Kickass Women

History is filled with women doing all kinds of kickass stuff.

Smart Girls

Watch these girls... they're going places!


Need a dose of inspiration? Here you go.

SRPS Entertainment

Some of my entertainment recommendations with awesome female characters and stars.

She's Crafty!

Some of the awesome items made by kickass women!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dipa Karmakar - Indian Gymnast

"Every gymnast needs to have a bit of anger in them... every sports person does."
On Sunday, August 14, 2016, Dipa Karmakar will continue her work of breaking new ground for Indian gymnasts as she takes to the floor in the vault finals at the Rio Olympics. Like Toni-Ann Williams, Dipa Karmakar is the first and only female gymnast to represent her country at the Olympics. Unfortunately, her road to Rio wasn't nearly as smooth as many of the other gymnasts. But, like every other athlete competing in Rio, what makes her an Olympian is her drive and determination.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Anna Julia Cooper

I don't know much about Anna Julia Cooper's life and work, except that she's someone I would love to research. I first heard about her through Melissa Harris-Perry's segment about her, and then when she offered a look at her syllabi for a course she was teaching at Wake Forest through the Anna Julia Cooper Center.

I have a couple of books about her on order through inter-library loan, but have also been reading some of the bios about her life and work available online. She was an amazingly determined and brave woman who never shied away from saying or doing what she felt was right. And this trait was evident from a very early age.
Cooper’s political action began at age nine in St. Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, where she protested the preferential treatment given to men as candidates for the ministry and petitioned to take classes traditionally administered only to boys.
(source: AJCCenter)

Friday, August 5, 2016

She's Crafty! Lauren Espy

A couple of months ago, I saw a picture go by on my Facebook of an adorable little crochet chemistry set. I immediately stopped what I was doing and went hunting all over the web for more info about it and the person who created it. I just knew that anyone would you make a crochet chemistry set (A CROCHET CHEMISTRY SET!!) was someone I needed to know more about.

I'm so glad I did. As it turns out, the creator is Lauren Espy, and the chemistry set was just one of of her many wonderfully whimsical crochet creations! All which she sells through her Etsy store A Menagerie of Stitches. Understandably, every item in her shop sells out within hours, and she has to give her loyal followers a head start to get their orders in. (Hint: After taking a month off, her shop will reopen this afternoon.)

Lauren was kind enough to chat with me about her creative process and the inspiration for her crocheted cuties!

SRPS: First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

LE: My name is Lauren Espy and I run A Menagerie of Stitches. I was born and raised in California but I now live in Elizabethtown, Pa with my husband Carl and our two pups, Thunder and Storm. In May of this year I decided to take my shop on full time and now spend my days crocheting cacti and other super cute things. I get inspired by cute kawaii characters and anything colorful. I'm most inspired all my maker friends who run shops too. It's so neat to see friends doing what they love and showing support to each other. It's a great community to be a part of and to be inspired by.

SRPS: When did you learn how to crochet? How long have you been creating amigurumi creatures?

LE: I taught myself how to crochet back in 2008 after I begged my grandma to buy me a book on amigurumi. She bought me two skeins of yarn and my first hook set, which I still have and use daily. Those first projects I made were not my best! I laugh when I see some of them at my grandparents house because its so funny to see how far I've come since then. It wasn't until a couple years later that I started drawing up my own critters and then writing up the patterns for them.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Toni-Ann Williams - Jamaican Gymnast

Gymnastics is one of those sports I was never very interested to participate in as a child. It probably had something to do with my intense fear of falling. I didn't play on the monkey bars. I was always quite content to stay put on the ground, thank you very much. But that didn't stop me from watching and admiring the amazing gymnasts of my era. When I was growing up, the best of the best were all from Soviet Bloc countries, which made it all the more special with American Mary Lou Retton won her gold in 1984. But even the coldest of Cold Wars could stop us from admitting the sheer power and beauty of Nadia Com─âneci's "perfect 10" in 1976.

But you know, as much as I admired the gymnasts of my youth, I'm even more impressed with the young athletes of today. They keep pushing the boundaries, reaching out to bring more people of different backgrounds and different abilities into the sport.

One young woman to watch is Toni-Ann Williams, who will be competing for Jamaica -- the first ever female gymnast to represent that country in international gymnastics events, and now at the Olympics. Toni-Ann, who attends the University of California at Berkeley, is also the first gymnastics student-athlete to win a spot at an Olympic even in the school's history.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Science Fair Rock Star: Anika Cheerla

This is the second in an ongoing series highlighting some of the amazing young women participating in this year's Google Science Fair. (Here is the first post.) Each has survived the rigorous first pass and have moved into the first regional round. The second set of winners will be announced on August 11, narrowing the field of candidates for the final round. You can be sure I'll be watching the celebration event on September 27, 2016. 

