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Change Is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics

Patricia Clark Kenschaft
American Mathematical Society
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The Basic Library List Committee recommends this book for acquisition by undergraduate mathematics libraries.

[Reviewed by
Danté A. Tawfeek
, on

This book is a furlong in the right direction! Patricia Clark Kenschaft’s, Change is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics, is a compilation of exquisite narratives that capture the lives of women and minorities (African- and Latino- Americans) in the mathematics. This work presents a fairly comprehensive picture of the private and public lives of woman and minority mathematicians during the 18th, 19th, 20th, and the beginning of this 21st century. While lauding the social and intellectual significance of the contributions of women and minorities to the mathematical sciences in America, the book does not neglect to discuss the social obstacles these men and women had to endure in order to succeed in their field of study.


Women's and minorities' achievement in the mathematical sciences has been a hot research topic for the past three decades. As America’s university and workforce population become more diverse, issues related to equal access and recognition in the field of mathematics for women and minorities will continue to be a central research topic. Succinctly, the dynamics of societal issues relative to gender and ethnicity have become a guide for those who are concerned with equity in the mathematical sciences.


The discussion of gender and ethnicity is essential to any treatise attempting to integrate a holistic historical description of the intellectual contributions made by many of those who have, historically, been locked out of most professions in the mathematical sciences. To examine the historical role that women and minorities played in mathematics is not an affront to those who are not members of either group. On the contrary, such an examination must presuppose the notion that nurturing by some well meaning academicians not affected by the social bigotries of the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s was provided to women and minorities attempting to enter the field of mathematics.


Social and intellectual prejudice, which in the past have brandished their cold and ugly heads, are debunked and anesthetized when history is allowed to confess its truths. Kenschaft successfully delivers a work that forces the reader to reflect on the issues of equity while considering the historical development of mathematics relative to women and minorities. Equally important, Kenschaft’s work reveals the human side of mathematics, the side that is absent of equations and formulae, the side that motivates us to say, "Mathematics is neither alien nor inaccessible to me because of my gender or ethnicity, for mathematics is, indeed, a human endeavor."


This book can be used as a primary or secondary source book in a historical survey course for mathematics or mathematics education majors. Patricia Clark Kenschaft’s Change is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics, is a must-have book for any serious historical enthusiast of mathematics. I encourage middle and high school teachers of mathematics, mathematics teacher educators, university professors of mathematics, and anyone who might just be interested in a fine book to procure this work.


Danté A. Tawfeeq: or is an instructor of mathematics at Florida A&M University. In 2003 Danté became the fourth African American to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics education from the Florida State University. He is a Project NExT 2004-05 Dolciani-Hollorin Fellow. He hails from Syracuse, New York. "Orangemen Basketball is #1!"



  • Introduction
  • With the help of good white men
  • Women and mathematics in the nineteenth century
  • The Twentieth century: Mathematics and marriage
  • African American mathematicians from the eighteenth through the twentieth century
  • Latino mathematicians
  • Reawakening: The Association for Women in Mathematics
  • Skits tell what's happening around 1990
  • Women in mathematics now (2004)
  • Minorities in mathematics now (2004)
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix to Chapter 5: The careers of 75 African American mathematicians of New Jersey in mid-1985