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Worth a Thousand Words: A Legion of Legends

Learn about the UW’s partnership with Represented Collective to develop a card collection that tells 41 legendary stories of women in STEM.

When it comes to historical barriers and accomplishments for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), the Legendary card collection lays it all on the table. Represented Collective, a media company based in Madison and Houston, developed the collection of 56 cards in partnership with UW–Madison’s Humanities Education for Anti-Racism Literacy in the Sciences and Medicine (HEAL) project. Comprising portraits and profiles of 41 women in STEM, as well as 11 question cards and four intention cards to engage critical thinking and thoughtful reflection, the collection shines a light on the rarely shared stories and accomplishments of women of color in STEM.

Winnie Karanja, the founder and CEO of Represented Collective, explained the importance of the project in a 2022 feature from the College of Letters & Science: “Legendary showcases the brilliant, nuanced, yet under-recognized contributions of women (primarily Black, Indigenous and women of color) in STEM — women who pushed boundaries and challenged the status quo with bold thinking and innovation, reshaping the narrative of who belongs in STEM, and who we call an innovator, a leader, a legend.”

While none of the 41 women featured in Legendary have direct ties to the UW, several Badgers supported the project with their artistry and expertise. Jessalyn Mailoa ’21 illustrated a portion of the cards, and Sarah Gamalinda MA’17, PhD’22 researched and wrote the biographies for each profile. Christy Clark-Pujara, Elizabeth Hennessy, Erika Marín-Spiotta, and Cheryl Bauer-Armstrong ’81, all professors in the College of Letters & Science and co-principal investigators on the HEAL leadership team, also worked to make the Legendary collection possible. Together with Represented Collective, these Badgers have shared the incredible stories and breakthroughs of some of the women who have contributed to the long history of scientific progress we enjoy today, and who will continue to inspire more legends in STEM.

Below, check out a selection of the Legendary card collection and learn more about the women you see. And if you’re interested in getting a set for yourself, visit Represented Collective’s website.

Courtesy of Represented Collective.

Katherine Johnson

Thanks to the popular book Hidden Figures, and its subsequent film adaption, Katherine Johnson’s contributions to the United States space program are no longer hidden. Johnson spent three decades working as a mathematical analyst for NASA, beginning in 1953 with its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. She helped plan the country’s first spaceflight with Alan Shepard in 1961, and her incontrovertible computing skills assured astronaut John Glenn that his orbit around Earth was calculated properly before launch.

Prompt: What are some of the unseen ways math operates in the world around you?

Courtesy of Represented Collective.

Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill

Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill was born in 1876 to a Mohawk mother and a Quaker father who provided care to those living on the Akwesasne Reservation in northern New York. She pursued a career that would ultimately honor both of her parents. Minoka-Hill enrolled at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and became the second Indigenous woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. After marrying an Oneida man, she moved to the Oneida reservation in eastern Wisconsin and spent 40 years caring for her neighbors through her home-based clinic.

Prompt: What everyday actions can we take to acknowledge and honor the differences that shape individual people in our lives?

Courtesy of Represented Collective.

Maryam Mirzakhani

In 2014, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman and the first Iranian to earn the prestigious Fields Medal, officially known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics. Even as a young teenager, Mirzakhani was a true mathlete: she earned gold medals in the 1994 and 1995 International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students. In 2004, she earned her PhD from Harvard, and later taught mathematics at Princeton and Stanford.

Prompt: What special techniques do you use when you want to creatively solve problems?

Courtesy of Represented Collective.

Michiyo Tsujimura

Born in Japan in 1888, agronomist and biochemist Michiyo Tsujimura began her scientific career as an unpaid researcher. She took research positions in several different labs before officially becoming a student in 1923. A year later, she and her colleague discovered vitamin C in green tea — a significant finding that led to greater tea exports from Japan. In 1932, Tsujimura became the first woman in Japan to earn a doctorate in agriculture.

Prompt: How does research on agriculture, nutrition, and natural medicine affect your health and food choices today?

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