearby at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton.

She died in 1935, and 22 years’ of skills were lost to the world due to prejudice against women.  Today’s Germany is far different; I know two physicists whose work is unbelievably good.  I was asked by one to check the English in her Ph.D. thesis.  Imagine, writing a Ph.D. thesis in a second language.  I’ve had a lot of math, but ich war im Kindergarten mit der Mathematik. I received a picture of the X-Ray Telescope she is helping build that will be launched from Baikonur in 2014 to L2, the second (of 5) LaGrangian Point, where the Earth’s gravity equals the Sun’s.

Here in the US, women may flip the ratio of men:women in science and math.  I like seeing a lot of women in these fields; as a past boy, I wonder what’s happened to the guys.  Hopefully, they will return; perhaps the President’s initiative to hire 99,999 math and science teachers (he said 100,000; I will work for free), may help.  We lost too many mathematicians to Wall Street, where some modeled the housing market with the incredibly stupid assumption that prices would never fall.  I once bought into the notion that the stock market always goes up, until I realized we had about 70 years of data.  We have a lot longer and better climate data saying the Earth is warming, but I don’t hear these same people saying the Earth will always get hotter, even as the Arctic ice pack this year shrank far below previous records, worse than experts predicted.  Oh, yes, that appears to have an effect on the jet stream’s waves, which affect ridges and troughs, high and low pressure.  I wonder if the 112th Congress knows that.  I doubt many; one on the House Science Committee believes women’s bodies can fight off “legitimate rape”; another thinks the Earth is 4000 years old.

I don’t worry that we will require women to teach without pay.  No, we will only forbid them to choose how to deal with their bodies.  Make no doubt about it.  The US is well on its way to making abortion illegal, including for rape or incest, which even Saudi Arabia allows, although like prohibition, it won’t be eliminated.  There are coat hangers and now Mexican drugs, which are given by non-licensed people, that will abort but desperate women who take these may bleed to death.

But that’s God’s will, right?  By the way, if you happen to believe that, what happens to the guy who made the woman pregnant?  Was he just “sowing wild oats” and the woman promiscuous?  Just curious, because there seems to be a double standard.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had DNA testing to find the father?  Maybe, we could give him a choice:  support the baby equally or have him wear a large “F” around his head, for “I fathered a child out of wedlock.”  It could stand for another word, too, the 21st century version of The Scarlet Letter.

What particularly disturbs me, in addition to the lack of care of the unwanted child that is ignored by the far right, many of whom want to dismantle Medicaid (“block grants” sounds better than dismantle, don’t they?), is the assault on birth control, which prevents many unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions.  I saw this coming, with attacks on Planned Parenthood.  Funding for PP, should Romney get elected, would be removed, and other services, like STD testing, curtailed.    The Church is against birth control, but did nothing about pedophilia for years.  It’s too bad boys can’t get pregnant.  I also find it interesting that the late Strom Thurmond, a racist senator from South Carolina, had a child by a black woman.  Wow, I can be hypocritical, but if hypocrisy were track and field, these guys would be Usain Bolt.

Perhaps I will be wrong.  On the other hand, five readings of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and studying the Challenger disaster taught me that small problems may become catastrophic if nobody speaks up.

Mankind is capable of unspeakable horror:  the Holocaust, Srebrinca, Katyn Forest, Rwanda, My Lai, stoning, and Maharashtra (a state in India, where an unwritable-by-me horror was committed upon a pregnant woman, and the perpetrators were not punished).

When a country is coming closer to banning abortion even in the case of rape or incest, what is the next step, forbidding women to have certain careers?  Oh, one says, this won’t happen.  Really?  Why not?  In 1925, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.  Eight years later, he was Chancellor.

To me, the ultimate irony would be for women and others emigrating from the US to countries where their skills would be welcomed, and their bodies respected.  Think that is impossible?  Then you probably believe the stock market always rises, people don’t need regulation, we should be on the gold standard, the climate is just fine, and that many countries are as strict on abortion as is the Republican platform.  There are only 5: Malta, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile.

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