the climate changing for women, NSF asked Dr. Mary Alice McWhinnie,
a world authority on krilltiny shrimp-like crustaceans
that play a key role in Antarcticas food chainto
become the first woman in its program to winter over. McWhinnie
accepted the challengeand more. She also became chief
scientist at McMurdo Station. McWhinnie, who had worked offshore
for ten years as the first American woman on an Antarctic
research ship, spent a six-month polar night studying temperature
adaptation with about a hundred men and one other woman colleague,
Sister Mary Odile Cahoon, a Ph.D. biologist.
1970, Irene C. Peden, an associate professor of engineering
studying the polar upper atmosphere, became the first U.S.
woman to venture into the interior of the continent. Working
at an even more remote site, physician Michele Raney was the
first woman to winter at the South Pole and was the stations
lone female during the winter of 1979. Since then, Jerri Nielsen,
sole South Pole physician wintering over in 1999, gained notoriety
for performing a biopsy on herself when she took ill at the
remote outpost. She was subsequently diagnosed with breast
cancer and, with the help of non-physician helpers,
self-administered chemotherapy until her rescue.
approximately one-third of the scientists and support crew
at McMurdo during the Antarctic summer are women (youll
meet some of them in dispatches from our team). Though females
are still a minority and still struggle against stereotypes
in Antarctica, things have definitely changed for the better.
Commenting on the climate for women in 1998, Colorado State
University scientist Diana Wall noted in the "Denver
Post": "Its not so much that we notice anymore
who are women and who are men, but were doing science,
and its a big team effort."
on the Ice: A History of Women in the Far South by Elizabeth
Chipman. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1986.
A thorough, often first-hand, international account of womens
experience on The Ice.
New Explorers: Women in Antarctica by Barbara Land.
New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1981.
very readable book includes lots of first-hand accounts
from pioneering women.
in the Antarctic edited by Esther D. Rothblum, Jacqueline
S. Weinstock, and Jessica F. Morris. New York, London: Haworth
Press Inc., 1998. A
sociological look at the subject, featuring interviews with
women pioneers, explorers, scientists, navy personnel, and
All three books are somewhat difficult to find; try searching
for them at a used book store or at www.powellsbooks.com
few interesting Web pages about women on The Ice: