ABOUT RUTH BLEIER:
SCIENTIST, ACTIVIST, FEMINIST
Ruth Bleier once wrote: "So far as I can tell now, I grew up not knowing girls and women were supposed to be inferior."
A good share of Ruth's career at Wisconsin was dedicated professionally and personally to disproving the myth that many gender differences in the areas of math, verbal skills and creativity are biologically based. She argued that those differences are a result of social and political forces of telling girls, for instance that they are not supposed to be good at math.
Ruth received her M.D. in 1949 from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, then the only remaining women's medical school in the country. She practiced general medicine in the poor, inner city of Baltimore for nearly ten years, and then took a postdoctoral training position in neuroanatomy at the John Hopkins School of Medicine. Ruth joined the Department of Neurophysiology at Wisconsin in 1967.
In the early 1970s, she began to see how sexist and other cultural biases affected the biological sciences, and devoted herself to applying feminist analyses and perspectives to the theories and practices of science. Her book in this area, Science and Gender, A Critique of Biology and Its Theories on Women, and her anthology, Feminist Approaches to Science, are considered classics and are required reading in many women's studies courses.
Also during the 1970s, Ruth's political priorities began to focus on improving the lot of women in higher education. She helped found the Association of Faculty Women (AFW), a group that brought about an equity salary raise for faculty women. Her famous "shower-in" in the men's locker room yielded women's locker rooms at the Camp Randall Sports Center, also known as "The Shell." She was also instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, which she chaired from 1982-1986.
Ruth Bleier, a professor of neurophysiology at UW-Madison, was an authority on the hypothalamus in animals and authored three definitive books on the topic. She also helped found the Neuroscience Training Program and was an adored teacher in both her neuroscience and women's studies courses.
Ruth had two children, was an accomplished musician and an exuberant athlete. She died at her home in January of 1988 after a battle with cancer.