Debates can rage about the practicality of applying modern standards or sensibilities to people who lived in another age. We can also spin ourselves in circles pondering whether something that is true for someone today would have been just as true decades ago.
One great American pastime is guessing what the Founding Fathers would have to say about the latest political or social quandary. In the music world, could four unknowns from Liverpool accomplish in 2022 what they did in 1964? And somewhere in the sporting industry, loud discussions are taking place right this minute about whether LeBron or Jordan is the GOAT.
But some essential qualities can be considered timeless. Marie Benedict, author of the historical fiction novel “Her Hidden Genius,” seemed to have this in mind when she participated in last October’s “Lake Forest Reads” program and was asked a question that applied a more modern lens to the postwar era: Was Dr. Rosalind Franklin a feminist?
“I think definitely not — she wouldn’t have considered herself that. She was there to do the work,” Ms. Benedict said. “She believed women were capable of doing everything, but she would not have been an activist, per se.”
This acknowledges the differences between the early 1950s and the movement for workplace rights that arrived in the decades to come. But at the same time, the author — who noted with a smile that “I write fiction, so I like to get in other people’s heads” — drew reasonable conclusions based on Dr. Franklin’s noted determination and meticulousness.
“I don’t think she was looking for the reasons why she was being treated differently,” Ms. Benedict added. “Whether they were because of her gender or her background or her affluence, those were barriers that she had to step around and topple so she could continue on her path.”
Dr. Franklin’s work ethic and resolve remain universal assets that would benefit science in any culture or era, as further detailed in the Post-Op story in this issue of Helix. We also highlight how similar attributes have helped women like Kimberley M. Darey, MD ’04, Stephanie Wu, DPM, Amanda M. Simanek, PhD, MPH, and others advance in their fields — and continue to open doors in medicine and science.
Dan Moran is the communications director with RFU’s Division of Marketing and Brand Management.