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Next: 2. The Second Decade Up: A Brief History of Previous: Preface


1. How it was ...

I would like to begin my talk by recreating some of the atmosphere twenty years ago. So I must start with a warning: the next few minutes [i.e. this section] may be a bit depressing, perhaps even somewhat hard to take. But bear with me, I promise it really will get better.

First, for my journey back in time, I went to the library and checked out Notices for 1971. The Joint Mathematics Meetings that year were held in Atlantic City; the program in the January issue was quite revealing. Of the more than fifteen invited hour speakers--AMS, MAA and ASL combined--none was female (i.e. O%); of the more than 300 AMS ten minute talks, about fifteen were given by women (5%). I became curious and looked at the Personal Items section. This contains short descriptions of individuals' professional activities and achievements as well as job promotions and appointments. Only five of the approximately 145 blurbs seemed to mention women (less than 4%). Of the thirty-one promotions listed, three were female (10%); at the instructorship level, women seemed to do relatively better, getting three of the nine appointments (33%). Here I used the well-known mathematical technique (which has served us so well over the years) of counting and dividing to calculate the telling percentages. And sure enough, as I went down the list--as the positions became less prestigious--the percentage of women increased. As if to confirm this trend even more dramatically, I noticed further on that, of the four deaths reported in that issue, two were women (50%)!

In the February 1971 issue I found a letter from Elizabeth Berman, pointing out some ``advice'' on how to find employment, recently published by the Mathematical Sciences Employment Register: ``Women find the competitive situation in the government somewhat more advantageous to them, since it is relatively hard to secure a well-qualified mathematician for many higher level government jobs. In many such cases women are welcomed if their qualifications are better than those of the available men.'' Need I say more?

A gloomy picture of the status of women in academia was painted by Ruth Silverman in a letter that appeared in the June Notices that year. I quote excerpts:

``Editor, Notices:

``As a result of surveys on many campuses it becomes apparent that there is a pattern of discrimination against women in all fields ...

``1) Women are predominantly at the bottom of the pyramid, irrespective of qualifications ... and suffer a substantial salary inequity. 2) Many academic departments have no full-time female faculty at all. In many ... the percentage of female faculty is far below the percentage of females among qualified applicants. 3) In many departments women with Ph.D.s hold positions below the rank of Assistant Professor and are kept at these low ranks without promotion or significant salary increase. 4) Women tend to be hired on a marginal, temporary, or one-year basis .... Often women teaching part-time have the same teaching load as men teaching full-time. 5) There are departments which make it a policy not to appoint women who are married to members of the faculty ...''

Silverman goes on to recommend that ``in the forthcoming annual [AMS] salary survey data be collected ... comparing salary levels by sex.'' This practice was initiated by the AMS some years later.

Now, if you were a female graduate student at the time, there were certain departments where you probably were not. For example, Princeton did not start admitting women to their graduate program in mathematics until the fall of 1968. Marjorie Stein (Princeton Ph.D., 1972) was the first woman to complete her degree requirements there, although a Japanese woman had been admitted some years earlier by mistake. Apparently the admissions committee, unfamiliar with Japanese first names, did not recognize hers as female.

But wherever you were, you may very well have been told the following ``joke'' by the head of your department or your thesis advisor: ``There have only been two women mathematicians in the history of mathematics. One wasn't a woman and one wasn't a mathematician.''

Thus it may not be so surprising that in those years we were often accused of not having a sense of humor. (Ms. magazine addressed that issue with a famous pop art cover depicting the wry feminist humor typical of the '70s: A young man earnestly asks his woman friend ``Do you know the women's movement has no sense of humor?'' to which she answers straight faced ``No ... But hum a few bars and I'll fake it!'')

It must be said however that, sometimes at least, this mathematical in-joke was told well-meaningly (if not misguidedly)--as it were, a friendly gesture to break the ice. Certainly that's how I had interpreted it several years earlier at a party given by my department chairman when I was a graduate student at MIT. And it clearly was a manifestation of the time, of the awkwardness everyone felt with the few women around. (It did not occur to me until some years later that it was also a callous dismissal of two of the most important mathematicians in recent history.) The effect was nevertheless to help alienate us from our history, to reinforce self-doubts, and keep us mostly unaware of the strong women contemporaries who could very well have served as important role models and mentors had we known their existence early on: Mina Pees, Julia Robinson, Mary Ellen Rudin, Cathleen Morawetz, Olga Taussky-Todd, Jane Cronin Scanlon, and Marian Pour-El are a few such examples of mathematicians at that time who come to mind.

