Julie des Jardins. The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. New York: The Feminist Press, 2010.
The title of this book refers to a sort of inferiority complex that American women have had ever since Madame Curie came to the United States and seemed to be everything to everybody - a world-class scientist and a perfectly maternal, altruistic, domestic woman. According to Julie des Jardins, a professor of history at Baruch College (CUNY), women scientists have seen Curie as a role model, in large part because her myth gets made over continually to echo the times.
Des Jardins notes that women have always felt the pressure to negotiate social expectations in ways men have not. Few people accuse men of being neglectful of their children as they burn the midnight oil in the lab, or of not being committed enough to their science when they play a more active role at home. Women, however, have been stigmatized at either extreme.
Des Jardins also observes that women fall prey, especially in the field of science, to the false worship of youth. The greatest scientists are supposed to do more of their groundbreaking work when they're in their twenties and thirties, so the myth goes. …