Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 11:07:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 12/8/99

            AAS Committee on the Status of Women
     weekly issues of 12/08/99, ed. by Priscilla Benson
***  send email and addresses to  ***

This week's issues:
1.  Maria Mitchell Woman in Science Award
2.  Calendar highlighting prominent women
3.  Tampon article was hoax
4.  More on Children's Toys
5.  Jobs
1. Maria Mitchell Woman in Science Award
From: Charles Liu

This was forwarded to me by the astronomy librarian at the
American Museum of Natural History..  

A note as seen in the recent issue of WORKING WOMEN 

"Astronomer and educator Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) shot for 
the stars all her life: in 1847, at the age of 29, she 
discovered what came to be known as Comet Mitchell 1847VI; 
she was the first woman elected to the American Academy of 
Arts and Science; and in 1865, she became the first woman 
appointed to the faculty of Vassar College.  Her 
achievements live on through the Maria Mitchell Woman in 
Science Award granted each October.  The $5,000 prize 
recognizes individuals or organizations that encourage girls 
and women to pursue careers in science. If you know a Maria 
Mitchell-in-the-making, contact the Maria Mitchell 
Association at 2 Vestal Street, Nantucket, MA 02554
 (508) 228-9198;"

3. Calendar highlighting prominent women
From: Margaret Hanson

The Cincinnati Branch of the American Association of 
University Women is selling a year 2000 Calendar 
highlighting prominent women through out history.  Each 
month shows several sketches of these women with 
inspirational quotes.   Most of the days on the calendar 
list either birth days, year and hometown of these 
remarkable women (from Joan of Arc, to Fannie Lou Hamer and 
Maya Lin), or to highlight dates of significant events in 
the women's 'movement'.  It's very well done and fairly good 
in presenting a culturally diverse sample of women.

The calendar is $10 and all proceeds are given to the AAUW 
Educational Foundation.  You can order calendars by calling

       (513) 248-4385

BEFORE January 1, 2000 (and before we run out!)

Margaret Murray Hanson, Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0011

3. Tampon article was hoax

I apologize to you all for including the letter about 
tampons last week.  Unfortunately, I do not have time to 
"check out" all the submissions (and was not familiar with 
the web sites about hoaxes). I will try to be more careful 
in the future, and hope that subscribers who submit items 
will verify them before submission. I appreciate all the 
letters I received setting me straight.  Since most of them 
repeat the same facts, I drastically cut the letters in the 
interest of not having this email too long; I have listed 
the names of those who took time to tell us the truth.  
(Note that I have taken the responses in the order 

From: Mordecai-Mark Mac Low

In the latest issue of the CSWA a long email about tampons 
was included.  This turns out to be a hoax.  Following is a 
disclaimer taken from Prof. Katzenellenbogen's site in 
Urbana.  Note the URL given at the bottom of the disclaimer 
for a further debunking of the hoax by the FDA.  

			Mordecai-Mark Mac Low


There is an inaccurate e-mail that has been circulating on 
the internet regarding tampons that appears to have the name 
of my assistant, Stephanie Baker, associated with it. 
Stephanie and I welcome the opportunity to disavow ourselves 
completely from the content of this e-mail and from its 
dissemination. We are distressed that this information has 
been circulating in a form that makes it appear that it is 
associated with this laboratory.

(Dr. Katzenellenbogen tells how the connection was made and 
apologizes for time or effort spent on this specious issue.  
If interested, see the website above)

For your information, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 
(FDA) maintains an excellent website in which it debunks the 
false allegations in the tampon e-mail being spread through 
the internet. The FDA site is:

From: Jennifer Hoffman

	The FDA has a website discussing tampon safety which 
states that "the available scientific evidence does not 
support [the] rumors" about asbestos and dioxin 
contamination in tampons that have been circulating on the 
Internet.  The information on this page is quite detailed. 
Everyone who read the warning in the latest AASWomen 
newsletter should read this as well.

	Jennifer Hoffman, UW-Madison

From: Jennifer Goetz jgoetzACS.WOOSTER.EDU

Jennifer Goetz also lists the above two websites.

From: Amber Iler

I just finished reading the "Medical Warning on Tampons" 
section of the most recent CSWA newsletter.  Upon reading 
it, I was skeptical about a few of the claims made in the 
attached e-mail.  I went to my favorite hoaxes website 
( and found that this tampon warning is, 
indeed, a hoax.  For further details, including a complete 
debunking of all the claims in the e-mail and more 
information that you probably ever wanted about tampons, 
please check out:


From: Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas

Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas gives the two websites on disavowal 
and FDA.

From: "Helen M. Hart"

Helen also sent quotes from the FDA website.  I've edited 
her quotes considerably since those of you interested can go 
to the website.

Asbestos is not an ingredient in any U.S. brand of tampon, 
nor is it associated with the fibers used in making tampons. 
Moreover, tampon manufacturing sites are subject to 
inspection by FDA to assure that good manufacturing 
practices are being followed. Therefore, these inspections
would likely identify any procedures that would expose 
tampons products to asbestos. 

