Stories aim to encourage female uptake of arts and science

Two-time Nobel prizewinner Marie Skłodowska-Curie kicks off project to get women and girls into science and arts


Every week between now and March, the Europeana culture website is publishing the story of a remarkable woman from the history of the arts and sciences, in an effort to inspire women and girls to follow in their footsteps.

“How much better would Europe be if girls and women felt empowered to dream big and aim high across professional fields from art to science?” the EU’s Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said when announcing the launch.

“Having role models will help them build these dreams.”

The stories, which will be preserved as an online exhibition, come as new data indicates that fewer women are learning digital skills and taking up careers that require them.

“Today we need to empower and inspire girls and women everywhere in Europe to innovate, discover and create especially in the digital sector,” Gabriel said.

“The online exhibition I launch today in cooperation with Europeana is about pioneering women from our history whose stories are vastly different, but have one thing in common: these fearless women changed the world with their passion and hard work.”

The series launched with the story of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the Polish researcher who – together with her husband Pierre – discovered the elements Polonium and Radium and pioneered work on radioactivity.

Marie and Pierre shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discoveries. Pierre died in 1906, but Marie then won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, for coming up with a way to measure radioactivity.

She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes, and remains the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields.

Women were not allowed to study at university in Poland in Marie’s time, so she “studied clandestinely at Warsaw’s Uniwersytet Latający (‘Flying University’), a secret underground educational network”, her story says.

Later studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, “she earned two degrees – one in maths and one in physics, studying by day and tutoring by night to pay for her education”.

The identities of the other women featured in the exhibition are not being revealed until their stories are published.

The exhibition has been made possible by the digitisation of records from Europe’s museums and libraries, the EU’s implementing body the European Commission said.

Words: Craig Nicholson
Photo: Wellcome Collection, CC BY

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