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Resource Guides

Women in Astronomy: An Introductory Resource Guide

by Andrew Fraknoi
(Fromm Institute, University of San Francisco)
[April 2019]

© copyright 2019 by Andrew Fraknoi. All rights reserved.  For permission to use, or to suggest additional materials, please contact the author at e-mail: raknoi@fhda.edu


This guide to non-technical English-language materials is not meant to be a comprehensive or scholarly introduction to the complex topic of the role of women in astronomy.  It is simply a resource for educators and students who wish to begin exploring the challenges and triumphs of women of the past and present.  It’s also an opportunity to get to know the lives and work of some of the key women who have overcome prejudice and exclusion to make significant contributions to our field.  We only include a representative selection of living women astronomers about whom non-technical material at the level of beginning astronomy students is easily available. Lack of inclusion in this introductory list is not meant to suggest any less importance. We also don’t include Wikipedia articles, although those are sometimes a good place for students to begin. Suggestions for additional non-technical listings are most welcome.


1. Written Resources on the History of Women in Astronomy

  • Armstrong, Mabel Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars. 2008, Stone Pine Press. Covers the lives and careers of 21 women astronomers, past and present; written for teenagers and up.

  • Bernardi, G. “Who Was the First Professional Woman Astronomer? Christine Kirch” in Sky & Telescope, Jan. 2019, p. 68.

  • Dvorak, John “The Women Who Created Modern Astronomy” in Sky & Telescope, Aug. 2013, p. 28. Focuses on the work of Annie Cannon, Antonia Maury, and Wilhelmina Fleming in classifying and understanding stars.

  • Ghez, Andrea & Cohen, Judith You Can Be a Woman Astronomer. 2006, Cascade Press. A picture book for children from grades 3 - 5.

  • James, C. “Edward and Mina” in Astronomy, July 2002, p. 46. Despite the title, this treats several women who worked at the Harvard Observatory.

  • Kidwell, Peggy "Women Astronomers in Britain" in Isis, Sep. 1984, vol. 75, p. 534.

  • Lankford, John “Science and Gender: Women in the American Astronomical Community” in his American Astronomy. 1997, U. of Chicago Press. 72-page sociological overview, with statistics.

  • Lankford, J. & Slavings, R. "Gender and Science: Women in Ameri¬can Astronomy 1859-1940" in Physics Today, Mar. 1990, vol. 43, p. 58.

  • Mack, P. "Straying from Their Orbits: Women in Astronomy in America" in G. Kass-Simon & P. Farnes, eds. Women of Science. 1990, Indiana U. Press.

  • Mack, P. "Strategies and Compromises: Women in Astronomy at Harvard College Observatory" in Journal for the History of Astro¬nomy, vol. 21, p. 65 (1990).

  • McKenna-Lawlor, Susan Whatever Shines Should be Observed. 2003, Springer. The story of five 19th century women who made contributions to astronomy and science; too bad the price from the publisher is inappropriately high for a popular book.

  • Rizzo, P. "Early Daughters of Urania" in Sky & Telescope, Nov. 1954, p. 7.

  • Rubin, Vera "Women's Work: Women in Modern Astronomy" in Science 86, Jul/Aug. 1986, p. 58.

  • Sobel, Dava The Glass Universe. 2016, Viking. Rich, deeply researched, marvelous book on the women who worked at Harvard at the start of the 20th century and changed the way we understood the stars.

  • Spradley, J. "Women and the Stars" in The Physics Teacher, Sep. 1990, p. 372.

  • Warner, Deborah "Women Astronomers" in Natural History, May 1979, p. 12.

2. Written Resources on Issues Facing Women

  • Bell Burnell, Jocelyn “So Few Pulsars, So Few Females” in Science, 23 April 2004, vol. 304. no. 5670, p. 489.

  • et al. “Studying Gender in [AAS] Conference Talks”

  • “The Black Ribbon” in Science, 28 August 1998, vol. 281 no. 5381 p. 1278.

  • et al, eds. Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce: Women in Astronomy and Space Science. 2009, NASA. The entire book is available free on the web as a PDF file.

  • et al, eds. Women in Astronomy: Proceedings of a 1992 Workshop. 1993, Space Telescope Science Institute.

  • STATUS is the magazine of the Committee on the Status of Women of the American Astronomical Society (it is a treasure trove of materials, issues, personal stories)

  • The Baltimore Charter (spelling out what can be done to help improve the status and working conditions of women in astronomy).

3. Web Resources on the History of Women in Astronomy

  • A far more comprehensive and scholarly bibliography, organized by last name, of written articles on women in astronomy. Ruth Freitag’s work was the early inspiration for the resource guide you are reading.

  • Maintained by two women astronomers, this site includes brief information on women from many fields of science, not just astronomy.

  • Profiles of women who work for the US Space Agency, including a number of astronomers and astrobiologists. The profiles include personal statements that can be quite moving and inspiring.

  • “A Celebration of Women in Astronomy” (a talk in 2012 in Edinburgh; we only hear the audio, there is no video, but it is a fascinating public talk with profiles of specific women, including Caroline Herschel and Vera Rubin, and discussions of trends)

  • (East Tennessee State U.) gives a powerpoint presentation on the history of women in astronomy and current statistics about their participation.

  • Video of a 2017 talk by Mia Bovill on “The Harvard Computers and the Classification of the Stars”. (the talk starts at 16 min 30 sec into the video)

4. Web Resources on Issues Facing Women

5. Material on Some Specific Women Astronomers of the Past

6. Material on A Few Specific Living Astronomers who are Women

  • Batalha, Natalie (1966 – )
  • Bell Burnell, Jocelyn (1943 - )
  • Burbidge, Margaret (1919 - )
  • Danly, Laura (1958 - )
  • Faber, Sandra (1944 - )
  • Fischer, Debra (1953 - )
  • Freedman, Wendy (1957 - )
  • Geller, Margaret (1947 - )
  • Ghez, Andrea (1965 - )
  • Hammel, Heidi (1960 - )
  • Luu, Jane (1963 - )
  • Max, Claire (1946 - )
  • Porco, Carolyn (1953 - )
  • Sargent, Anneila (1942 - )
  • Seager, Sara (1971 - )
  • Shoemaker, Carolyn (1929 - )
  • Stofan, Ellen (1961 - )
  • Tarter, Jill (1944 - )
  • Trimble, Virginia (1943 - )
  • Wolff, Sidney (1941 - )

7. Sampling of Articles/Books/Webpages about Other Individual Women Astronomers

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