By: Dani Kessel
In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to write posts recognizing noteworthy, inspirational girls and women from both the past and present. These folks deserve attention/name recognition any time of the year, but Women’s History Month allows me to spotlight them in a time where more people will listen.
If there are any requests for me to write about specific individuals, let me know in the comments below. I will try my best to get to them all!
Marie Curie, Sc.D. is a phenomenal role model for any young person. In her lifespan, she displayed traits of tenacity, drive, and a passion for science. She achieved great things during a time when society largely disregarded women in academia. The impact of her work is still felt in all areas of science over the century since her death. It’s important that we recognize her as one of the influential women in both science and feminist history.
As a trailblazer, Madame Curie’s accomplishments gave women many major firsts.
She and her husband Pierre led the research of radioactivity from a worn-down shack, discovering Polonium and Radium. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, and Henri Becquerel shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their studies of radioactivity. Later, she became the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes in different disciplines when she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of the two new elements. Then, she became the first woman to teach at the University of Paris. Posthumously, she’s won many awards and became the first woman buried in the French Pantheon, a mausoleum for France’s brightest and most influential minds. (Her remains were moved there in 1995.)
Curie’s inspiration potential goes far beyond these things though. Her story involves a complex backstory which is mostly overlooked.
Marie Curie, Sc.D., (nee. Marya Sklodowska) was born into a poor family in Warsaw, Poland. She was top of her class throughout her primary and secondary schooling, but university wasn’t available to girls in Poland at the time. Yet, she and her older sister, Bronya, craved education. They made a deal. Madame Curie would work to pay her sister’s way through university in Paris, then her sister would work to pay Marie’s way through university.
While working to pay for her sister’s education, Madame Curie studied science and math at an illegal, underground university in Warsaw.
Their deal paid off. After five years of working, Bronya graduated with a Master’s in medicine. Then, Marie joined her in Paris, enrolling in the Sorbonne. She eventually graduated with a master’s in physics, a master’s in Chemistry, and a Doctorate of Science. (Another first–she was the first woman to receive an Sc.D. from a French university.)
Marie Curie, Sc.D., is truly an impactful woman with personal traits everyone should emulate when following their own path.
I always considered Madame Curie a personal role model growing up. I aspired to want something so badly that I break down any barriers in my way. Even as I moved away from science (my original educational pursuit) and more into the realm of acting/singing/writing, I held onto the spark she produced in me.
My hope in writing this article is that others come to that same conclusion. Marie Curie, Sc.D., set an inspiring precedent for young people to follow in her footsteps. This level of dedication should motivate others to pursue their education no matter the road-blocks. An increased admiration for her life and work can only lead us all to a better world.