During a recent bout of air travel, I picked up some magazines to read during the times when e-readers must be turned off and in an upright and locked position because things might shift during the flight, or something.
I found this quote by Judith Herzfeld (a professor of biophysical chemistry) in the Aug 29 issue of The New Yorker of great interest, and even somewhat entertaining*:
".. I find it remarkable for the period [late 1950's] that a new and ambitious, even aggressive, science program was given to a female science teacher, Mrs. Esther Daly. I thought nothing of it at the time, but I suspect that having had a female science teacher in junior high school gave me some resilience for gender-directed weirdness in subsequent science venues."
Oh how I wish I had invented the term "gender-directed weirdness". Can I at least invent the acronym? GDW is, from time to time, kind of a theme of this blog. At the very least, I am going to add it as a label.
I never had a female science teacher in junior (or senior) high school, so I have no personal experience with such things, but I am curious about the use of the term "resilience", used here to indicate a positive effect of a female role model (FRM) at an early age. I was also intrigued by the part about thinking nothing of it (having a female science teacher) at the time. Mrs. Daly was therefore a retroactive female role model (RFRM).
When discussing role models in the past, I have wondered if role models (of any sort) have to do anything active to impart resilience (or whatever), or simply just be a person doing a job. We don't have enough information in the little piece from "The Talk of the Town" section of the magazine to determine what Mrs Daly did or did not do while teaching middle school science, but I like to think that her very existence as a science teacher was a powerful statement to the girls (and boys) that she taught, even if a subconscious one (at the time).
Or perhaps that is just me being lazy, hoping to do good without actually knowing how or what to do as a role model. Unlike flying on a plane and being given lots of instructions**, being a role model is a lot less well defined, and it can be hard to know what to do, other than just to be.
* Perhaps even more entertaining, though, was Elif Batuman's essay in Harper's Magazine.
** On one recent flight, we passengers were told to remove pens and pencils from our shirt front pockets, in case of an emergency. Does this still apply if one has a pocket protector for the pens and pencils, I wondered but did not ask?