Name ten women who are considered to be geniuses. No cheating and looking the answer up on google is allowed. Can you name ten women who have won the Nobel Prize in science? Can you name one? Do you know which woman won it twice? If you are honest like Jan and I were, we couldn’t name more than a scattering of genius level women of either yesteryear or today. However, we could name quite a few men. Why is that? In this book, Janice Kaplan explores the reasoning why women have been ignored and how things are changing in this the age we live in.
And just what is a genius? It’s not simply IQ. Genius is a combination of intelligence, talent, and hard work. Persistence, often despite the odds. There’s no question that there are women who have excelled in the fields of music, art, the sciences, and many others. But how many of us can name these women? Worse yet, how many women had a spark of genius that was extinguished because of lack of encouragement and opportunities? It boggles the mind.
One of the strengths of this book are the many, many women whose accomplishments are highlighted. I am humbled and proud of the many extraordinary accomplishments made by women and I’m angered that they have rarely received the recognition they so deserved (or received it too late). It’s impossible to list them all here but it’s worth picking up this book to read about these women.
“What counts as great is what those in power say is great.” Throughout the centuries who has been in power? Men. Which is why we hear about more men than women when we think of geniuses. In one study, six-year-olds were asked to pick out the genius in a line-up of pictures of both men and women. In every single case, the children chose a man. Shocking isn’t it that bias starts so early?
Bias is sometimes overt, but it can also be subtle and there were many instances where I questioned my own assumptions. As the mother of a daughter, and a Nana to three girls, I appreciated hearing many of these accomplished women speak about what it was that made the difference. Why did they excel in what was often a man’s domain? How can we encourage and nurture young girls and women to reach their full potential, to not feel limited in their vision and opportunities? The author gives us the answers in these pages from the mouths of the geniuses themselves. Times are changing, but slowly. Change is made one woman at a time.
The first half of the book was riveting. The story starts to lose steam in the second half when the anecdotes and opinions become a tad repetitive. It’s clear the author is passionate about the subject, as she should be, but I started to lose interest and there were a few times I questioned her assumptions, and she seemed prickly, seeing bias everywhere. Also, if an author is going to include women in politics in a non-fiction book, then it should include accomplished women of both political persuasions.
Still, despite some shortcomings, this is an important book with a strong message that I’m glad I read and I urge others to pick it up. 3.5 stars.
This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce, and one that sparked terrific discussions. It would make a great book club choice.
*Many thanks to Dutton Publishing for a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.
I will freely admit, I consider myself to be a liberated woman. I went to college ( to my father’s chagrin), have multiple degrees, became a wife to a man who understood my need to work and learn, became a mother to four daughters who we made sure became free thinkers. Our goal always was to develop strong personalities in them, foster the ability to stand on their own, and be reliant on their own strengths to see them through.
In reading this book, I found myself considering many issues I hadn’t thought of before. It never really occurred to me why there was a lack of women in the science field or why we never really heard of any women achieving great heights in the world of academia. I mean my girls were all into science and math and didn’t seem to have any particular facet of life holding them back. Surely, we knew of the titans of education and business, the innovators, the thinkers and most of them were males. Why was that and why was it I never thought to question that question? As the author aptly points out you can’t know about female achievers unless they are made known. She uses the age old analogy of the tree falling in the woods. It doesn’t make a sound if there is no one there to hear it. Can we know of these genius women when no one even mentions their names no less their accomplishments.
Janice Kaplan, the author, points to the fact that many women were held back by their male counterparts and existed in a world where male dominance held sway. Women were considered property, had their place in society, and were expected to be seen and seldom heard. A genius woman was overlooked and made to find other places or circuitous ways to let their genius be known or conversely they just acquiesced to the way things were.
As I read this book, I found many brilliant women profiled that I never heard of. However, their achievements have been amazing and their contributions are right up there with any male and at times far surpass them.
The first half of the book is amazing, riveting, and right on. The author pinpoints the errors in our thinking, the ways in which these women have advanced the sciences, technologies, and thought processes. She focuses on them with a laser focus and draws the reader into their world and how they individually dealt with being in a world formerly populated by men. It’s awesome.
However, I was a tad disappointed in the second half where I felt the author sent some conflicting views. She mentions Ruth Bader Ginsberg but neglects a mention of Sarah Day O’Connor the first women appointed to the Supreme Court in 1981. She mentions Hilary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren but neglects to mention Nikki Haley or Jeane J. Kilpatrick, who was the first women representative from the US to the UN. I felt at times her agenda was based on a more liberal outlook on the women she chose to profile. Another point that bothered me was her referral to the looks and dress of many of the women she wrote of. I found that a bit off setting as well since I felt we should not be looking at looks but at the sheer intelligence and bravery of these women who stepped into a world where few had dared to be in before. Many men are mentioned who denied women their just accolades for inventions and innovations and then those same men took credit for the achievement. However, there were men who did and have supported and pushed ahead women much to their credit.
However, this book has much relevance and I do recommend it to those, who like myself, need a lesson in the ways in which women have gone forward and continue to do so. It has always been tough being a female in a male dominated world, but what must never be denied is that woman have progressed and will continue to do so making our voices, our achievements, our genius known to the world. This will be our new challenge, our way forward into the world of the future.
Thank you to Janice Kaplan, Dutton Books, and NetGalley for a copy of this worthwhile book.
and here’s the author:
The distribution of female Nobel Laureates is as follows:
- seventeen women have won the Nobel Peace Prize,
- fifteen have won the Nobel Prize in Literature,
- twelve have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,
- five have won the Nobel
- four have won the Prize in Chemistry,
- three have won the Nobel Prize in Physics,
- and two, Elinor Ostrom and Esther Duflo, have won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
- btw 866 men have won the Nobel
Marie Curie was the woman who won the Nobel twice! Three men have also done the same.
4 thoughts on “The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World @JaniceKaplan @DuttonBooks #geniuswomen #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom”
Excellent review Marialyce. I’m so glad we were offered this book and read it together. I love the stats you included. It’s sobering isn’t it?
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Most definitely, Jan! We had a fantastic discussion on this book. Love your review as well!
Excellent reviews ladies. I did know the answer, but that is because I have been an avid promoter of the Little People Big Dreams series and Marie Curie was one of the women profiled. This sounds like an interesting book, not perfect, but a good place to start promoting women in Science.
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Thanks Carla! Yes, it did open our eyes to many things.
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