The under-representation of women in mathematics, particularly at higher levels, is of course a matter of ongoing concern, with particular effort being made to increase the visibility of both contemporary and historical female mathematical figures. The book under review, which grew out of a session entitled ‘The Contributions of Women to Mathematics: 100 Years and Counting’ at the MAA’s centennial MathFest in 2015, presents a wide variety of examples of women who do work or have worked in mathematics, drawn largely, but not exclusively, from the US context. The purpose of the book is set out clearly and succinctly by the editors in their preface:
We hope that this volume will provide inspiration to its readers, showing them how women have made substantial contributions, as individuals and as groups, to mathematics research, mathematics education, mathematical culture, and outreach, and inspiring them, in turn, to encourage women and girls to pursue mathematical careers.
The book is divided into three broad parts. In the first, the groups of women who are profiled in each chapter are linked in some way via institutional or cultural contexts. Thus, for example, we find chapters on the development of Girton College, Cambridge, on the first women to gain PhDs in mathematics in the USA, on the experiences of female Polish mathematicians during the Second World War, and on the winners of the Krieger-Nelson Prize, an award established by the Canadian Mathematical Society to promote women in mathematics.
The second part of the book features biographies of individuals, some well-known, such as Florence Nightingale and Emmy Noether, but others less so, such as the American statistician Gertrude Cox, and Norma G. Hernandez, the first US-born Latina to obtain a doctorate in mathematics education. Indeed, Hernandez is one of several figures whose appearance in the book also serves to highlight the further under-representation of certain ethnic groups in mathematics.
The third and final part of the book turns to the themes of education and outreach, including, for example, a survey of a US-based scheme for supporting women in postgraduate study in mathematics, and an account of the design of a course devoted to the study of women in mathematics.
The various chapters in this volume demonstrate that women are not quite as absent from (recent) mathematics as we might think, although it highlights the challenges that have existed, and that continue to exist, with some suggestions made for how we might further address the gender imbalance. The biographical details of some of the figures featured are sometimes a bit sketchy, usually because of a lack of readily available sources: this book might therefore be taken as a call for wider research on the many interesting individuals who appear here. Within the context of current concerns about diversity in teaching, and the ways in which the history of mathematics might be used to address this, the book under review will serve as a welcome and useful sourcebook.