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Best Mom Ever Dies, Also a ROCKET SCIENTIST


rward

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So, a female rocket scientist dies, what does her obituary say? Greatest Mommy Evah!

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/31/new_yor ... ook_first/

(link not broken, salon doesn't care what we do here)

Yvonne Brill, a NASA jet propulsion scientist who won the agency’s Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2001 and was honored with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by Barack Obama in 2011, died on March 27 at 88 years old. The New York Times honored her death and contribution to science with an obituary that read, “Yvonne Brill, a Pioneering Rocket Scientist, Dies at 88.â€

However, instead of highlighting her career accomplishments in its opening, the Times opened with Brill’s cooking skills:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,†her son Matthew said.

The obituary then casually segued into her other accomplishments–you know, those non-mom activities that earned her an obituary in the New York Times at all:

But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

Oh, yeah, also a rocket scientist. But more about that stroganoff . . .

Good to know that whatever I accomplish in life, it will be meaningless unless I pop out some crotchfruit and figure out how to cook.

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I will come back and haunt my family if they choose to open my obituary with: Marilla Cuthbert could make a mean taco. Not that I will ever come close to being as awesome as Yvonne Brill, but I know I have accomplished more than mastering the art of making tacos. Besides, everyone knows that my husband is the real cook in the house, and that my real talent is ordering take-out!

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Recipe, or I'm sticking with rocket science as her top achievement.

Seriously, NYT ,WTF???

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It's incredibly frustrating that even in 20-friggin-13 you're nothing until you're a mother. All of your previous accomplishments are negated once you reproduce.

Kids are great and all; and I have no doubt that to her kids, she is the best mom in the world (Heck, if you ask me my mom is the best in the world) - but let's recognize her other accomplishments in life.

I had a friend who was asked at the after party of her PhD defense "so now that you're done school, when are you going to have kids?" !??!?! :angry-banghead:

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It's incredibly frustrating that even in 20-friggin-13 you're nothing until you're a mother. All of your previous accomplishments are negated once you reproduce.

Kids are great and all; and I have no doubt that to her kids, she is the best mom in the world (Heck, if you ask me my mom is the best in the world) - but let's recognize her other accomplishments in life.

I had a friend who was asked at the after party of her PhD defense "so now that you're done school, when are you going to have kids?" !??!?! :angry-banghead:

"Now that you're done with that silly hobby, when are you getting to the important work?" A woman could cure cancer, end hunger and bring about world peace and people would still ask her that.

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It's incredibly frustrating that even in 20-friggin-13 you're nothing until you're a mother. All of your previous accomplishments are negated once you reproduce.

Kids are great and all; and I have no doubt that to her kids, she is the best mom in the world (Heck, if you ask me my mom is the best in the world) - but let's recognize her other accomplishments in life.

I had a friend who was asked at the after party of her PhD defense "so now that you're done school, when are you going to have kids?" !??!?! :angry-banghead:

Well, unless you are an actress. Priorities, you know. Rocket Science? PHSWAH. Get up on stage and be pretty!

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Throughout her career Mrs. Brill encouraged women to become engineers and scientists, starting by telling high school girls to stick with math. In her last week of life, she was still writing letters recommending eminent women in engineering for professional awards.

Kind of ironic that part of the lede in her obituary was about cooking, and mothering. However, it's possible she was just as proud of those accomplishments as her work on satellite propulsion engines. One doesn't negate the other. Also, the obituary writer probably interviewed her son who may have indicated that Mrs. Brill thought being a mom was a great accomplishment, too.

I am proud of my work as a writer and editor. I'm also proud of the way I've raised my children and the sacrifices I've made to ensure they have everything they need to succeed. In addition, I have vast and varied interests. I won't be pigeonholed into one thing or the other. I am many things and I hope my obituary reflects that.

Hmmm. I might have to write that thing myself.

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I think that the obit was awkwardly written. I am guessing that the author was trying to portray her as a woman who could do it all...bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan...

It ended up diminishing this very accomplished woman.

That said, I certainly do want to be remembered in part for raising my three children to be successful adults and maybe even my awesome brisket and my yummy apple cake. I also want to be remembered as a caring physician, a role model and a survivor of many challenges.

Ir wasn't the fact that her stroganof was mentioned, it was way the article was presented.

