Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 12:56:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: CSWA Newsletter of 10/25/2000

            AAS Committee on the Status of Women
    weekly issues of 10/25/2000, ed. by Priscilla Benson
***  send submissions and subscription info to                                         ***

This week's issues:
1. Celebration for Margaret Burbidge
2. Constellation Books
3. Why Women Drop Out
4. Advice Requested

1. Celebration for Margaret Burbidge

Margaret Burbidge Lunch in San Diego

At the San Diego AAS meeting Margaret Burbidge will be 
honored for her outstanding contributions to astronomy and 
for her role in inspiring other women astronomers. A special 
luncheon on Thursday, January 11, will follow her talk at 
the Special Session sponsored by the Committee on the Status 
of Women in Astronomy. This event, hosted by CSWA, AAS, 
AURA, AUI, NSF, CIW, and STScI, will include brief remarks 
by several invited guests. 
***Anyone and everyone interested should plan to attend***. 
The cost will be $25 ($15 for postdocs, $7 for students). 
Places must be reserved in advance by sending email to,and an accompanying check (made out to the 
Space Telescope Science Institute, with the Memo notation 
"Margaret Burbidge Lunch") must be received by Meg Urry at 
STScI by January 4, 2000.

Meg Urry
2. Constellation Books

For Phyllis Lugar (and anyone else!),

I recommend, "The Stars, A New Way to See Them" by H.A. Rey. 
This is the ONLY constellation book I ever found which shows 
the constellations in a way I can visualize.  H.A. and 
Margaret  Rey also wrote the "Curious George" stories which 
many kids love, and they bring the same sensibility to the 
constellations. "A New Way" was published in 1951 and for a 
time was out of print.  Happy to say it is now in print, in 
hardcover or paperback.

Recently I taught a group of 4-5 year olds.  I brought along 
HA Rey,  a telescope, and colored filters.  kids loved Rey 
the most (they like stories, and I told one involving  
Hercules and Perseus.  thanks to Disney, all kids know 
Hercules), colored filters 2nd, and the telecope 3rd.  Only 
about 40% had the skill to look through an eyepiece.

-Doug Duncan


The best author of children's astronomy books I know is 
Frank Branley. While he retired from writing a few years 
ago, his books are timeless for understanding many concepts: 
I learned the explanation for the harvest moon when I was 9 
from one of his books.

Katy Garmany
Director, Astronomy Program
Columbia University Biosphere 2
Oracle, AZ

3. Why Women Drop Out

I realize I'm a bit late, but I'd like to offer some 
comments in response to a 2/15/00 New York Times Science 
article entitled "For Women in Astronomy, a Glass Ceiling in 
the Sky". In this article, two possible explanations for the 
high attrition rate of women in astronomy from graduate 
school, to postdoctoral positions, to faculty positions, 
and, one might add, to ultimate inclusion in societies such 
as the National Academy of Sciences, were put forth. One 
explanation was that "the talent and desire just is not 
there" and that "women are less prone to the intense, cut-
throat aggressiveness that usually marks the successful 
research scientist or engineer". Another explanation was 
that it is "a case of benign neglect, rather than overt 

Personally, I don't find either of these explanations 
sufficient. I am a middle-class and middle-aged (I hate to 
admit that!) woman juggling an academic career with raising 
3 children. I have an outrageous daily commute from the 
suburbs of Chicago into the city, because I am concerned for 
my children's safety and I want them to get a good public 
education (I can't afford to put all 3 in the Chicago Lab 
Schools). I work, take care of children, and commute. That's 
what I do. That's ALL I do. If I'm lucky, I sleep a few 
hours a night... (And I'm one of those "lucky" women who has 
a spouse who takes an extremely active part both in 
housework and in raising the children.) Once a person is 
over 40, how long do you suppose it is possible to keep up 
that kind of schedule without one's creativity, joy in what 
they're doing, and overall physical health, suffering? I 
would like to state the obvious here and make the connection 
between the fundamental incompatibility between  academic 
emphasis-on-quantity workaholism and family responsibilities 
and values. I realize that my comments will not be 
applicable to all women in science. Many have opted to not 
have children, and some who do have children have sufficient 
money to hire considerable help at home. But many of us 
don't fall in either of those categories.

