AAS Committee on the Status of Women  
Issue of April 10, 2009 	 
 
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson & Michele Montgomery 
 
This week's issues: 
 
1. National Women's History Month 
 
2. Stand and Be Counted - Demographics 
 
3. The Effect of Demographics in Talk Dynamics 
 
4. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
 
5. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
 
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1. National Women's History Month 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelzmemphis.edu] 
 
[We realize that National Women's History Month is over, but we couldn't 
resist the opportunity to highlight some of the women mentioned last week 
by Ivan King -- Eds.] 
 
Williamina Fleming  (1857=961911) was born in Scotland and immigrated to 
Boston. After her marriage broke up, she worked as a maid for Edward 
Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory. Pickering was 
frustrated with the inefficiencies of his male assistants and notoriously 
claimed that, 'his Scotch maid could do a better job.' Fleming became a 
'computer.' 
She worked on the original spectral classification scheme for stars and 
created classes arranged alphabetically from A to Q based on the intensity 
of hydrogen lines. She also discovered 10 of the 24 known novae, 94 of the 
107 known Wolf-Rayet stars, 59 gaseous nebulae, long-period variable 
stars, and the first spectroscopic binary, Beta Lyrae. 
 
For more, see, e.g., http://www.answers.com/topic/williamina-fleming 
 
Annie Jump Cannon  (1863=961941) was the daughter of a Delaware state 
senator. She attended both Wellesley and Radcliffe and was appointed to the 
staff of the Harvard College Observatory. She revised Fleming's 
classification system to produce the OBAFGKM sequence that we use today. 
Cannon developed a phenomenal skill: she could classify three stars 
a minute! She received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, 
the National League of Women Voters listed her as one of the 12 "greatest 
living American women," and she was the first woman elected as an officer 
of the AAS. She was nicknamed "Census Taker of the Sky" for classifying 
over 230,000 stellar bodies, more than any other person. 
 
For more, see, e.g., http://www.answers.com/Annie%20Cannon 
 
Antonia Maury (1866-1952) was the niece of Henry Draper. She graduated 
from Vassar in 1887 and became an assistant at Harvard College Observatory. 
Her work was on the classification of stellar spectra for the Draper 
catalog, but she proposed an additional modification. She argued that not 
only was the presence of a particular spectral line important, but so was 
its appearance: sharp, normal, or fuzzy. This was the first time 
spectroscopic criteria were used to determine the luminosities of stars. 
Ejnar Hertzsprung was quick to see the significance of her classification 
system and pointed out that some of her sharp spectra were indeed from 
giant stars. 
 
For more, see, e.g., http://www.answers.com/topic/antonia-maury 
 
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921) graduated from Radcliffe College in 
1892 and became a research assistant at the Harvard College Observatory in 
1895. She is most famous for her work on Cepheid variable stars. Leavitt 
realized that brighter Cepheids in the Magellanic Clouds had longer 
periods. Since all the Cepheids were at approximately the same distance, 
the period of the variable must be related to the star's luminosity. The 
period-luminosity relation, or Leavitt Law, is now used to determine 
distances of galaxies millions of light-years away. 
 
For more, see, e.g., http://www.answers.com/Henrietta%20Leavitt 
 
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2. Stand and Be Counted - Demographics 
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelzmemphis.edu] 
 
AAS member information such as birth date and gender are optional and used 
only for demographics, but these data are invaluable for studies on the 
state of the profession like those being done for Astro 2010. 
 
Why should you include this optional information? For one thing, if the AAS 
has these data in its own records, then it does not have to commission 
expensive studies to gather this information. (This is what the AAS has 
done in the past to get data on gender.) 
 
Stand and be counted! 
 
It's easy: just log in to the AAS members web site: 
 
https://members.aas.org/ 
 
Click on 'Member Profile' on the horizontal blue bar that runs across 
the top. If gender and birth date are already listed properly, then 
congratulations, you count! If not, click the grey 'edit' button and add the 
information. Click 'submit' and you're done. Please encourage your 
friends and colleagues to add their information too. 
 
Let's make sure that everyone counts. 
 
For recent information on AAS demographics, please see the article in the 
Jan issue of Status by Kevin Marvel: 
 
http://www.aas.org/cswa/status/Status_Jan09.pdf 
 
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3. The Effect of Demographics in Talk Dynamics 
From: HannahWomen in Astronomy Blog, April 3, 2009 
 
I recently attended a talk on a subject within my area of expertise by 
someone who is not an expert in this field.  He argued that the physics he 
was solving should still apply to the problem, but it quickly became 
abundantly clear that his understanding of the basic issues was 
insufficient.  In any case, he became quite defensive, alternating between 
dismissing criticism by saying he wasn't an expert in the field and 
challenging the audience to produce better explanations.  I began to feel 
like he was asking for advice but then refusing to take any of it.   
 
 
It was only afterwards that it dawned on me that his three main critics 
were young (under 40) women (yes, one of them was me), while he was an 
older (50s? 60s?) man.  It made me wonder if he responded to us that way 
because of our youth and gender.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good 
baseline for judging whether there was gender bias or not, because we 
women pretty much dominated the discussion. 
 
Then again, young women dominated the discussion!  It seems to be a 
peculiarity of my subfield of astronomy that lots of young women are in it, 
especially in my research group.  It's nice, but it makes me wonder if I'm 
shielded from a lot of gender bias because of it. 
 
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4. How to Submit, Subscribe, or Unsubscribe to AASWOMEN 
 
To submit to AASWOMEN: send email to aaswomenaas.org. All material sent to that address 
will be posted unless you tell us otherwise (including your email address). 
 
To subscribe or unsubscribe to AASWOMEN go to 
 
http://lists.aas.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/aaswlist 
 
and fill out the form. 
 
If you experience any problems, please email itdeptaas.org 
 
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5. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN 
 
Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at 
 
http://www.aas.org/cswa/AASWOMEN.html 
 
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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