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So, a female rocket scientist dies, what does her obituary say? Greatest Mommy Evah!

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/31/new_yor ... ook_first/

(link not broken, salon doesn't care what we do here)

Oh, yeah, also a rocket scientist. But more about that stroganoff . . ..

YOU'RE COVERED. There was more than one backlash "revised" obituary of Albert Einstein, Yvonne Brill-style, and some strategic revisions by the original NYT. My favorite of the lot was "Family Man Who Invented Relativity and Made Great Chili Dies" (http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2013/04/01/guest-post-physicist-dies-made-great-chili/):

"He made sure he shopped for groceries every night on the way home from work, took the garbage out, and hand washed the antimacassars. But to his step daughters he was just Dad. â€He was always there for us,†said his step daughter and first cousin once removed Margo.

"Albert Einstein, who died on Tuesday, had another life at work, where he sometimes slipped away to peck at projects like showing that atoms really exist. His discovery of something called the photoelectric effect won him a coveted Nobel Prize..."

This "rebituary" also featured a link to the original *and* revised versions of the NYT, with snarky strikethroughs:

http://newsdiffs.org/diff/192021/192137/www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/science/space/yvonne-brill-rocket-scientist-dies-at-88.html

New vocabulary for the day: http://www.doublexscience.org/the-finkbeiner-test/

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I think that the obit was awkwardly written. I am guessing that the author was trying to portray her as a woman who could do it all...bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan...

It ended up diminishing this very accomplished woman.

That said, I certainly do want to be remembered in part for raising my three children to be successful adults and maybe even my awesome brisket and my yummy apple cake. I also want to be remembered as a caring physician, a role model and a survivor of many challenges.

Ir wasn't the fact that her stroganof was mentioned, it was way the article was presented.

You may be interested in the discussion thread from this post: http://www.doublexscience.org/the-finkbeiner-test/

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I think I see what the obit writer was trying to do - lead in with what a great mom and wife Yvonne Brill was, but THEN WAIT, THERE'S MORE! and end with all the remarkable accomplishments she's contributed in her field. But it's a total fail because, really, if it was an obituary for Mr. Ivan Brill, no one would think to write it starting off with something like, "He grilled a mean steak, brought his wife flowers every Friday, and never missed his children's soccer games. But Mr. Ivan Brill was also a brilliant rocket scientist." If anything, in his obit, his home life would only be mentioned in a "he is survived by his wife and three children" line.

ETA: Yeah, what girlwind posted as I was writing this up.

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I will come back and haunt my family if they choose to open my obituary with: Marilla Cuthbert could make a mean taco. Not that I will ever come close to being as awesome as Yvonne Brill, but I know I have accomplished more than mastering the art of making tacos. Besides, everyone knows that my husband is the real cook in the house, and that my real talent is ordering take-out!

Marilla - don't forget that wonderful cherry cordial you made or how it got mistaken for the mean currant wine you concocted. That definitely has a place in your obit. Sorry, as a lifelong Anne of Green Gables fan, I couldn't resist! :mrgreen:

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You may be interested in the discussion thread from this post: http://www.doublexscience.org/the-finkbeiner-test/

I think that people should be remembered for all of the special things we are. We will have truly made progress when both men and women are remembered for their contributions to all of the parts of their lives. I don't think it is a great testimony to a male to mention only his professional accomplishments. We will have truly made progress, not when we fail to mention that Mary was a great cook and great mom as well, but when we remember to mention that John did beautiful needlepoint and shared in the raising of his fabulous children when he was not negotiating world peace.

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In all seriousness, I agree. Professional accomplishments should be mentioned, but obits mainly serve to comfort those close to the deceased. It's important to mention the things that made the person special to loved ones , such as special things the person cooked, a love of animals, or a mountain climbing hobby.

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Obits for famous trailblazers, which is what Yvonne Brill was, published in the New York Times, don't serve to comfort the family. What the NYT did was the equivalent of printing an obituary on Albert Einstein in which his accomplishments as a physicist were mentioned only in passing.

This obituary was misogynist, dismissive, rude and absolutely wouldn't happen to a man.

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Obits for famous trailblazers, which is what Yvonne Brill was, published in the New York Times, don't serve to comfort the family. What the NYT did was the equivalent of printing an obituary on Albert Einstein in which his accomplishments as a physicist were mentioned only in passing.

