My story is the nation’s story.

Who are these women? Do you know their stories and the contributions they made? We invite you to learn about them and how the Smithsonian honors their legacies. 

Vera Rubin gazes at the sky through a telescope
I knew what mattered.
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Vera Rubin


HOW COULD YOU possibly live on this Earth and not want to unravel the mystery of the cosmos?

I didn’t know a single astronomer. But, I really wanted to study astronomy, and I needed a scholarship to go to college. I applied to three places. One of them was Vassar.

The day I was notified I got a scholarship, I walked around the halls, and I met Mr. Himes, my physics teacher. I told him I had a scholarship to Vassar. And he said, “As long as you stay away from science, you should do okay.”

Vera Rubin’s spectrograph is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of pursuing ambition and reaching for the stars.


Photo: Vera Rubin at Vassar College, 1947. Courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Content: David H. DeVorkin interview with Vera Rubin, National Air and Space Museum, 1995

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Sylvia Earle
I swam against the current.
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Sylvia Earle

Marine Biologist

I tagged along on dives in the Weeki Wachee River in Florida in the 1950s. I borrowed a helmet from a next-door neighbor. 

I am a witness, an observer of natural systems. The reduction of life in the sea is one of the great changes I have seen. Ninety percent of the big fish, and the small ones too, have disappeared in half a century. 

When people ask, “How do you want your tuna?” I say I want them alive. Every tuna counts. And maybe actions I take can secure a future where we both can be here together. 

Sylvia Earle’s research samples are at the Smithsonian. They will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of understanding and co-existing with nature. 


Photo: Sylvia Earle diving at Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, Mission Blue © Kip Evans 

Content: Laura Hambleton interview with Sylvia Earle, 2018, Smithsonian

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