I do not want to give the impression that all professors and thesis advisors were hopeless. Some of us were fortunate to have supportive advisors during those important years. Lipman Bers is a stunning example of a professor who did much to encourage young women in mathematics. As he put it (in MP), ``It never occurred to me that women can be intellectually inferior to men.'' Among his many female Ph.D. students are Lesley Sibner, Linda Keen, and Tilla Milnor.

What we did ... (In the beginning)

Atlantic City

I think it is fair to say that the AWM had its birth at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlantic City in 1971. As Judy Green remembers (and Chandler Davis, early AWM friend, concurs):

``The formal idea of women getting together and forming a caucus was first made publicly at a MAG [Mathematics Action Group] meeting in 1971 ... in Atlantic City. Joanne Darken, then an instructor at Temple University and now at the Community College of Philadelphia, stood up at the meeting and suggested that the women present remain and form a caucus. I have been able to document six women who remained: me (I was a graduate student at Maryland at the time), Joanne Darken, Mary Gray (she was already at American University), Diane Laison (then an instructor at Temple), Gloria Olive (a Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago, New Zealand who was visiting the U.S. at the time) and Annie Selden. [Harriet Lord (then a graduate student at Temple, now at Cal State Polytech at Pomona) was at the MAG meeting but unable to stay for the women's caucus.]

``It's not absolutely clear what happened next, except that I've personally always thought that Mary was responsible for getting the whole thing organized ....''

What I remember hearing about Mary Gray and the Atlantic City Meetings, indeed what perked my curiosity, was an entirely different event, one that was also to alter dramatically the character of the mathematics community. In those years the AMS was governed by what could only be called an ``old boys network,'' closed to all but those in the inner circle. Mary challenged that by sitting in on the Council meeting in Atlantic City. When she was told she had to leave, she refused saying she would wait until the police came. (Mary relates the story somewhat differently: When she was told she had to leave, she responded she could find no rules in the by-laws restricting attendance at Council meetings. She was then told it was by ``gentlemen's agreement.'' Naturally Mary replied ``Well, obviously I'm no gentleman.'') After that time, Council meetings were open to observers and the process of democratization of the Society had begun.


Meantime, in the Boston area, women mathematicians had already been meeting. As Linda Rothschild writes: ``My involvement with AWM began in the late '60s, before it formally existed. In 1969, Alice Schafer, then at Wellesley, and I (a graduate student at MIT) organized a group of women mathematicians and students to meet every few weeks to discuss common problems and goals. Bhama Srinivasan joined when she started teaching at Clark in 1970. [According to Alice Schafer, the original group also included Bernice Auslander, Kay Whitehead, Caroline Series (then a graduate student at Harvard), Eleanor Palais and, Linda Almgren Kime. Kime lived in Cambridge and that made an easy place for the group to meet.] When AWM was officially launched, our little group became the Boston area mafia of AWM. Through Alice's boundless efforts, an office was established for AWM at Wellesley, and it has been anchored there ever since ....''3

Berkeley and me

In the beginning, I was quite ambivalent about the emerging women's movement in mathematics. As I replied to Linda Rothschild, ``Thanks for the information. I was glad to have more details about the early days [of the AWM] in Boston. Things seem to have started up after I left (in '68) and it's not clear that I would have been involved ... I was pretty `unconscious' about such things at that time. It didn't hit me until I got to Berkeley.''

The good thing about being ``pretty `unconscious' about such things'' in those days was it left you free to do your mathematics. The bad thing of course was that either you internalized every negative message from society, subtle or overt, or else naively dismissed them as not meant for you. While I did not completely escape the former mode, I fit more naturally into the latter--which served me well up to a point, the point being that I also made important decisions naively.

A naive decision was for me to go to Berkeley.

After receiving my degree, I had an excellent job offer (assistant professorship) on the East Coast (Yale), my husband on the West Coast (Berkeley). We also had various joint offers, moderately good for each of us. We were up against the famous 2-body problem, classic for women mathematicians as I was to learn later (from AWM Newsletters4). But at the time, we knew of no one who might offer some wise, even sympathetic advice. I ended up accepting a lectureship at Berkeley5 being quite assured (by the department chairman and vice-chairman) that the position was competitive in practice (if not in title) with my other offers, and that things would work out. Of course they did not.

