Women of UC-Berkeley

Women of UC-Berkeley
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My current research on Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth has led me to contemplate the contributions of women, like Dr. Gilbreth, who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. When she attended, at the turn of the twentieth century, there was no tuition and most of the students lived at home, as she did. She was the first woman who gave a commencement address at the institution. Others followed in her footsteps. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The first living person to have an asteroid named for her.

____ 2. She held the top position in women’s tennis in nine years.

____ 3. The recipient of the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

____ 4. The first female to win the Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Correspondence.

____ 5. The mother of twelve, an industrial psychologist and engineer who helped lay the foundation for the field of industrial engineering.

A. Lillian Moller Gilbreth

B. Helen Wills

C. Chien-Shiung Wu

D. Marguerite Higgins

E. Maxine Hong Kingston

When Lillian Moller Gilbreth earned her bachelor’s degree in Literature in 1900 from the University of California and was asked to give the commencement address, she was the first woman to have done so. She would earn her master’s degree in 1902 from the same institution. Although she began her work on her Ph.D. in literature at UC-Berkeley, in 1915, Gilbreth would receive her Ph.D. in psychology from Brown University. Known primarily as the mother of twelve in the books and movies Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes, the “First Lady of Engineering” actually helped lay the groundwork for the field of industrial engineering. We benefit from her contributions today with the egg tray, butter dish, and meat and vegetable drawers in our refrigerators, foot-pedal trashcans, and return water hose in our washing machines. She was instrumental in the design of kitchens and in accommodations for those with physical disabilities. The first woman to receive many awards, Gilbreth has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Famous for holding the top position worldwide in women’s tennis for nine years, Helen Wills was born in California and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California in 1925. She started playing tennis when she was eight years old. In 1919, she joined the Berkeley Tennis Club and in 1921 she won the singles and doubles title in the California State Championships. She won her first national title in 1923 at age 17. Wills also won gold medals in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, the last year tennis was played until it became an Olympic sport again in 1988. An avid tennis player into her 80s, Wills donated $10 million to the University of California to establish the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute which houses 40 faculty members and many graduate students.

Although nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu did not receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for conducting the experiment that proved conservation of parity was violated (and the two men who developed the theory did receive that Prize), she had a very successful career with many honors and recognitions. Wu emigrated to the U.S. from China and earned her Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley. During World War II, she worked on the Manhattan Project, the effort by the U.S. to develop the atom bomb. Her textbook on beta decay became the standard. The first living person to have an asteroid named for her, Wu has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

War correspondent Marguerite Higgins advanced access for female war correspondents through her work in covering World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In 1951, she became the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Correspondence, for her coverage of the Korean War as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Born in Hong Kong, she attended the University of California, graduated with a B.A. in French in 1941 and served as the editor of the school’s newspaper. During her early career, she covered the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, the Nuremburg war trials and the Soviet Union’s blockade of Berlin. As Tokyo bureau chief, she was one of the first reporters on the ground during the Korean War. She covered foreign affairs for the rest of her life and died young after she contracted a disease while on assignment.

Professor Emerita at the University of California at Berkeley, Maxine Hong Kingston, the children of immigrants, grew up in California. She became interested in writing at an early age, winning a prize for an essay in the Girl Scout Magazine. Kingston graduated with a B.A. in English from UC-Berkeley in 1962. Her first book, published in 1976, The Woman Warrior, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Kingston’s writing reflects her Chinese-American heritage and the influences of ethnicity and gender. Her many awards include the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1981 for China Men, the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of the Arts.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women graduates of the University of California at Berkeley are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.

(Answers 1-C, 2-B, 3-E, 4-D, 5-A)

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