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Three Female Authors Every Nerd Girl Can Be Inspired By

Let’s be real – books are amazing: they are these tiny little packets of dead trees that transport you to another world. Literature has long been a place to explore the weird, taboo, and/or morbid, so it’s not too much of a surprise that they attract an eclectic crowd.

Any English major can tell you: the life of an author is usually as interesting as anything they’ve written, and often a lot more surreal. The girls of literature in particular are brilliant, badass, and have a habit of throwing convention to the wind.

These ladies are three of the best: they’re testaments to saying “screw it” to the social constructs of the world.  Their work is incredible on its own, don’t get me wrong, but writers can be a work of art all on their own.

#1 – Tamora Pierce

Known for: The Lioness Quartet

Lioness

Strong female protagonists are on the rise (we’re slowly getting the hang of this whole equal-portrayal thing in books and media) but I still have yet to find an author who can write a female character like Tamora Pierce.

Pierce grew up reading Tolkien and Arthurian legends, writing fan fiction, and befriending pigeons.  She crochets.  She is, to be blunt, one of us.  So when she noticed a lack of good female characters in the works she enjoyed, Tamora Pierce decided to thoroughly deconstruct gender roles in her own writing.

Alanna: The First Adventure was published in 1983 and was (along with Disney’s Mulan [1998]) the introduction to cross-dressing for an entire generation of young girls.  For someone like me, who grew up with a huge assortment of dead white men for heroes, it was a refreshing change.

Gender discrimination was a very real thing in Pierce’s world, but the picture she painted was far from hopeless.  Discrimination was oppressive, but her characters faced it head-on and kicked its butt.  This was not limited to women: The Lioness Quartet‘s main character has a twin brother who escapes the masculine future of the knighthood to become a scholar and mage instead.

I know I’m not the only one out there with Pierce-inspired childhood stories.  There isn’t a female writer born after 1980 who hasn’t admired elements of her work: everyone should aspire to challenge the status quo as thoroughly as she does.

#2 – Maya Angelou

Known For: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya

A ridiculous number of people know Maya Angelou by nothing more than her poetry. A few of her tamer poems get tossed around classrooms as examples of black culture every February, picked apart, and promptly forgotten.  This has its merits. Way too many people don’t appreciate poetry.  But it means the actual reasons to celebrate her life are completely whitewashed.

Maya Angelou was, over the course of her lifetime, a poet, a dancer, a prostitute, a journalist, a playwright, an essayist, an actress, a director, and a civil rights leader.  She was a friend of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  She endured racism, divorce, sexism, and even rape.

She was mute for five years of her life as a result of trauma, and once she recovered she spoke loudly and clearly for the rest of her life.  She’s also a fairly serious addition to a somewhat lighthearted article, and the least-obviously-geeky of the three.

Maya Angelou should be right up there on the required reading list with Douglas Adams. There is no writer in the world who portrays passion, the driving force of nerd girls everywhere, as well as she does.  You can’t read a word she writes without feeling your own voice get a little stronger.

#3 – Mary Shelley

Known for: Frankenstein

Frank

The best zombie story ever written was written by a 19-year-old girl in a cabin, surrounded by a bunch of poets, over a rainy summer.

She had just lost a child, run away with a married man, and (according to her own writing) she felt pretty inferior to the literary giants she was hanging out with: Lord Byron and her then-boyfriend Percy Shelley.  When Lord Byron suggested they have a ghost-story contest, she spent the first few days at a loss for ideas.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein that summer. She blew them all away.

Mary was a writer from youth and raised by her father. She believed in free love and ran away at seventeen to practice it. She was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, an amazing first-wave feminist, and it is a shame the two never got to know each other. She once caught smallpox helping a lesbian couple run away together.

Shelley played gender roles like a violin.  Where most of her contemporary female writers focused on a female narrator (not a bad thing), Mary flipped convention the bird and wrote Frankenstein with a male protagonist.

Not from a male perspective, mind: there are a lot of feminine undertones when you deal with the creation of life, not to mention the themes of ostracization and family life that seem pretty heavy for a horror novel. If you don’t aspire to live a life as chaotic as hers, take inspiration from that self-awareness: there are so many layers in Shelley’s writing it’d make an onion cry.

Mix that up with a voice inspired by Angelou while you challenge the status quo like Pierce, and nothing in the world can stop you.


AlexPAlex is currently enjoying a longtime addiction to stories, which she feeds through books, tabletop RPGs, and an excessive collection of video games. She’s currently seeking to publish a novel about a bookshop that gets abducted by aliens, loves to crochet, and blogs about it all over at https://alexpenland.wordpress.com/.  You can follow her on Twitter @AlexPenname, where she spends two hours every Saturday livetweeting whatever books strike her fancy.

