Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marie Curie: Feminist of Yesterday?

I was having too many computer problems to post last night, but since I've already written about Denise Levertov I thought I'd write about Marie Curie today.

Marie Curie
Two Nobel Prizes in the area of physics and chemistry, 15 gold medals,
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

Marie Curie didn't identify as a feminist, she never organised as a feminist. She focused her life on chemistry, and poisoning herself. She was a brilliant chemist, won the Nobel Prize twice, I'm not disputing any of that. I just don't think that makes her a feminist.

Feminism is a necessary prerequisite for individual women to 'achieve', but that achievement is an effect, not the goal, of the feminist struggle. To quote Barbara Ehrenreich in a slightly:
Feminism is not a particular lifestyle, defined by having your own job and checking account, for example. It is a moral stance and one that has always valued the stay-at-home mothers just as much as the corporate strivers.
There's nothing wrong with being a Nobel-prize winning chemist, but its no more feminist than looking after your children.

Conclusion: Nothing against her, but not a feminist.


  1. No indeed we don't! ;)

    I gotta agree.

  2. But I don't think the reason women are under-represented in the sciences is because women don't believe in themselves. I believe that the reason women are underrepresented in the sciences is because of systematic discrimination. Whether it's the simple old fashioned sort that doesn't let women into laboratories, more complicated discrimination like sexual harrassment, lack of childcare or so many other ways - men in sciences have kept women out.

  3. CC 4 Curie2:52 pm

    I'm studying her at the moment... I'm not sure she's what we would call a stereotypical 'feminist' today, however she did believe she was an inspiration and a role model for women who were made to feel by society that they could not pursue a career in the sciences... or any career for that matter. She stood up against society's belief that women were inferior, and challenged this faux and discriminatory line of thinking. She had a lot of firsts... first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, first person to win two Nobel Prizes... and more. If you define a feminist as someone who stands up for equal rights amongst the sexes, Marie Curie certainly passes the criteria.

  4. Anonymous2:53 pm

    were have you found this kind of info???