Hello hello! It’s women’s history month!
This is the first of an undetermined number of portraits I’ll be doing of amazing women this month. I’m calling the project ‘Overlooked & Underrated,’ as the women I’m choosing fit into two categories.
Underrated is women you’ve heard of, but often only for their looks or fame. Think Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn: remembered for their appearances and style, rather than their considerable work for charitable causes. These women are often remembered for superficial reasons, when the truth is that they helped society tremendously with comparatively little recognition.
Overlooked will hopefully introduce you to women of history who you have never heard of. They worked hard and the affects of the work they did might still be felt today, but they have been forgotten or even deliberately excluded from the history books.
Today’s woman falls into the first category for me. Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958) was a British scientist who pioneered research in coal, DNA and viruses. Science at this time was almost exclusively the realm of men, but Rosalind refused to be put off, despite facing considerable sexism, especially by her colleague Maurice Wilkins. Her photograph of DNA led to the discovery of the double helix for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in 1962.
Due to her uncomfortable relationship with Wilkins, Franklin left the research team at King’s College in 1953. Her career was cut tragically short when at 37 she died of ovarian cancer.
I heard about her just a few days ago while listening to a recent episode of the In Our Time podcast from the BBC. As someone who has always had a fascination in women’s history I was really disappointed not to have heard of this woman, who really is the reason we now understand DNA. Not only this, but to hear the level of exclusion and sexism she faced from her male peers even as she pushed forward with her groundbreaking discoveries, is inspiring.
Discovering Rosalind has also led me to discover the Lost Boss Bitch podcast, which I’m really enjoying and has inspired a few more of the ‘Overlooked & Underrated’ women to come! I also always love listening to The History Chicks podcast, which also works to highlight impressive women of the past.
I hope you like today’s illustration, and keep an eye out for the next ones to come!