From the Shadows to the Shelf: A Collection of Books on Women in Science

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From the Shadows to the Shelf: A Collection of Books on Women in Science


Margaret Landis, Sigma Pi Sigma Member, Northern Arizona University 2011, & Postdoctoral Researcher at the Planetary Science Institute

Collection favorites. Photos by Margaret Landis.I have always been a reader. When I was deciding to become a space scientist, I indiscriminately read as many popular biographies of scientists as I could, including a biography of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt.

My systematic interest in books about women and minoritized groups in STEM started after I attended a Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). The institution represented by the most attendees that year got a copy of Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to Physics for the departmental library. Northern Arizona University (my institution) won. I ended up buying my own copy of the book and was amazed at how many women who made significant contributions to physics were left out of my undergraduate textbooks. I wondered if this had happened or was happening elsewhere in STEM.

Reading about the history of women in science not only helped me realize what my future could look like, but also that women, and especially women of color, have made major contributions to physics that are routinely neglected in physics classes.

urthermore, I realized that the science contributions of women have often been intentionally minimized. I started a book collection, now numbering more than 30 volumes and growing, with the goal of building an inclusive and representative reading list for myself and for students who struggle to see themselves as scientists.

This year my collection received an honorable mention from the Honey and Wax Book Collecting Prize, which recognizes outstanding book collections conceived and built by young women. If you’re looking for your next read, I encourage you to consider some of my favorites among those still in print.

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