Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science

Goldsmiths. Sept. 2022. 128p. pap. $20. ISBN 9781913380489.
Gr 7 Up–Beginning with an explanatory foreword, this book of short, free verse poems introduces a wide array of remarkable women. The featured females are introduced chronologically, starting with an unknown prehistoric woman curious about the composition of rocks and nature of minerals, and concluding with Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics. Seventy poems range from short anecdotal snippets to deeper reflections, all intriguing and serving as invitations to discover more about the featured scientist, engineer, mathematician, or physician. Some of the poems include recognizable names such as Elizabeth Blackwell, Marie Curie, and Jane Goodall. However, most are lesser known, such as Roberta Eike, Bertha Parker Pallan, and Joan Beauchamp Procter: these are the poems that are the most intriguing and require further investigation. In a note concerning her choice for the collections’ title, Randall shares that the phrase “mathematics for ladies” was a derogatory term used in the Soviet Union in the 1920s for the study of pure math; a strong feminist theme appears in many of the poems. This well-researched book includes a helpful table of contents, author notes, and works cited. Simple ink portraits are disbursed throughout the text.
VERDICT Secondary schools where there is interest in STEM projects, poetry studies, and women’s issues will benefit by adding this multifaceted title to their library or classroom collection.

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