This obituary was misogynist, dismissive, rude and absolutely wouldn't happen to a man.

Agreed. If this obit was published in the local newspaper it would be exactly what was expected. But it's published in New York f*cking Times - they painted her science as a hobby she had (on the level of knitting) in between child-rearing, following her husband from job-to-job and cooking stroganoff ...

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Marilla - don't forget that wonderful cherry cordial you made or how it got mistaken for the mean currant wine you concocted. That definitely has a place in your obit. Sorry, as a lifelong Anne of Green Gables fan, I couldn't resist! :mrgreen:

LOL! I love that! I seriously laughed outloud. But honestly, unlike the real Marilla...I can make great Mexican Food, but I leave the big holiday meals (that you eat on your wedding china) to my husband, because honestly, if it were up to me...I would rather order in than create that big of a mess in my kitchen.

That being said, I do understand that maybe to her, her greatest accomplishment may have being a wife and mother, but I do think where the NYTmessed up was leaving her awesome accomplishments as an afterthought in their first attempt. The Washington Post's Obit was much better, better than the NYT's second attempt (in my opinion):

"Yvonne Brill, a pioneer in spacecraft propulsion who suspended a promising career to raise three children and then returned to work full time to achieve her greatest engineering successes, died March 27 at a hospital in Princeton, N.J. She was 88."

My favorite gem that was in both the NYT and the Washington Post obits: "Mrs. Brill was inducted in 2010 into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, along with the two co-inventors of Post-it notes, prompting a Washington Post reporter to write that it required two men for the stationery item, but only one woman for the space thruster."

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I think I see what the obit writer was trying to do - lead in with what a great mom and wife Yvonne Brill was, but THEN WAIT, THERE'S MORE! and end with all the remarkable accomplishments she's contributed in her field. But it's a total fail because, really, if it was an obituary for Mr. Ivan Brill, no one would think to write it starting off with something like, "He grilled a mean steak, brought his wife flowers every Friday, and never missed his children's soccer games. But Mr. Ivan Brill was also a brilliant rocket scientist." If anything, in his obit, his home life would only be mentioned in a "he is survived by his wife and three children" line.

ETA: Yeah, what girlwind posted as I was writing this up.

That's what I was thinking, but I still think it's sexist because it hinges on the assumption that women are only to be remembered for their homemaking and mothering skills. Like you said, it's awkward. It's like calling her "a great woman scientist"; why can't she just be a great scientist?

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I think I see what the obit writer was trying to do - lead in with what a great mom and wife Yvonne Brill was, but THEN WAIT, THERE'S MORE! and end with all the remarkable accomplishments she's contributed in her field. But it's a total fail because, really, if it was an obituary for Mr. Ivan Brill, no one would think to write it starting off with something like, "He grilled a mean steak, brought his wife flowers every Friday, and never missed his children's soccer games. But Mr. Ivan Brill was also a brilliant rocket scientist." If anything, in his obit, his home life would only be mentioned in a "he is survived by his wife and three children" line.

At least with locally-published obituaries, I see a lot more emphasis on family and civic involvement than on the career of the deceased - for men and women. Typically it's something along the lines of, "George was the beloved husband of Helen and father of Larry, Moe, and Curly. He was a member of the Elks Club and treasurer of the Hometown United Methodist Church, and was active in constructing the local dog park. George earned his B.S. and PhD in electrical engineering from State U, and worked as an engineer for Random Company." As a woman who is both a mother and a well-educated professional, I want to be remembered for my devotion to my family, my hobbies, and my volunteer work in addition to my degrees and patents. One should not be emphasized unduly over the others but I personally feel my most important "work" is raising my kids, even though I do work full time outside the home.

However, this is a "public" obit for a notable figure in our society, written by an actual reporter for consumption by the general public rather than written by the family/local funeral home to be read mainly by family and friends. I think when you're dealing with a public figure the reasons for that person's notability should be foremost in such an obituary - regardless of the sex of the deceased. I think the style was a poor choice for the New York Times and likely reflects some latent sexism. If it had been Mr. Ivan Brill, the personal information would have been there, but it wouldn't have been the lede to the obituary.

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