Making Strides in Science

In this episode of Curve Riders, Alexa tells the story of Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM; a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and one of the first women to get her Ph.D. in computer science, which was male dominated. During her life she started a small computer science program at Clarke University, and has authored 4 books with IBM.

The sciences are known for being hard, like really hard. Like, fall asleep over your textbook and cry during finals week hard. It’s hard for everyone. Even science majors, chemistry major physics major it’s still hard, because it’s a new way of thinking. Every single chapter is new. Now, we could probably agree that most fields are men dominated, chemistry, physics, and biology are. So, in the stress of needed to prove your gender good enough to be there, to top it off imagine having to be in full habit. Everyone knows your religion and dedication to God. I’d say women like this like a challenge. They like being underestimated and proving to their peers and professors wrong. Especially in the 60s, 70s, and even now.

Sisters like Mary Kenneth Keller and Veronica Maher did this. This stepped into a system dominated by men and worked for the respect and status that they held. Sister Mary Kenneth Keller got her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics right after that she went to work and study in Dartmouth. This wasn’t very common because women weren’t typically allowed to help out or work in the computer science section and in 1965 she was the first person to receive her degree in computer science degree and she got it from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

This is why Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM was sort of a big deal. Women weren’t typically in the computer science industry but she pushed her way in. She made it clear that she was going to do this because she wanted to. She was very progressive and cleared the way for women to do this in the future. This is not to say that every young woman needs to go into a science field and change the game, but it speaks to the confidence that women need. WE need to trust our passions and work for what we are passionate about, and that’s what these sisters did. Not only do we need to trust ourselves, we need to trust God. What we can take from these sisters whether we want to be a business major or fashion major, language major, is to be inspired by the movement and change that they were apart of. We can continue on to make great things and put a dent in history as long as can leave those who doubt and believe in the road we choose to follow.

About Curve Riders

Curve Riders is a short narrative podcast of women who didn't make the history books. Produced by Pa Ying Vang; the series presents achievements and cultural impacts of women religious. Inspired by SisterStory's coverage "Sisters of Influence" on pinterest the podcast aims to present these stories anew with an emphasis on storytelling through writing, sound design, and music. The podcast was created by Alexa Harnagel who produced it in 2015 with subsequent production also handled by EJ La Valle and Maakwe Cumanzala.