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WOMEN IN MATHEMATICS: AN OVERVIEW OF THEIR TREATMENT IN HISTORY AND BEYOND
Department of Mathematics, C.W. Post Campus/Long Island University, Brookville, NY 11548
In the fall of 1990, while investigating potential texts for a history of mathematics course, I was surprised to note that the number of women in the 1990 edition of Howard Eves' popular history of mathematics text (Eves, 1990) had grown. There were now nine, up from three in the 1976 edition. Moreover, the additions and citations were more in-depth than in his previous work. The six "new" women were not contemporary mathematicians, nor did their work consist of long-lost theorems that had recently been rediscovered. These were just six women mathematicians whom Eves had now decided were worthy of mentioning in his text. It is natural to ask: Why these additions? Should there have been others? How does history get rewritten? Should history get rewritten? One is also led to consider some broader questions: What is happening to contemporary women mathematicians? Are they being accorded the recognition today that will grant them a place in the history books of tomorrow? This article attempts to answer these questions by providing an overview of how (and possibly an answer to why) history texts have changed and by analyzing how women currently fare in those sources that future historians may use to write their texts.
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