The spring of 1971 was a particularly bleak time for me professionally. But, then again, I was in Berkeley. It was the era of People's Park, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I would have had to have been totally unconscious not to be affected by the political events around me. But also, in truth, I found it quite exciting, reminding me of a much earlier period in my life. In the Math Department, Moe Hirsch, John Rhodes, and Steve Smale had organized a Colloquium series on ``Social Problems Connected with Mathematics.'' When Steve asked me to chair a colloquium on ``Women in Mathematics,'' I quickly agreed.

Since I didn't know much about women in mathematics, I found three women who did: Ravenna Helson, a research psychologist who had done a study on women mathematicians and the creative personality; Sheila Johannsen, a historian knowledgable about the history of women in mathematics; and Betty Scott, chair of the Statistics Department at Berkeley, who had just co-authored a report of the Academic Senate on the status of women on the Berkeley campus.

The colloquium panel was a great success. The lecture hall was packed. And it was quite an eye-opener for me. For one, it had never occurred to me that there might be common personality traits amongst women mathematicians, except perhaps that we were each unique.6 It had never occurred to me how statistics could be a powerful political tool. I found Betty Scott's study a masterpiece, fleshing out cold data with poignant case studies. And then there was data that spoke clearly for itself, for example, her data on faculty positions in the Berkeley Math Department (ladder positions) :

academic year % women
1928/29 20
1938/39 11
1948/49 7
1958/59 3
1968/69 0

But also, it was the first time I had heard about Hypatia (born in Alexandria, c. 370 A.D., wrote and lectured on Diophantine arithmetic, butchered to death at the age of 45 by religious fanatics), Maria Agnesi, Sophie Germain, and more. Sonya Kovalevsky's motto, ``Say what you know, do what you must, come what may,'' which many of us immediately adopted as our own, told me that this was a woman who could not be cursorily dismissed.7

After that event, I became known as the expert on women in mathematics, on the West Coast at least. More importantly, I started to meet regularly with some of the women math graduate students: Laif Swanson, Joan Plastiras, and Judy Roitman. And, to use Linda Rothschild's expression, this little group was to become the Berkeley ``mafia'' of the AWM.

The First Decade (1971-1981): Building the foundations, a time of many firsts

Mary Gray (1971-1973): The mother of us all

Without a doubt, Mary Gray is the founder of the AWM and the ``mother of us all.'' As Carol Wood (who became AWM President in January 1991) put it: ``My overwhelming sense ... is that AWM would not have existed when it did, if at all, without the energy and vision of Mary Gray. That is probably too obvious to say, and of course there are others who shaped, changed, nurtured, etc. in critical ways ... But I was always struck by Mary's vision, and I think that our birthday party is an excellent opportunity to honor Mary . . .''

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Mary Gray

I first remember seeing a small announcement for the new organization, the Association of Women in Mathematics, placed by Mary in Notices, February 1971. The first issue of the AWM Newsletter (clearly written by Mary) appeared that May listing Mary Gray as chairman. By the second issue, ``of'' was changed to ``for'', but I don't recall when ``chairman'' was replaced by ``President.''

The Newsletter has since become the very embodiment of the AWM. From the start, it was our forum for discussing the role of women in mathematics, for exposing discrimination, for exchanging strategies, encouraging political action and, affirmative action, for informing, supporting, honoring, and of course. for job listings (which first appeared in the February 1972 issue). It has been our key linkage with each other, with credit due largely to Mary and subsequent editors, Judy Roitman and Anne Leggett.

Mary set down goals and agenda for the early AWM. In an article (``Uppity Women Unite!'') in the January 1972 MAG Newsletter she wrote: ``We have some plans to improve the status of women in mathematics ... There are two categories of problems, those involving the general female population and those involving professional women mathematicians. We must go back to the elementary schools--rewrite textbooks, use films, etc., and retrain the teachers and counselors. The goal is to show girls and boys that girls can and should learn mathematics ... As a small first step, careful attention must be given by the mathematical community to the mathematical training of elementary schoolteachers, to see that they learn to like mathematics as well as learning mathematics ...''

