Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM

Abrams. Mar. 2020. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419707346.
Gr 5-8–Bolden’s broad view of STEM, including profiles of physicians and medical professionals, is aimed at middle grade readers interested in science careers. The book opens with a section (“In the Vanguard”) devoted to black women who battled racism and discrimination following the Civil War. Rebecca Crumpler, who worked as a nurse, was born free in Delaware. She decided to move to Virginia right after the war to assist with the injured. Many women in the book earned pioneer status: the first to pass a state medical exam, graduate from medical college, practice medicine, or head a science department. Most poignant are the trailblazers whose discoveries, like a humane treatment for leprosy, resulted in their deaths from side effects of the experiment. The second section celebrates those who entered aviation, bacteriology, mathematics, and architecture. The third section features geneticists, marine biologists, and the inventor of the device to remove cataracts. Milestones that mark each era (the Declaration of Sentiments written in 1848 to advance women’s rights; the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1964) are noted. Even though it is a pleasure to discover so many overlooked geniuses, including Angie Lena Turner King (Katherine Johnson’s mentor), it’s sobering to learn that only one percent of black women earned engineering degrees in 2015.
VERDICT Bolden, a master of the collective biography, presents an impeccably-researched call to action, imploring black girls to fight the racial and gender imbalance that plagues the STEM field.

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