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Five Badass Women With Revolutionary Inventions

When most people hear the terms “scientist” and “inventor,” they picture a wild-haired, lab-coated man like Doc from the Back to the Future movies. But the reality is that a wide variety of people have contributed to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

Which is good because this just wouldn't work.
Which is good because this just wouldn’t work.

Here are the stories of five badass women whose hard work and creativity changed the landscape of the modern world.

1. Margaret Knight

Having your design stolen and patented by someone else before you could even finish your model for submission might be too much for some people to handle, but not for Margaret Knight. She knew something about hard work and hardship. Her first design – a cover for a flywheel to prevent industrial accidents – came about after she saw someone get killed in the factory where she worked at the tender age of twelve. So when Charles Annan patented her machine in 1871, she sued him and won. Margaret went on to found the Eastern Paper Bag Company with a business partner, manufacturing the world’s first square-bottomed paper bags. By the end of her prolific career, she had 87 patents under her belt. No wonder she is still one of the best-known female inventors in the world!

Just one of many patents - and a one of a kind lady!
A one of a kind lady and just one of many patents!

2. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

If Margaret Knight was a genius with machines, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is a master of physics. Born in 1946, Dr. Jackson was the first black woman to earn a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That alone would be pretty impressive, but she didn’t stop there. Her work laid the foundations for such groundbreaking technology as fax machines, touch tone phones, solar cells and even fiber optic cables. So the next time you use your internet connection, make sure to thank Shirley Jackson! She is also the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York (where she has helped raise over a billion dollars for philanthropic organizations), has served on 14 boards of directors, has received many honorary doctorate degrees, and was the recipient of the CIBA-GEIGY Exceptional Black Scientist Award, the Thomas Alva Edison Science Award, and the Richtmyer Memorial Award. Dr. Jackson is truly an accomplished woman of science.

She's good, and she knows it!
She’s good, and she knows it!

3. Dr. Temple Grandin

Another woman who knew something about overcoming obstacles was Dr. Temple Grandin. Born with autism, Grandin wasn’t able to speak until the age of four. Despite this, she went on to earn a doctorate in animal science and become an author and motivational speaker. Her work in the area of ethical treatment for animals led to the invention of humane animal restraint systems, and she has designed livestock handling facilities around the world. She is also a prominent expert on autism, having published numerous books in the field. Now that is taking life’s lemons and making lemonade!

Here she is being awesome while giving a TED Talk.
Here she is being awesome while giving a TED Talk.

4. Marion Donovan

Marion Donovan came from an inventive family. As a child, she was exposed to the manufacturing plant of her father and uncle, men who invented improvements to industrial machinery. So when, as a new mother, she became frustrated by the messiness of changing her baby’s cloth diapers, she decided to do something about it. She used her sewing machine to sew a layer of waterproof material to the outside of a cloth diaper to contain the mess. She tried to interest manufacturers in her invention, without success. Undeterred, Donovan debuted her invention – dubbed the Boater – in Saks Avenue in 1949. It was a huge success, and the rest is history. After obtaining a patent on her invention, Donovan sold the rights to Keko Corporation. By the end of her life, Donovan had obtained 20 patents and a degree in Architecture from Yale University.

This woman had her priorities in order. Can you imagine how thrilled women of the past would have been to have this??
This woman had her priorities in order. Can you imagine how thrilled women of the past would have been to have this??

5. Bessie Blount

Bessie Blount’s training wasn’t in engineering, but in physical therapy. She didn’t let that get in the way of inventiveness! She worked with WWII veterans, mostly amputees. Seeing their struggles with everyday life, she decided to try to improve their lot. In 1951, Blount patented a device that would allow them to feed themselves. It worked by sending a mouthful of food down a tube whenever the tube was bitten. Sadly, she was unable to make money from her invention, and so gave the rights to the French government, who put the device (and a smaller, more portable version she also invented) to use. Many injured war veterans and other amputees were helped by her idea.

 It is a truly remarkable person that care so deeply for others that their contributions echo into the future!
It is a truly remarkable person that care so deeply for others that their contributions echo into the future!

So the next time someone says something about how girls can’t do math, or women shouldn’t go into the sciences, point at these five badass ladies. Women can not only get into the STEM fields, but they can kick ass and take names in them!

If you’re interested in reading about or contributing to a program that helps girls get into STEM fields (and why wouldn’t you be, after reading about these badass women??), check out Girls in Technology at http://www.womenintechnology.org/git. It is an organization run by Women in Technology and actively works to build community between women in tech industries. Girls in Technology mission statement is to work to inspire girls in grades 6 to 12 toward successful futures in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) industries.


NikNik is an aspiring fantasy novelist and recovering roller derby aficionado. When she isn’t writing articles, she’s wasting brain cells remembering minutiae on such topics as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and assorted terrible vampire novels from the nineties.

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