CAG News: October 2022

The Center for the Advancement of Girls and The Class of 1957 Speaker Series Fund welcomed Author Janice Kaplan to Speak About Her Book "The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World”

From left: Dr. Elizabeth Rossini, Assistant Head of School; Joy Prince, Upper School Director; Sally Keidel, Head of School; Speaker Janice Kaplan; Ali Monzo, Director of CAG Programs; Vanessa Pope, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Experiential Learning.

When asked to name a genius, most mention Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Steve Jobs. As for great women? The only female genius listed, if any, is Marie Curie. On October 13, author and journalist Janice Kaplan spoke to an audience of Agnes Irwin community members saying, “I’ve always been interested in women’s success, and I was inspired to write the book after I read a survey that showed ninety percent of Americans believe that geniuses are men. It occurred to me that we tell girls now that they can be anything. But does that mean anything but a genius?” 

Kaplan shared a collection of stories about genius women whose accomplishments have historically been underrecognized. She talked about Austrian-Swedish physicist Lisa Meitner (1878-1968) – who discovered nuclear fission and was praised by Albert Einstein as the “German Marie Curie.” The 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for nuclear fission, however, was awarded to her collaborator and nephew Otto Hahn. Kaplan also spoke about Clara Peeters (1607–1621), the Flemish Dutch Golden Age artist and colleague of Rembrandt’s whose work was posthumously shown in the Prado Museum, over four hundred years after her death. 

Who we consider to be a genius changes over time and with how their story gets told. But oftentimes, the problem is with who the people are in power who get to say whose work deserves to be recognized. “As more women are getting into those positions of power, that is starting to change. It is going slower than we’d like. But now and in the future, we have to know and talk about women who have done amazing work, or are doing amazing work right now, and who are outstanding and worthy of attention.”

“We have to know and talk about women who have done amazing work, or are doing amazing work right now, and who are outstanding and worthy of attention.” - Janice Kaplan

In the end, Kaplan posited, it is mere attention that may make all the difference in creating a world where more of us have knowledge of women geniuses – girls and women must be recognized, acknowledged, talked about, and celebrated for their work. “We tend to think about genius as a natural state – either you are or you aren’t. But genius needs to be nurtured and recognized,” said Kaplan. “Every genius woman had one person who believed in her, one person behind her, one person championing her. Be that inspiration for a young woman. It makes all the difference,” Kaplan said. If one thing is certain, it is that Agnes Irwin students and alumnae will continue to be part of the work needed to recognize and encourage the genius of women.

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The Center for the Advancement of Girls (CAG) is the signature entity of The Agnes Irwin School. CAG creates opportunities that empower our students to live their lives with intention, to cultivate their unique voice, and to build confidence by addressing three essential questions:

  1. What is best for girls?
  2. What do girls need to thrive? 
  3. What does it mean to empower girls?

Meet the Directors

Ali Monzo is the Director of Programs and oversees the development of on-campus programming that serves girls PreK-12th grade. 

Vanessa Pope is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Experiential Learning. 

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