Sylvia Wiegand, Grace Chisholm Young and Agnes Dunnett

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I’m a grandmother and also a mathematician, retired now from the University of Nebraska after working there 39 years. I’m retired only from teaching, am still working on a lot of research projects and traveling with my mathematician husband Roger Wiegand.  I’m also a runner who has run a lot of marathons, including one in each of the fifty states.

For 17 years I was the only woman in the math dept at Nebraska. Now even without me they have six women who are part of math couples in the dept and a couple more women too (out of about 35 total math faculty). Our dept is famous for being supportive of women.

My own two grandmothers were very inspirational to me.

On my father’s side, his mother was Grace Chisholm Young, a well-known mathematician who was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in any field in Germany—she received it in 1895. She had six children, never had a job herself as there were none available to her, but worked to get her husband a job by writing 200 articles and several books with him. She also studied to be a medical doctor and completed all but the internship, so her career as a doctor was restricted to her family.

Here’s a pic of Grace Chisolm Young:

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On my mother’s side, her mother Agnes Dunnett, was a physician, the 16th woman in Britain to become an MD. She supported her family with her medical practice, especially when her husband’s merchant business collapsed, and she had five children. My mother told how Agnes shared a medical practice with another woman, who was unmarried. With each child she took off two weeks, when her partner took over for her. Then she would take over for her partner for two weeks (with the new-born child!—But she probably was able to hire help.) My mother was a nurse-assistant, drove her mother around and accompanied her on her rounds. She worshipped her mother actually.

I have two wonderful granddaughters Samantha and Melanie Wiegand, ages 11 and 8, who live in Portland Oregon and are very good at math. But they are also good at a lot of other things, so who knows if they will go into math or science.

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