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December 05, 2013


Each December 6th, along with many other science blogs, we at FairerScience remember the 14 women engineering students at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec who were killed because they were women in engineering. It's been 24 years and it is still important to remember.

A couple of years ago Alice Pawley posted this tribute

"On December 6, 1989, an armed gunman named Marc Lepine entered an engineering classroom at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. He demanded all 48 men in the class leave the room, lined up all 9 women against a wall, and, shouting "You are all a bunch of [expletive] feminists!", proceeded to shoot them. He went into the hall and shot 18 more people, mostly at random. He finally shot himself.

He had killed 14 women all together, and injured 9 more women and 4 men.

The women who died could have been anyone. They could have been your friends, your mothers, your sisters, your lovers, your daughters, your neighbors, your students, your teachers, maybe even you.

They were killed because they were women."

Remember those who died in the Montreal Massacre:

Genevieve Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.
Helene Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master's degree.
Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, and a graduate in environmental design.
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.
Maryse Laganiere, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
Michele Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.
Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Please honor the white ribbon as a symbol of the fight against violence against women.

This year Alice has posted an event on Facebook. "We remember the Montreal Massacre". I joined it and that you will as well.

You should know that December 7, 1989 my then 12 year old daughter went to her junior high school with the names of those 14 women with an "in memoriam" pinned to her shirt. I cried when I saw what she was doing-- both for the women and for her courage. Each year I think of my daughter and of those women and so hope that we have the courage to fight to make sure this will never happen again .

December 01, 2013

Rosa Parks: More than a tired seamstress

Today is the 48th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott and galvanizing the civil rights movement. She was an amazing woman who has been trivialized as a seamstress who was too tired to give up her seat. I got yet another e-mail telling me that same tired story today.

It is so far from the truth. Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist for many years, successfully registering to vote in Alabama in the early 1940s and joining the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1943. She served as secretary of the Montgomery NAACP and was trained in grassroots organizing and movement building at the Highlander Center prior to her refusing to give up her seat on the bus. The NAACP had been planning for a while to challenge the "move to the back of the bus" rule in Montgomery. Mrs. Parks, a trained activist and a woman who was "respectable and respected" was a good choice.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress, but more importantly she was a skilled, talented and courageous civil rights leader. She was tired, but as she said in her autobiography:

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Presenting Rosa Parks as a "tired seamstress" does her, the women who were and are such an integral part of the civil rights movement, and women in general, an injustice.

PS Gee can we think of any women in science whose contributions have been trivialized as "being in the right place at the right time"?