I was just in Bologna, Italy, where, between eating platters of the best cured pork products Euros can buy and eating more gelato than is probably wise, I visited the Teatro Anatomico, where 17th century medical students and 17th century non-student creepers would gather to observe human dissections. While reading the informational literature, I learned about Laura Bassi. Have you heard of her? Neither had I.
Laura Bassi got her doctorate from the University of Bologna in 1732, one of the first few women to earn one from any western university, and went on to become the first female professor of physics in Europe, ever. And then, this happened — take it, Wikipedia:
In 1738, she married Giuseppe Veratti, a fellow academic with whom she had twelve children. Five of her children survived. After this, she was able to lecture from home on a regular basis and successfully petitioned the University for more responsibility and a higher salary to allow her to purchase her own equipment. Bassi earned the highest salary paid by the University of Bologna, equal to that paid to the anatomist Domenico Galeazzi.
This lady broke herself a big ol’ glass ceiling, and then got flex time and equal pay. Oh, and did I mention that her husband was her physics TA?
(As an aside: Laura, I really hope you wanted all 12 of those bambini. Because whoa, talk about trying to have it all. Some sources say it was 8, which is still a whole lotta bambini.)
And then no one ever heard of her again**, and now women still make 75 cents on the dollar.
I’m not saying eighteenth century Italy was the world’s most enlightened time and place for women, but I am saying (1) you get yours, Laura Bassi; and (2) get it together, 2016.
*Because you know she got a lot.
**Hyperbole! But also a little true.