UC Berkeley’s campus community brings women’s untold stories to the forefront

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Martha Horne was born in 1853 in the Klamath River Basin, near southern Oregon, and experienced the violent American invasion of her tribe’s land. Fluent in English, Horne grew up learning Indigenous languages such as Karuk, Shasta and Tolowa. She helped to preserve her tribe’s traditions, and her work documenting these languages with UC Berkeley researchers helped change the field of linguistics.

Agnes Fay Morgan was one of the first biochemists on the faculty at Berkeley, but was paid nearly half the salary of her male colleagues. Her research analyzed processed foods and established that sulfur dioxide protected vitamin C, but damaged thiamine, and in 1949, she won the Francis P. Garvan Medal in chemistry.

In the 1970s, Berkeley economics professor Laura D’Andrea Tyson would endure derogatory treatment for being a woman in academia; and once was told not to wear “tight jeans” while teaching, because it would make the “boys crazy.”

“There was a way in which my failure to recognize that economics was a male-dominated discipline for a long time really helped me,” Tyson said in an interview with Berkeley’s economics department. “… But when I realized that there were likely to be very few women in my program, and that there were very few well-known women in economics, I started to have my doubts.”

Those doubts would eventually dissipate, as Tyson went on to become in 1993 the first woman to serve as chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

These stories and experiences are just snippets from the countless biographies and profiles that UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty have begun to research and compile for their respective academic departments as part of Berkeley’s 150W History Project.

The project is a comprehensive online archive of stories about Berkeley women who have studied, worked and researched on campus throughout the years. It’s also part of “150 Years of Women at Berkeley,” or 150W, a yearlong celebration commemorating the anniversary of the UC Regents’ 1870 resolution that opened the university’s doors to women, on equal terms with men.

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Story by: Ivan Natividad