Mary goes on: ``What do women want? Let me be specific as far as women mathematicians are concerned: 1) Equal consideration for admission to graduate school and support while there, 2) ... for faculty appointments at all levels ..., 3) Equal pay for equal work, 4) Equal consideration in assignment of duties, for promotion and for tenure, 5) ... for administrative appointments at all levels in universities, industry and government, [and] 6) ... for government grants, positions on review and advisory panels and positions in professional organizations. Because of past injustices, special efforts will have to be made for some time to find women to consider. AWM is ready to help. Now is the time for discrimination to end.''

What seems quite amazing now is that these were considered radical demands!

Mary Gray informed us (sometimes in far greater detail than many of us cared to know) of legislation on discrimination and affirmative action and urged us to become involved. She was not afraid to say things straight, to take on the establishment single-handedly. Challenging the system, she successfully ran in 1976 as a petition candidate for Vice-President of the AMS. As Bhama Srinivasan said when we met in Berkeley last fall, ``Mary had the courage, and willingness, to take the initial steps and the initial hostility ... [charting a course] which eventually wiped out the `old boys network.' ''

Not all women mathematicians were enthusiastic about the AWM in the beginning. For example, as Cathleen Morawetz (in MP) puts it, ``I did not want the Association for Women in Mathematics to speak for all women mathematicians. I joined them later, but at that time they were terrible attackers ... ''

Nevertheless, she played an important role herself in changing the consciousness about women in mathematics. ``I was on a committee for disadvantaged groups in the Math Society, and I thought there should be a separate committee for women. I was terribly afraid when I went before the Board of Trustees--or it may have been the Council. Anyway, when it came my turn to speak, I said `There's a problem with women. You may not have noticed that there are not many women mathematicians.' ''

Cathleen continues, ``At that point Saunders Mac Lane said, `Well, mathematics is a very difficult subject.' I was not up to coping with that, but Iz Singer picked up the ball. The committee [on women] was formed and I was made chairman . . . ''

In 1973, the Committee on Women published the first Directory of Women Mathematicians.

Alice Schafer (1973-1975): AWM Incorporated

In terms of its organizational structure, I picture AWM as an evolving continuum (built with boundless energy and grass roots networking). There is considerable overlap between one presidency and the next. Indeed, the boundaries between terms often seem quite hazy with each subsequent President building on what came before--as well as each preceding President continuing to stay actively involved. Nobody seems to take a back seat and nobody seems to retire.

This dynamic was already in evidence in the first transition from Mary Gray to Alice Schafer: ``When I took over the presidency, Mary sent me a box with all sorts of papers, checks, etc ... When I asked [her] what I could do, she suggested getting AWM incorporated.'' Alice then goes on to relate her struggles setting up an official structure for the fledgling organization.

``That was done through a lawyer in Boston, who I had been told would charge very little, so I was amazed when he charged $500, which was really big money for AWM, and so, in the Newsletter, I asked for a contribution of a dollar from each member. Some gave and AWM did finally pay the bill. When it came to obtaining tax exemption status from the IRS, the lawyer said he would do it and I said first I would try. He said I could not do it, but [nevertheless] I did . . .''

In the early days, money was indeed a problem. And so Alice continues: ``Do you recall that one time the March Newsletter was printed in such small print in order to save money that many people could not read it? I think that was during my presidency. However, I do not recall that anyone sent in a contribution because of it [to help us out], but I may be wrong.''

For those of you who were not around during those years, and for those of us who may have forgotten, Alice goes on to paint a colorful, and almost slapstick, picture of what we were up against and how she handled it: ``One of the ... funny things that happened, that I recall, during my presidency is that when the meeting was in San Francisco [January 1974] AWM was still being harassed by the male mathematicians. Lee Lorch, friend of AWM, came to tell me that some of the men were going to attend the AWM meeting, which I was chairing of course, and were going to break it up. He thought I ought to be warned. I was glad of the warning and told him that teaching in high school for three years (before I had enough money to start graduate school) ought to prepare me for that! Actually, what is interesting, historically, is that meeting was the first time AWM had ever sponsored mathematical talks; before that it had all been consciousness raising. I had invited Cathleen Morawetz and Louise Hay to give short talks on mathematics ... and had scheduled them ahead of the consciousness raising part, and of course, their talks were good. The men, who were for the most part sitting in the last two rows in the audience, never said anything. I never knew who they were and it didn't matter ...''

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Seated left to right: Alice Schafer, Carol Wood, Jill Mesirov, Rhonda Hughes. Standing left to right: Ruth Charney, Bettye Anne Case, Eleanor G. D. Jones, Susan Geller, Jenny Baglivo.

