BY KAITLIN MORONEYInternational Women’s Day was March 8, just a couple of weeks ago. That day I ran across a lot of inspiring and wonderful articles online about the work women are doing and have been doing for thousands of years.
Let’s be real – women have been doing amazing stuff forever but, historically speaking, all we ever seem to hear about are the dudes who do amazing stuff. And that stood out to me more than anything – the number of women who have been completely badass and then been completely snubbed. Either their work has been discounted because they’re “just women” or their work has been downright stolen by their male counterparts who then pass it off as their own.
So I decided to put together this list as a tribute to the millions of women who’ve done amazing things over the years and never received the proper recognition. And secondary to that, this list is a finger-wagging, tongue-clucking “SHAME ON YOU” to all those men who’ve stolen the work, inventions and research of women and passed it off as their own. You guys suck.
1. Rosalind Franklin, discovered the DNA double helix
This fine woman makes the top spot on the list because I find her snub to be among the most egregious. In May 1952, a doctoral student at King’s College London – under the supervision of Franklin, using t echnology she invented – took a photograph that became a critical point of evidence in identifying the structure in DNA (you know, that famous double helix spiral we see everywhere). Nearly a year later, during a visit to Franklin’s lab, James Watson and Francis Crick were given a sneak peek of the photograph (dubbed Photo 51) by another scientist, Maurice Wilkins, without Franklin’s permission. Watson and Crick then used key features from Photo 51 along with more of Franklin’s data to develop a model of the DNA molecule and published their findings in Nature in April 1953, noting her only in a footnote “having been stimulated by a general knowledge of” Franklin’s ‘unpublished’ contribution.”
Watson and Crick later won a Nobel Prize for their supposed discovery, four years after Franklin died of cancer. Twenty-five years after the Nature article and 10 years after her death, Watson did acknowledge her contributions to some extent in his book titled “The Double Helix,” although it was always buried under his unfavorable and sexist descriptions of her as a person and a scientist. Because, of course, no one wants to admit he was a total asshat to a perfectly reasonable, nice and brilliant person.
So next time you see that double helix, think of Rosalind Franklin. And then make a fart noise with your mouth in the general direction of Watson and Crick.
2. Elizabeth Magie, invented Monopoly
The story goes that one unemployed man named Charles Darrow dreamed up this now-classic board game at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s, sold it to Parker Brothers and became a millionaire. This story was even tucked into the 80th anniversary edition of the games. Unfortunately, as New York Times reporter Mary Pilon recently discovered, that story really isn’t true. According to Pilon’s story, the game was actually invented by Elizabeth Magie (later Phillips), who filed a legal claim for her game in 1903, “more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time – people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.”
She created two sets of rules for her game, meant as a lesson to illustrate how the first set was morally superior over the other. There were the anti-monopolist rules where all players were rewarded when wealth was created and monopolist rules where the goal was to create monopolies and crush the other players. As we know, it was the second set of rules that became massively popular and created a mountain of money for Darrow and Parker Brothers. Because, of course, we would make popular a game intended to illustrate just how Americans (and our economic structure) are a bunch of amoral nincompoops bent only on the destruction of our opponents for our own profitability. This is some real-life irony right here.
Magie was understandably unhappy about her idea being appropriated and gave interviews in 1936 expressing her anger and frustration to a few newspapers. She died in 1948 in relative obscurity, the knowledge of her contributions to this popular board game buried with her. To read more about Magie’s story, check out Pilon’s book titled “The Monopolists.” It’s on my reading list because, frankly, I think it’s about time this lady gets her due.
3. Margaret Knight, paper bag machine
“Paper or plastic?” Hopefully, for the sake of the birds and whales and your grandchildren, you answer this question with “paper” at the grocery store. But did you know paper bags wouldn’t be as awesome (although they’d still be eco-friendly) if it wasn’t for the invention of Knight? She got kind of tired of useless paper bags that functioned more like envelopes, with a V-shaped bottom, and invented a machine that folded and glued the bags to form a square bottom, thus allowing them to hold all your totally healthy ramen, Pepsi and tubed cinnamon roles. But, of course, her invention was just downright stolen by a man named Charles Annan, who patented it like a total butthead. Thankfully, Knight decided this was not OK and fought his patent in court. It took a good three years, but she did eventually win the case and was awarded the patent in 1871, which was a really huge deal for a woman at that time. You go girl.
Have a listicle you’d like to see? Get in touch. Moroney may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2232.