Updated: Sep 24, 2022
By： Michelle Ren
In the past and present, women have faced countless difficulties in STEM-based fields. Women of color, specifically, have not only encountered the same sexism as their white counterparts but dealt with racial stereotypes as well. Nevertheless, many women of color have made their names known in the science world, challenging the status quo and reshaping the idea of “women’s work.” Through their groundbreaking discoveries, these scientists and physicians have passed down their knowledge to future generations, inspiring young girls to follow in their footsteps. To commemorate their achievements, this article will focus on introducing two remarkable STEM women of color who have left behind lasting legacies through their books.
First and foremost, Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal, a Chinese-American virologist and molecular biologist, dedicated her life to the study of virology and immunology. Most notably, Wong-Staal is credited as the first person to clone HIV in 1985, a feat that helped identify HIV as the cause of AIDS. Following this accomplishment, Wong-Staal would go on to conduct gene therapy research to repress HIV in stem cells and use her experience in virology to better understand hepatitis C. Despite battling both sexism and racism, Wong-Staal was able to achieve much more than the average scientist, making her name known by publishing her work in “AIDS Vaccine Research.” Even after her death, Wong-Staal is remembered as a distinguished virologist, whose scientific research is still used to understand present-day viruses, such as COVID-19.
[Photo Credit: The Lancet]
Next, this article would not be complete without acknowledging Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (born as Rebecca Davis), the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As the only black and female graduate of the New England Female Medical College in 1860, Crumpler experienced prejudiced comments from colleagues daily. Despite this challenge, Crumpler managed to find work at the Freedman’s Bureau for the State of Virginia. She spent her days treating African Americans and assisting them in the slow transition from slavery to freedom at the end of the Civil War. After years of gaining insight into the diseases of women and children, Crumpler compiled her knowledge into “A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts.” While the first section of her writing discusses diseases found in infants, the second part focuses on conditions that would affect mothers and women in general. Through her practice and book, Rebecca Lee Crumpler has left behind a historic legacy in which her perseverance as a physician serves as an inspiration to today’s women in STEM.
[Photo Credit: Adventist Health]
Ultimately, both Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler have contributed tremendously to their respective fields as a result of their scientific research and publications. In a world where women of color face extensive discrimination in male-dominated workplaces, the presence of these two women has given young girls the role models they needed. As long as girls continue to make their way into STEM-based fields, their names will always be remembered.
Kenyon, Georgina. “Flossie Wong-Staal.” The Lancet: Infectious Disease, vol. 20, no. 9, 1 Sept. 2020, pp. 1, The Lancet, https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30645-9.
Laskowski, Amy. “Trailblazing BU Alum Gets a Gravestone 130 Years after Her Death.” Boston University, Boston University's Alumni Magazine, 7 Aug. 2020, www.bu.edu/articles/2020/rebecca-lee-crumpler-first-black-female-physician-gets-gravestone-130-after-death/.
Markel, Howard. “Celebrating Rebecca Lee Crumpler, First African-American Woman Physician .” PBS News Hour, 9 Mar. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/health/celebrating-rebecca-lee-crumpler-first-african-american-physician.
“Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler, MD: Healing Those with No Access to Care .” Adventist Health, 20 Feb. 2021, www.adventisthealth.org/blog/2021/february/rebecca-davis-lee-crumpler-md-healing-those-with/.
“Women of Color in STEM .” Maryville University, 10 May 2021, https://online.maryville.edu/blog/women-of-color-in-stem/.