During this period, in addition to building its own internal structure, the AWM was also beginning to establish itself as a legitimate professional society, to be reckoned with amongst its peers, i.e. other mathematical organizations. To the consternation of the men who were ``sitting in the last two rows'' (whose shenanigans were once again foiled by Alice)8, by the end of Alice's term AWM was about to be admitted as an affiliate member of the Conference Board of Mathematical Societies (CBMS), the umbrella society of mathematical organizations. By the time I became President, all I had to do was put on the finishing touches, and there we were, on the same Council (and on the same CBMS letterhead) with such organizations as the AMS, ASL, IMS, MAA, NCTM, SIAM, ASA, ACM, and ORSA, among others. An amazing feat for an association that was only four years old!

In its first venture into internationalism, AWM sponsored a panel at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Vancouver, the summer of 1974, to compare the situation for women in mathematics worldwide. Speakers included: Sheila Brenner (England), Michele Vergne (France), Bhama Srinivasan (India), and Xuan Hoang (North Vietnam). Other firsts in the mathematical world during this period included Barbara Osofsky's AMS Invited Address in Dallas, January 1973--the first such address at a national meeting by a woman since Anna Pell Wheeler's Colloquium Lectures in 19279--and Sloan fellowships awarded to Joan Birman and Karen Uhlenbeck in 1974.

Lenore Blum (1975-1978): Exploring new territory

In August 1975, I became President of the AWM (and served in that capacity for three years.) Since Mary had already captured the attention of the mathematics community head on, and Alice had set up the foundation for a working organization, I was mostly free to explore new territory. It seemed clear that the provincial view of mathematics--including who a mathematician was, and what a mathematician did-- was a prime factor in the exclusion of women, as well as others, from the field. It also seemed clear that the provincial view was potentially limiting to the discipline itself.

So, to make this ``statement,'' as well as to further educate myself, I decided to use the public forum which had proved so successful in Berkeley.

In those years, the academic job market for mathematicians was very tight. Many young people were in a terrible bind, given the prevailing view that the only respectable work for a mathematician was in academia. Since women mathematicians had been finding creative alternatives to academic employment for years, their experiences could be particularly useful, perhaps even change an image. I organized a panel on ``Women Mathematicians in Business, Industry, and Government'' for the January 1976 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Antonio (and a similar one in Seattle, the summer of 1977). Here I met for the first time: Marjorie Stein, a mathematician working at the U.S. Postal Service (Statistical Service Requirements Division); Jessie MacWilliams, a coding theorist at Bell Labs; Mary Wheeler of Rice, also a consultant for oil companies, working on numerical solutions to P.D.E.'s; Marijean Seelbach, a topologist and functional analyst working on optimal control theory at NASA-Ames. These energetic women had clearly found unusual and challenging career paths for themselves utilizing their mathematical training and skills. It was quite inspiring.

Many of us were eager to explore further our history. I decided to organize some panels at the Joint Math Meetings on the ``History of Women in Mathematics'' with AWM members as speakers. What was so powerful about these sessions, even historic in itself, was that for the first time women mathematicians were talking about women mathematicians (their lives and their work) to women mathematicians. By understanding their work, possibly even identifying with their lives, the speakers were able to convey uniquely meaningful, deeply personal portraits of the women who had come before us. The sessions were charged!

In Toronto (summer 1976), Mary Gray talked about Sophie Germain and her work (a bicentennial perspective), Linda Keen about Sonya Kovalevsky (her extraordinary life and mathematical achievements), Martha Smith about Emmy Noether (her work and tremendous influence). As an added treat, Emiliana Noether came to talk about her aunt (-in-law). In St. Louis (at the infamous cold winter Meeting of 1977), Teri Perl told us about the ``Lady's Almanac,'' a popular women's magazine published in England from 1704 to 1841, devoted in large part to mathematical questions and solutions.

