Quietly Pushing Barriers Aside

Every student attending Hamilton High School photographed standing outside school building in 1953

This photo of Hamilton High School in Victoria was taken when my mother was in Form 1 (year 7) in 1953.

This week came the disappointing news that the participation in Maths by girls in their final year of school in New South Wales is declining significantly.  In 2001, the first year when students were no longer required to study a Maths or science subject in year twelve in order to qualify for university entrance, 90.5% of girls studied Maths whereas 96.9% of boys did.

The disparity between the genders in participation in Maths was already noticeable in 2001.  Ten years later this disparity has worsened.  By 2011 girls participation in year twelve Maths had dropped to 78.2%.  The participation of boys had also decreased but not to such a degree.  In 2011 90.2% of boys studied year twelve Maths.

Rachel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at University of Sydney noted that this problem is partly due to the attitude about girls and women being bad at Maths.

There are many, many examples of girls and women excelling in Maths.  Jane Gleeson-White has highlighted the stories of three Australian women who are clearly brilliant at Maths.  She could have listed many more.

Unfortunately some dismiss these women as being ‘unusual’ (which is often code for ‘weird’ or ‘abnormal’). Yet the story about Clio Cresswell, senior lecturer in mathematics and statistics at University of Sydney, caught my eye.  It is not the tale of success in maths one would expect.  Cresswell told Jane Gleeson-White that she struggled with maths at school.  What led Clio Cresswell to ultimately succeed in maths at a high level?  Read Jane Gleeson-White’s post to find out!

In this post I want to highlight a story of an ordinary woman and her quiet determination to participate in science and to study Maths.  She was not brilliant at Maths but she enjoyed it and wanted to pursue it. Her story demonstrates some of the subtle and not so subtle barriers that dissuade many women from studying Maths and Science.

This woman is my mother. Continue reading

GLAMming it Up – Two Days in Melbourne

Entrance to State Library of Victoria

State Library of Victoria

Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are known as the GLAM institutions. I spend a lot of time in these places doing research, but I also enjoy visiting exhibitions and taking behind the scenes tours.  When I travel I try to squeeze in an exhibition or two.  Unfortunately I find that I often don’t have much time to do this so I either miss out or I have to cram as much as I can into a short space of time.

I’ve written previously about my two-day GLAM tour of Canberra.  Last month I did a similar two-day intensive GLAM tour of Melbourne. So hold onto your hats and breathe deeply. My whirlwind tour is about to begin! Continue reading

Of Recalcitrant Staples, Paper Clips and Mould Mould Mould!

Instructions for mounting photos in a photo album from the early 1980s

The 'modern, easy and quick' self adhesive photo albums from the 1970s and 1980s are a bad place to store your memorabilia.

While the goals of a historian and those working on family history at times are quite different there is a considerable overlap.  I have found family historians very helpful while I have been researching the history of teaching reading.  Over the last few days I was reminded again about how complementary the two pursuits are.

I’m sorting through the archives of a local community organisation.  The work has been similar to the kind of work done by anyone who is securing the material that documents their family history.  An important task became evident while I was sorting through photos, letters and other memorabilia dating from the 1970s to just a couple of years ago.  I had to arrest the deterioration of the items in the collections and rehouse some of the material.  I am not an archivist but on the way I have picked up some basic do’s and don’ts of storing material for posterity.  It was the world of genealogy which first alerted me to the need to take great care about storage conditions of historical archives. Continue reading

Equipping Myself for a Day in the Archives

Equipment I take into the archive

My archive kit.

Many people engage in historical research – family historians, local historians, authors, academic historians etc.  For all of us, the opportunities for visiting an archive can be fleeting and the cost in terms of time, travel, accommodation etc can be high.  Thorough preparation for a trip to the archives is the foundation for a fruitful day fossicking through historical records.

The photograph above shows the equipment I typically take with me into the archive.  This equipment helps me to abide by my ‘archival principles’:

  1. Save time;
  2. Minimise cost;
  3. Maximise quality and quantity of work;
  4. Backup, Backup, Backup! Continue reading