Looking at the list of Regional Finalists for the 2016 Google Science Fair, one name jumps out at me right away. Anika Cheerla was one of the 2015 Finalists as well! Last year she created a neural net program that could be used to detect brain damage when presented with MRI scans and clinical features and aid in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in patients. Her Alzheimer's screening program has a remarkable 95% accuracy rate, and dramatically cut down on the "wait and see" time doctors often employ for patients whose scans are not as clear to the human eye. Oh, and at the time she was only 13.

She's back with another brilliant bioinformatics project: Automated Prediction of Future Breast Cancer Occurrence from Non-Cancerous Mammograms. This time she's using her love for research and coding to predict the likelihood of a patient developing breast cancer by analyzing the data from previous mammograms. And, again (no surprise!), her method works.

She took images from over 400 mammograms of healthy breast tissue and ran them through a series of algorithms to teach her code how to recognize changes that eventually lead to cancerous growths, creating a program that is 35% better at predicting cancer than previous methods employed by medical staff.
Accurate prediction of an individual's future cancer risk helps doctors and patients alike: enabling the early detection of breast cancer if it does arise and allowing patients to get possible interventions to lower their cancer risk. Hopefully, this research is a step towards reducing the fatality rate of breast cancer. My system also can significantly reduce burden on on our health care systems and patients by reducing the false positive rates of the mammograms, which often leads to expensive MRI scans and invasive biopsies.
Until now, the purpose of regular mammogram screening has been to detect existing cancer. But what if it could predict cancer before it develops? How great would it be to have more infrequent screenings that were able to give doctors and patients a better idea of who is more likely to develop cancer based on changes in breast tissue, relieving the financial strain on medical facilities and saving many patients undue worry while giving others a better chance through pre-treatment routines?

Perhaps by the time Anika Cheerla is able to fine tune her algorithm through further study, this may become a reality. Did I also mention she's only 14? With brilliant young scientists like this, the future is bright for all of us.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Science Fair Rock Star: Kiara Nirghin

When thinking of ideas for her Google Science Fair project Kiara Nirghin, from Johannesburg, South Africa, looked around and wondered where she could best apply her natural scientific curiosity for the greatest good. She credits her father for her this humanitarian pursuit, saying he continually reminds her of what is truly important. "You can get as many A's in school and university but what matters most is what you do for the [person who] cannot do for themselves."

South Africa, as well as many others around the globe, is in the midst of a terrible drought, leading to food insecurity and further environmental degradation as poor farmers resort to dangerous practices to survive. Kiara, who loves studying physics and chemistry, had learned a bit about superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) in her chemistry class and wondered if they might hold the key to improving water retention in soil.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Follow Friday - Calendar Women

A while back, when I was first really getting the hang of Tumblr, I came across a wonderful blog there that told the story of one amazing woman every day. Of course I immediately followed it! And every day since I have been happy I did. While the daily posts are on hiatus for a while, she is still sharing great posts found elsewhere, and thus my timeline is continually filled with inspirational stories of women have done great things.

Recently, I was fortunate to be able to chat with Caitlin, the creator and driving force behind Calendar Women.

SRPS: First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

CW: My name is Caitlin and I am a film and television graduate and history buff. My passion is factual programming and documentaries as they offer us a glimpse into worlds that we would never otherwise experience or understand, though depending on who is telling the story certain details can get warped. True stories from history have always fascinated me as often they are much stranger than fiction. I love trying to understand the strength or fortitude of women who have faced down oppressive regimes, liberated people, or defied expectations and forged a new life for themselves – I often find myself wondering what I would have done if I found myself in their situations.

SRPS: What is Calendar Women? What inspired you to create it?

CW: Calendar Women started out as a daily blog with posts about various women both from history and women who are still alive, from all across the world. I began it for several reasons; the first reason was to develop my writing skills. I am not a confident writer by any means and as my New Year's resolution I wanted to write every day about something that fascinated me – the lives of women. I'm happy to say that it's the first resolution I've ever kept and I'd like to think my writing skills have somewhat improved along the way!

My second reason for starting a blog was the absolute dearth of information about women from our past – through history lessons at school we predominantly learn about the achievements of men, with the assumption being that women were passively waiting at home with the children. The few women we do learn about tend to be Queens or martyrs and yet there have been so many incredible women from all walks of life, with different ideals, different achievements and certainly different ideas of the role of women in society. They give us a new perspective on cultures, events or stories we think we know, and combined with the more 'popular' details of male exploits give us a richer view of history.

It is a shame that we learn so little from conventional education, and even researching this I found myself frustrated by the lack of information freely available online about many of the women I was looking into. Tumblr has several blogs dedicated to the contributions of women, both past and present, and I think it's incredibly important that we use the resources we have now to make sure that we keep researching and sharing the stories of these women lest they be completely forgotten.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Amelia Earhart's clothing line?

Growing up, I was an avid reader of biographies, and especially biographies of famous women in history. Even at the tender age of 7, it seems my life's passion was already settled. So when I saw a link to this tweet in my RSS feed last week, it caught my eye. I was certain I already knew most of the interesting facts about Amelia Earhart, and yet here was something I'd never heard of, much less dreamed of, about one of my favorite people.

Whoa. Wait a minute. What?