But perhaps one of the most moving occasions was when Sylvia Wiegand spoke of her grandmother, mathematician Grace Chisolm Young. Because women were not admitted to graduate schools in England at the turn of the century, Grace went to Germany and became the first woman to receive a formal degree in mathematics in Gottingen--indeed the first woman Ph.D. in Germany in any field. When she returned to England, she married William Young, her former tutor. Sylvia read a poignant letter from her grandfather to her grandmother, written some years later:

``I hope you enjoy this working for me ... I am very happy that you are getting on with the ideas. I feel partly as if I were ... setting you problems which I could not quite do myself but could enable you to ...
``The fact is that our papers ought to be published under our joint names, but if this were done neither of us get the benefit of it. No. Mine the laurels now and the knowledge. Yours the knowledge only. Everything under my name now, and later when the leaves and fishes are no more procurable in that way, everything or much under your name.
``This is my programme. At present you can't undertake a public career. You have your children. I can and do.''10

An historic panel, ``Black Women in Mathematics,'' organized by Pat Kenschaft and Etta Falconer, was held in Atlanta, January 1978. Of the twelve black women in the U.S. holding Ph.D.s in mathematics at the time (more of course held degrees in mathematics education), six were on the panel: Geraldine Darden, Elayne Idowu, Eleanor G. Jones, Evelyn Roane, Dolores Spikes and Etta Falconer.11

These AWM sessions at the national meetings were immensely popular. We were clearly identifying and addressing subjects of interest and issues of concern to the mathematics community-at-large (well before these issues were recognized by the establishment as legitimate, even critical). As a consequence, we began to broaden our constituency, attracting people who had perhaps felt uncomfortable with the more political tone of earlier days.

But political issues were nevertheless still very much on our minds. We provided testimony for congressional investigations, wrote university presidents and newspaper editors and letters (often signed jointly by the three Presidents Mary, Alice and me) protesting objectionable images of girls and women in textbooks, the media, and advertising. (In school math books, girls were still calculating the perfect recipe, while boys calculated the time to get to the moon. Flyers depicting a naked woman contemplating a calculator were still being distributed at the Math Book Exhibits in 1976.) In 1978, a masterful combination of teamwork and old girl networking resulted in decisions by the AMS and MAA not to hold national meetings in states that had not ratified the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). At the International Congress in Helsinki (ICM-78), a special meeting was called by the AWM to protest the absence of women speakers. Over 500 people attended. I introduced a resolution (amended by Lee Lorch) urging this situation be rectified by the next Congress. The resolution passed by a near-unanimous vote (only three dissenters).

It was a time of heady issues, but also a time of great excitement and great fun. It was a time of newly found camaraderie, of friendships, of support and respect among women mathematicians.

I was clearly a beneficiary of this ``sisterhood'' during my presidency. Besides the two former Presidents to guide me, Judy Roitman was Newsletter Editor and Judy Green, AWM Employment Officer (a title deemed appropriate since she had taken it upon herself to analyze employment data and monitor the legitimacy of job advertisements). Both Judys were co-Vice-President.

Judy Roitman and I had become great friends during the early Berkeley days, and as I wrote in the November 1978 Newsletter welcoming her presidency, ``... our friendship has grown with, indeed, has been intertwined with, our involvement in ... the AWM.'' She was (and is) a great- and speedy-writer, and since writing was not one of my better skills, many a President's Report was told (I can hardly say dictated) to her over the phone the night before the Newsletter went to press.

Judy Green often played the role of political advisor, telephone consultant, as well as AWM liaison with the Mathematics Action Group (MAG) and the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), the association for black mathematicians. In preparing this history, I queried her: ``Even though you were never President, you very well could ... have been. How come we never could get you to `run'? You were doing a lot of the work de-facto anyway.'' To which she replied, ``... I'm much better helping people than being in charge. I really don't like being out there in front. Judy Roitman and I were co-Vice-Presidents since neither one of us would say we'd be President-elect. At the end, she gave in before I did!'' That also helps explain why my term lasted as long as it did!

Discrimination/Affirmative Action

Before going ahead, I would like to take out a few moments to address directly a few aspects of the twin issues of discrimination and affirmative action that were so central to our lives in those years.

The AWM gave women mathematicians courage to speak out publicly, even file complaints and charges about their own situation. As a consequence, our files were overflowing with correspondence from women documenting discrimination, seeking assistance and advice. Mary Gray, being the most knowledgable, handled most of these cases throughout the 1970s, but we all did some.

