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"We do not consider admission of women..."

  • Apr 3, 2011
I have to admit, I began reading this memoir with a bit of trepidation. Given the author's intimidating academic credentials and career paths, I feared reading a daunting tome about DNA sequencing and impossible-to-pronounce chromosome combinations. Contrary to that pre-judgment, I found myself drawn in from the first page. As other reviewers here have noted, Hoopes has a delightful writing voice that manages to be casually intellectual in its conversational tone, which works to great advantage as she moves from explanations of cell replication to her own replication in giving birth.

When I was starting high school in the late 1960's--and being told, in this new era of women's liberation, that as a woman I could do anything in life I set my sights on--Hoopes was having academic doors slammed in her face. I have to say, several of the sections of this book are no less than shocking in what they reveal about the male dominated world of higher education. (At one point she describes being told--by Princeton, no less--"We do not consider admission of women to the graduate program here.")  I found myself at times very angry at the rejections and snubs the author endured, but later celebrating with her as she continued, undaunted, toward her goals.

There is more contained in this brief memoir than I can describe in a few words here. The book is inspiring, touching, fascinating and celebratory. I was a literature major, but reading Hoopes' theories and explanations made me realize that if I'd had someone like her as a teacher, I might have taken a completely different path in life.

I cannot emphasize enough that this book is not just for women interested in pursuing a career in science, but for all women in today's world who will find themselves striving to "have it all"--education, career and family. I loved this book, and my only criticism is that it stops too soon. I'll be looking forward to more of Hoopes' writing in the future.

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S Kay Murphy ()
Ranked #232
Hi! It's nice to meet you here! If you enjoy my writing, you may be interested in reading my memoir, Tainted Legacy. Some years ago I discovered a family secret: My great-grandmother, Bertha Gifford, … more
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About this book


Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling is a memoir by scientist, teacher and author, Laura L. Mays Hoopes.  The book deals with the difficulties women have had to break through the glass ceiling and be accepted in academic circles and certain career paths.  It also deals with the challenges of balancing a career with parenting and family life.  Highly recommended.
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