On the one hand there is the pervasive attitude I've 
encountered in U.S. suburbia, that if you're a woman and 
you're not devoting 100% of your time to your family, you're 
a bad mother. The midwestern suburban community in which I 
live might easily be mistaken for a rerun of a 1950s sitcom. 
I am surrounded by "clones" of Ward and June Cleaver. It 
bears a frightening similarity to the movies "Pleasantville" 
and "The Stepford Wives". You get the picture. I will borrow 
an unintentional description from a local police officer and 
call it "Tidytown". In short, it is the most gender-
stereotyped and monocultural environment in which I've ever 
lived, and yet I fear it reflects a very large portion of 
U.S. suburbia. On occasion, I've vented my frustration over 
certain attitudes I've encountered to my husband, to which 
he invariably, and semi-jokingly, responds "we men are the 
way you women have raised us". I must admit, he has a point. 
In addition to the overwhelming preponderance of stay-at-
home moms whose biggest concerns outside of their families 
appears to be whether their houses look as nice as other 
houses on the block, essentially all of the elementary 
school teachers, as well as most of the other school 
officials, in "Tidytown" are women. Many of these women will 
vociferously state they are "Mrs. Fill-In-Your-Husband's-
Name", and make no bones about their disdain for those of us 
who happen to prefer a title that doesn't automatically 
label us as so-and-so's-wife, but rather as individuals to 
be valued as equal human beings.  I used to associate all of 
these attitudes with "the older generation", and I naively 
assumed that most of them would die out in time measured 
from the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s, 
but the median age in "Tidytown" is well under 40!

On the other hand, there's the academic attitude that if 
you're not committed to your career above your family and 
producing at least 10 papers a year, you're a failure as a 
scientist. I find both attitudes deplorable, and I can 
easily understand the frustration and heartache experienced 
by many female scientists who love their work and love their 
families and are disgusted with living in a constant "damned 
if you do, damned if you don't" state. Personally, I think 
intelligent, well-educated people who choose to become 
parents and take an active role in raising children to help 
them become responsible, informed adults ought to be 
COMMENDED for this choice, not CONDEMNED. And yet I've heard 
many colleagues express disgust when a parent (mostly a 
woman) expresses the desire to take some time off or seek 
part-time work (if such really existed in the academic 
community!) to become more involved in family issues. Lest I 
be accused of "reverse sexism", let me mention that many men 
are also no longer satisfied playing the role of the aloof 
"Ward Cleaver", and are taking much  more active roles in 
raising their children. Can men AND women who so choose be 
successful academics and have family lives? I believe it is 
possible, but only with some major changes in thinking about 
gender roles in this country, as well as in the workaholic 
mindset of the academic community. Quality of work need not 
be sacrificed -- only quantity. Many European countries, for 
example, have long held a more enlightened work ethic. But 
as long as the only choices given are having a successful 
academic career OR being a good parent, I, for one, am not 
surprised at the high attrition rate of women in astronomy. 
Nor would I be surprised to find out that many highly 
talented male scientists start leaving the field for similar 
reasons... There are only 24 hours in a day -- this holds 
true regardless of how talented and committed you are!

Hoping to see some positive changes in my lifetime (but not 
holding my breath),

Grace Wolf-Chase

4. Advice Requested


I need direction and advice. I would like to pursue a 
master's degree in astronomy, hopefully, via an online 
education. I read about the University of Western Sydney 
Nepean Institute's degree program via the world wide web 
(Astronomy magazine June '00). What attracted me was the 
fact that my B.S. (business/liberal arts) from the 
University of San Francisco was entirely acceptable to them.  
However, questions I have include: 1) is this a credible 
course of action, and 2) I have not been able to find 
sources for student loans/financing for my goals.  Can you 
help or can you provide the appropriate place where I should 
send my questions? Is there a U.S. school that offers on-
line education, that I qualify for and be able to obtain the 
associated student loans needed to attend? 

I would like to work in this field, possibly teach 
science/astronomy at the preparatory school level or 
continue on for a Ph.D. Even now, I would love to work in 
this field even in my current line of work which is graphic 

Any leads or links would be most appreciated.


Marlene Lee
McMinnville, Oregon

End of CSWA Newsletter of 10/25/2000