Women in mathematics in the United States

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There is a long history of women in mathematics in the United States.


1829: The first public examination of an American girl in geometry was held.[1]

1886: Winifred Edgerton Merrill became the first American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, which she earned from Columbia University.[2]

1913: Mildred Sanderson published her theorem about modular invariants in her thesis. It states: “To any modular invariant i of a system of forms under any group G of linear transformations with coefficients in the GF[pn], there corresponds a formal invariant I under G such that I = i for all sets of values in the field of the coefficients of the system of forms.” She was Leonard Dickson’s first female graduate student, and he later wrote of her thesis, “This paper is a highly important contribution to this field of work; its importance lies partly in the fact that it establishes a correspondence between modular and formal invariants. Her main theorem has already been frequently quoted on account of its fundamental character. Her proof is a remarkable piece of mathematics.” E.T. Bell wrote, “Miss Sanderson’s single contribution (1913) to modular invariants has been rated by competent judges as one of the classics of the subject.” [3]

1927: Anna Pell-Wheeler became the first woman to present a lecture at the American Mathematical Society Colloquium.[4]

1943: Euphemia Haynes became the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics, which she earned from Catholic University.[5]

1949: Gertrude Mary Cox became the first woman elected into the International Statistical Institute.[6]

1962: Mina Rees became the first woman to win the Yueh-Gin Gung and Dr. Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics, which is the most prestigious award made by the Mathematical Association of America.[4]

1966: Mary Layne Boas published Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, an undergraduate textbook that is still widely used in college classrooms.

1970: Mina Rees became the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[7]

1971: Mary Ellen Rudin discovered a topological space known as a Dowker space, whose existence had remained unsettled despite 20 years of considerable efforts by general topologists. The modern and active branch of set theory and logic owes much to the discoveries of Mary Ellen Rudin.

1971: The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) was founded. It is a professional society whose mission is to encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity for and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences. It is incorporated in the state of Massachusetts.[8]

1971: The Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences (JCW), was founded as a committee of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). It is now a joint committee of seven mathematical and statistical societies which works to identify mechanisms for the enhancement of opportunities for women in the mathematical and statistical sciences, recommend actions to the governing bodies of the member societies in support of these opportunities, and document its recommendations by presenting data.[9]

1973: Jean Taylor published her dissertation on “Regularity of the Singular Set of Two-Dimensional Area-Minimizing Flat Chains Modulo 3 in R3” which solved a long standing problem about length and smoothness of soap-film triple function curves.[10]

1974: Joan Birman published the book Braids, Links, and Mapping Class Groups. It has become a standard introduction, with many of today’s researchers having learned the subject through it.[11]

1975–1977: Marjorie Rice, who had no formal training in mathematics beyond high school, discovered three new types of tessellating pentagons and more than sixty distinct tessellations by pentagons.[12]

1975: Julia Robinson became the first female mathematician elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[13]

1979: Dorothy Lewis Bernstein became the first female president of the Mathematical Association of America.[14]

1979: Mary Ellen Rudin became the first woman to present the Earle Raymond Hedrick Lectures; these lectures were established by the Mathematical Association of America in 1952 to present to the Association a lecturer of known skill as an expositor of mathematics "who will present a series of at most three lectures accessible to a large fraction of those who teach college mathematics." [4]

1981: Doris Schattschneider became the first female editor of Mathematics Magazine, a refereed bimonthly publication of the Mathematical Association of America.[15][16]

1983: Julia Robinson became the first female president of the American Mathematical Society.[13]

1983: Julia Robinson became the first female mathematician to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.[4]

1988: Doris Schattschneider became the first woman to present the J. Sutherland Frame Lectures, which are presented at the summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America.[4]

1992: Gloria Gilmer became the first woman to deliver a major National Association of Mathematicians lecture (it was the Cox-Talbot address).[17]

1995: Margaret Wright became the first female president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.[4]

1996: Joan Birman became the first woman to receive the Chauvenet Prize, which is awarded annually by the Mathematical Association of America to the author of an outstanding expository article on a mathematical topic by a member of the association.[4]

1998: Melanie Wood became the first female American to make the U.S. International Math Olympiad Team. She won silver medals in the 1998 and 1999 International Mathematical Olympiads.[18]

2002: Melanie Wood became the first American woman and second woman overall to be named a Putnam Fellow in 2002. Putnam Fellows are the top five (or six, in case of a tie) scorers on The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.[19][20]

2004: Melanie Wood became the first woman to win the Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student. It is an annual award given to an undergraduate student in the US, Canada, or Mexico who demonstrates superior mathematics research.[21]

2004: Alison Miller became the first ever female gold medal winner on the U.S. International Math Olympiad Team.[22]

2006: Stephanie Petermichl at the University of Texas at Austin became the first woman to win the Salem Prize, which is awarded every year to a young mathematician judged to have done outstanding work in Salem's field of interest, primarily Fourier series and related areas in analysis.[4]

Further reading[edit]

A Brief History of the Association for Women in Mathematics: The Presidents' Perspectives, by Lenore Blum (1991)


  1. ^ Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, ed. (1889). History of Woman Suffrage: 1848–1861, Volume 1. p. 36. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  2. ^ Susan E. Kelly and Sarah A. Rozner (28 February 2012). "Winifred Edgerton Merrill:"She Opened the Door"" (PDF). Notices of the AMS 59 (4). Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Mildred Leonora Sanderson". agnesscott.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Prizes, Awards, and Honors for Women Mathematicians". agnesscott.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  5. ^ "Euphemia Lofton Haynes, first african american woman mathematician". math.buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  6. ^ "Gertrude Mary Cox". agnesscott.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  7. ^ "Mina Rees". agnesscott.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  8. ^ "About AWM - AWM Association for Women in Mathematics". sites.google.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  9. ^ "JCW-Math | Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences". jcwmath.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  10. ^ "Jean Taylor". agnesscott.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  11. ^ "Interview with Joan Birman" (PDF). Notices of the AMS 54 (1). 4 December 2006. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Doris Schattschneider. "Perplexing Pentagons". britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  13. ^ a b "Profiles of Women in Mathematics: Julia Robinson". awm-math.org. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  14. ^ Oakes, E.H. (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists. Facts On File, Incorporated. ISBN 9781438118826. 
  15. ^ "2005 Parson Lecturer - Dr. Doris Schattschneider". University of North Carolina at Asheville, Department of Mathematics. Retrieved 2013-07-13 .
  16. ^ Riddle, Larry (April 5, 2013). "Doris Schattschneider". Biographies of Women Mathematicians. Agnes Scott College. Retrieved 2013-07-13 .
  17. ^ "Gloria Ford Gilmer". math.buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  18. ^ "The New York Times". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  19. ^ "Duke Magazine-Where Are They Now?-January/February 2010". dukemagazine.duke.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  20. ^ "Melanie Wood: The Making of a Mathematician - Cogito". cogito.cty.jhu.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  21. ^ "2003 Morgan Prize" (PDF). Notices of the AMS 51 (4). 26 February 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  22. ^ "Math Forum @ Drexel: Congratulations, Alison!". mathforum.org. Retrieved 2014-01-25.