I bet you didn’t know that!
Well, you probably did if you read about the obituary for Yvonne Brill in the New York Times.
Yvonne Brill was a rocket scientist who was born in 1924. She studied math and chemistry in college, worked as an engineer, married, and took 8 years off work to raise her children. Her biggest scientific achievement was to invent a propulsion system for communication satellites.
There are hints throughout the obituary that her family was just as much a priority in her life as science was. For example, she is quoted as saying “Good husbands are harder to find than good jobs” after describing how she and her husband moved multiple times for his work.
The obituary originally begins “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. Her son, Matthew Brill, called her ‘the world’s best mom.'”
The Times later changed the “made a mean beef stroganoff” to “was a brilliant rocket scientist.” Apparently, beginning her obituary with a description of her cooking is sexist and offensive.
A compliment on the cooking of a woman scientist I’ve never heard of is supposed to offend me? Some people get their feelings hurt way too easily.
Looks to me like the obituary as originally written had the right idea. If Mrs. Brill left her career for 8 years so she could raise her children, it looks like they were more important to her than her career was.
I understand that feminists want women to go to work and feel fulfilled through their careers, but to some women, family is more important. If you find that offensive, that’s your problem.
Before I got married, I had big ideas about my career and the difference I would make. Now, wonderful as my field is, what I really want to be is a mom. Nothing at work, not even my students, can replace the emptiness I feel over not having my own children.
If the family was happy with the obituary, what right does anyone else have to complain?
When you die, how will you want to be remembered?
With my complete and utter lack of cooking skills, it’s very unlikely I will be remembered for a “mean beef stroganoff,” but I for one would love to be remembered as “the world’s best mom.”
Related Articles (ones that flipped over the stroganoff remark):
The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly… on the Scientific American Blog
Stroganoff, sexism and science: the media’s problem with portraying women in the field in the Allegheny College Newspaper.
The Times obituary (edited): Yvonne Brill, a Pioneering Rocket Scientist, Dies at 88