Dioxin and Rayon Concerns

There are also allegations that some tampons contain toxic 
amounts of the chemical dioxin. The term "dioxin" or 
"dioxins" actually refers to a number of related chemical 
compounds. State-of-the art testing of tampons and tampon 
materials that can detect even trace amounts of dioxin has 
shown that dioxin levels are at or below the detectable 
limit. No risk to health would be expected from these trace 

Tampons currently sold in the U.S. are made of cotton, 
rayon, or blends of rayon and cotton. Rayon is made from 
cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp. In this process the 
wood pulp is bleached. At one time, bleaching the wood pulp 
was a potential source of trace amounts of dioxin in 
tampons, but that bleaching method is no longer used. Rayon 
raw material used in U.S. tampons is now produced using 
elemental chlorine-free or totally chlorine free bleaching 
processes. chlorine. 

There is also a long quote about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

From: "F. Rick Harnden"

a Web search would have been advisable. Since the message 
reads like many "stories" one can find on various subjects 
throughout the Internet, it immediately suggested sheer 
fabrication to me. My search found the following two links 
which appear to refute the "story" authoritatively:

> False rumors surface about tampon health threat:

> FDA addresses Allegations about Tampons on Net:

From: Anneila Sargent

I believe that we have all just been exposed to the fun 
internet phenomenon called "urban legends".  When you 
receive things like this, go to one of the urban legends web 
sites, like and search for 
your topic.

In this case there is no basis for the claims. See:

Anneila Sargent

From: Laura Grego

Laura also lists the Dr. Katzenellenbogen site and the FDA 

There's all sorts of misinformation circulating on the net, 
and it's not always easy to separate the wheat from the 
chaff.  I'd suggest, though, a bit of skepticism towards 
email which has no reference to published research and which 
also includes a suggestion that women should purchase a 
particular brand of product, in this case Organic  
Essentials and Terra Femme. Perhaps we've just received what 
is essentially an advertisement?

Scientifically dubious statements like 

"Therefore, when fibers from the tampons are left behind in 
the vagina (as usually occurs), it creates a breeding ground 
for the dioxin."

also suggests caution is in order, as dioxin, while a 
dangerous chemical, does not "breed".

From: Joel Parker

The message "A Medical Warning on Tampons" in the recent AAS 
Women newsletter was alarming and I almost sent it on to a 
number of friends, but there were just enough enough odd 
aspects about it that set off my "urban legend alarm".  So, 
I checked out a few online sources (I get a lot of hoaxes 
sent to me that I keep a list of addresses handy for such
occasions), and it does look like this one is also a 
hoax/legend.  Judge for yourself, but check out these web 
pages before you forward that message.


2. More Children's Toys
From: Jo Pitesky

Like many others, I'm no fan of Mattel's "boy" and "girl" 
computer packages.  However, I think there's also a feeling 
that anything that comes in hot pink is somehow an inferior 
product, which isn't always true.  Barbie Fashion Designer, 
for instance, has gotten a lot of very positive reviews for 
being a computer product that encourages creativity, computer
skills, construction ability (you have to assemble the 
things after they are printed out), and so forth.  We might 
not care for Barbie (to put it mildly :-), but that doesn't 
mean that her image can't be used in some surprisingly 
constructive ways.

What's more striking is to note the software that has 
seemingly no gender bias--Oregon Trail is the one title that 
I remember, though there were others--which is put *only* on 
the boy's computer.  I find it much more disturbing to give 
a message that only boys will like adventure than to
cater to the color and style (racing stripes vs. flowers) 
biases of the majority of children.  After all, I was a hot 
wheels fan club member as a child, but my room was covered 
with bright pink flowers.

Rather than a list of recommended toys, how about a list of 
recommended children's software?   There are some 
outstanding sites for this already (e.g., but a list of software which 
encourages problem solving/creative play/what have you, 
coming from a list of female astronomers, would be unique.  
Most adults can fall back on knowledge of favorite toys from 
their childhood, but for software, we only can drag up
"pong."  This would also be a useful resource for schools 
that are considering buying new software for computer labs.

Jo Pitesky

From: Caroline Cox

I got the same Mattell ad, and yes, I thought it was 
disgusting.  The point that Grace makes is a good one -- a 
lot of people sincerely believe that boys and girls have 
very different interests.  I recently planned a teddy bear 
picnic birthday party for my four year old daughter, and a 
friend of mine (who has a three year old son and a PhD in 
archeaology) commented that it sounded very "girl-oriented."    
I have talked to a lot of well-educated mothers of 
preschoolers, and although they want their daughters to go 
to law school and medical school, they are mostly convinced 
that girls are quiet and love Barbies and dress-up while 
boys are rowdy and like trucks and guns.  I've heard them 
say "until I had a boy I never realized how different boys 
and girls are."
I don't really think we can blame the advertisers.  
Caroline Cox

From: Lauretta Nagel

I have received some very supportive email directly, 
regarding a possible list of recommended/not-recommended 
toys. Given that there is definitely some interest, I'm 
going to do some double- checking on liabilities (I don't 
think anyone here or at the AAS wants to get into a lawsuit 
over this) and whether another group has already started a 
list of this nature.

