A History of Women in Medicine and Medical Research: Exploring the Trailblazers of Stem by Dale Debakcsy

A History of Women in Medicine and Medical Research: Exploring the Trailblazers of Stem
by Dale Debakcsy

I loved reading this ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) so much I pre-ordered it! Eye-opening, superbly written, and well-researched. I cannot think of higher praise for a non-peer-reviewed non-fiction written for a general audience. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive so I can re-read it!

A History of Women in Medicine and Medical Research: Exploring the Trailblazers of Stem is broken down into several chapters, each one focusing on a specific woman, her personal background or life story, and her professional career in the sciences. The book progresses chronologically from the 16th century up to the near present, ending in the 1970s.

Each chapter ends with a section devoted to further reading and sources. While the book lacks citations and formal references, these inclusions are especially valuable. This kind of historiography is difficult to discover without a significant investment of time and effort making Debakcsy’s book all the more useful and appealing. I do not mind admitting this is a key reason why I have chosen to purchase my own copy.

These are not long or exhaustive studies of each individual; these historiographical sections allow the reader to explore further. That said, the brevity of each chapter is not a detraction. These are easily digestible chapters, perfect for classroom use or as readings for an undergraduate course. The chapters capture all they need to, leaving the reader satisfied but curious for more.

The women themselves are fascinating subjects, not only for their contributions to STEM, but also for their perseverance and resilience in the face of class, gender, and racial prejudices. Many of the women derive from the upper classes, but a significant number of them are working- or middle-class. Some were immigrants or enslaved (or lived just outside that category). Many had to break with their families to pursue their dreams. In many cases these women knew or knew of one another, interacted closely or within similar professional circles. A cohort of pioneering women in these fields is visible in the 19th century, particularly in the fields of medicine.

While the majority of women examined and brought to light in DeBakcsy’s book are white, European or American, there are also significant chapters focusing on women of color in the Western world. These are mostly (but not exclusively) black women who broke academic and professional ceilings.

This is a fantastic book for the classroom and any library (academic and home, alike). I cannot wait for my copy to arrive!

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