Affirmative action rulings often produced backlash and many abuses. For example, in order to satisfy affirmative action guidelines, many math departments resorted to ``papering the files,'' inviting women to apply for jobs that didn't exist or had already been offered to men. A related practice is illustrated by the following letter from a woman mathematician on the East Coast to the Vice-Chairman of the Math Department on the West Coast. The names have been removed, not so much for anonymity, but rather to stress genericity:

``Dear Professor X, This is the third consecutive year that I have been invited to apply for the position of Assistant Professor in the Mathematics Department of [West Coast University]. I assume it is the third year of [WCU]'s Affirmative Action program. As I mentioned in my last response to such an invitation, I have been Associate Professor since the first year. It is hard to believe that [WCU] is serious about its Affirmative Action program if it makes no attempt to match the experience of the candidate considered with the positions available. Would you be interested in a job as Assistant Professor?

``Sincerely, Y''12

Indeed, while many in the mathematics community believed that there was an influx of women faculty as a result of affirmative action, the data in the early years showed quite the contrary. As an example, between 1973-1974 and 1974-1975 the percentage of women in regular math faculty positions, in most instances, actually went down; and no significant rise became evident until very much later. (See Judy Green's article in the April 1975 AWM Newsletter, mine in the May-June 1976 CBMS Newsletter, and Mary's and Alice's in Notices, October 1976.)

Judy Roitman (1978-1981): A summing up

The early years of the AWM were a time of activism, of speaking out, of politics, of confrontation, of heroes and villains--when issues seemed almost black or white. Judy Roitman provides a perspective on the decade: ``I can summarize my time in AWM office by saying that I was one of the last-perhaps the last-President of an amateur AWM. What do I mean by this?

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Judy Roitman

``The AWM grew out of the feminist movement of the 1970s, which was marked by confrontation, attention to, and expression of, personal feelings and individual incidents, and ignorance of history. Having finally read some of this history (Margaret Rossiter's excellent book on American women scientists) I suspect that had we known how closely we were following in the footsteps of earlier feminists, and how little change their tremendous efforts made, we probably never would have bothered. So the early job of the AWM was just to look around us and report the obvious--the situation for women was terrible--and the apparently not-so-obvious--it didn't have to . . . be that way. We spent a lot of time popping up at meetings (departmental, local, national) saying over and over again that women could be perfectly good, even great, mathematicians if given the opportunity ... and that there were several steps the mathematical community could take to improve things for both women and minorities. It was an easy kind of agitation-you just had to look around you and report what you saw ...

``But while this style had its successes, it was based on a sort of shooting from the hip. That is why I characterize it as being amateur ...''13

It was also a time of lassoing people in. In addition to national meetings of the AWM, members were organizing and meeting regionally: Sue Montgomery and Ruth Afflack in Southern California, Rebekka Struik in the Rocky Mountain region, Jessie Ann Engle, Judith Longyear and Vera Pless in the Midwest, Pat Kenschaft in New Jersey, Linda Keen in New York, to mention only a few. In the mid-1970s, AWM instituted an Open Council, encouraging the participation of members representing a wide range of self-identified constituencies and areas of interest14 By 1981, AWM had grown to over 1000 members (from the U.S. and fifteen other countries), its influence and political power ranging far beyond these numbers. For example, then and over the years, AWM-supported candidates in AMS elections have been quite likely to win.

The 1970s were certainly a time of increased consciousness about women in mathematics. It was also a time of many firsts. Two notable additions to those already mentioned are Julia Robinson's election to the National Academy of Sciences15 and Dorothy Bernstein's election as President of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), both in 1975. During Judy Roitman's term, the AWM Noether Lectures (chaired first by Karen Uhlenbeck) were inaugurated by Jessie MacWiliams at the San Antonio meeting in January 1980.16

But also, it was a time of solid program development and achievements. During those years, many of us were involved in designing and implementing educational programs to increase the participation of girls and women in mathematics. Other organizations--such as the Math/Science Network, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Women and Mathematics (WAM), founded by the MAA--to which many AWM members belonged, were also very much part of this effort. Since the old system was clearly not working for us, we were motivated to explore new paradigms in teaching: developing hands-on activities and materials stressing problem solving skills, promoting team teaching and cooperative learning, providing role models and information to students (as well as their parents and teachers) about why mathematics was important for their future.17 Of course, all this made sense in general. And indeed, educational programs we developed in the 1970s are now models for educational reform in the 1990s. A stellar example is Nancy Kreinberg's EQUALS teacher training program at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. (Many articles describing successful educational programs and strategies can be found in AWM Newsletters.)

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Next: 2. The Second Decade Up: A Brief History of Previous: Preface

Copyright ©1991 American Mathematical Society. Reprinted with permission.
Brought to you by the Association for Women in Mathematics.