I agree we should still conduct a poll because this would be 
a use of the CSWA resources that is not generally under the 
astronomer-only genre of issues. So, based on email seen 
here on this list, and personally elsewhere,

Should we (the CSWA) place a link on our webpage to a list 
of toys that promote the toppling of gender stereotypes 
and/or a list of toys to avoid because they advocate gender 
stereotyping? Our disclaimer would be that we are parents 
and godparents, as well as scientists, and we strongly feel 
that gender stereotyping should be counteracted as early as 

Do you agree or not and why/why not? (feel free to send this 
to me and I'll compile the full summary for the CSWA. Let me 
know if you want to remain anonymous and I'll strip your 
name off your comments.)

Lauretta Nagel


Editor's Note:  I vote against a list of recommended/not-
recommended toys.  I think we are all intelligent enough to 
know what we like and what we don't like.  The letters I 
have received also show there are differences of opinion in 
which toys are "bad" and which are "good".  I believe the 
real thing we are all opposed to is gender stereotyping.  I 
would not like to list a telescope as a "bad" toy because it 
is advertised with only boy's using it!

From: Elizabeth Blanton

Here's one more example of the gender-stereotyping of toys:

I was looking around the Toys R Us web site (since I have a 
young son). They have a category called "Toy Story" (toys 
from the movie), and subcategories such as "Dolls", "Action 
Figures", etc.  The third category down is called "Girl's 
Activities," and it includes a Toy Story sleeping bag and 
puppet theater.  There is no category called "Boy's 
Activities."  I guess only girls like having sleep-overs and 
playing with puppets -- it's so ridiculous...  On the 
positive side, it seems that it's ok for boys to play with 

Liz Blanton

4. Jobs
From: Patricia Reiff

Note: Our department will be merged with Physics as of July 
1, 2000, creating a "Department of Physics and Astronomy".

                       RICE UNIVERSITY

The Department of Space Physics and Astronomy at Rice 
University invites applications for two faculty positions 
starting Fall 2000, in the general areas of high energy and 
theoretical astrophysics, with joint appointments in the 
Physics Department. One of these will be a tenure-track 
assistant professor position while the other appointment may 
be at a more senior level.  In addition to outstanding 
research records, we are seeking dynamic individuals who can 
provide leadership in new research areas, but have broad 
intellectual horizons so as to interact effectively with 
existing research groups. We are looking for candidates who 
are excellent teachers at both the graduate and 
undergraduate levels. The current research of the department 
focuses on high energy astrophysics (pulsars, gamma-ray 
bursts, black holes, X-ray binaries, AGNs and SNRs), star 
and solar system formation, ISM and nebula astrophysics, and 
galactic chemical evolution.  Active observing programs 
involve CGRO, HST, Chandra, RXTE, ASCA, XMM, and ground-
based telescopes, as well as laboratory experiments using 
ultra intense lasers to simulate astrophysical phenomena.  
In addition, the department has active programs in planetary 
science, magnetospheric and ionospheric physics, space 
weather, global electricity and aeronomy. Both theorists and 
experimentalists/observers are encouraged to apply. Each 
applicant should send a resume with statement of research 
interest, publication list and names (with postal and email 
addresses) of four references to: Prof. Edison Liang, Chair 
of the Search Committee (email:, 
Department of Space Physics and Astronomy, MS108, Rice 
University, Houston, TX 77005-1892. The search committee 
will begin screening applications on January 17, 2000.  
However, applications will be considered until the positions 
are filled. (More information about the department can be 
found at Rice University is an 
Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. Outstanding 
minority and women candidates are especially encouraged to 

From: (Martin Ligare)

Bucknell University
          Tenure-Track Position in Physics/Astronomy

As part of an expansion in the area of 
astronomy/astrophysics, the Physics Department 
( has a tenure-track 
opening at the level of assistant professor beginning August 
2000.  (A maximum of three years credit toward tenure may be 
awarded for previous experience.)  The successful candidate 
will be expected to share significant responsibility for 
teaching astronomy and astrophysics and running a small 
observatory with a 10'' Clark refractor and many smaller 
modern telescopes, as well as teaching other courses in the 
physics curriculum.  Candidates must have a strong 
background in both physics and astronomy (Ph.D. or 
equivalent preferred, ABDs considered); potential for 
excellence in teaching both physics and astronomy; and a 
research program appropriate for undergraduate participation 
(some start-up funds will be available). Bucknell is a 
highly selective, predominantly undergraduate, private 
university with 3500 students and a Physics Department with 
nine full-time faculty.  Support includes an electronics 
shop and a machine shop, and extensively networked 
computers.  Send a resume, a description of teaching and 
research interests, and three letters of reference to Martin 
Ligare, Chair, Department of Physics, Bucknell University, 
Lewisburg, PA 17837 (  For full 
consideration, applications and all supporting materials 
should be received by December 31. The department is willing 
to consider applications by couples for a shared 
appointment.  Bucknell University encourages applications 
from women and members of minority groups (EEO/AA).

End of CSWA Newsletter of 12/8/99