Monday, April 10, 2017

Protected as a Foreigner

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.)
Winifred continued her science education at University of Chicago, a time when not many women were going to graduate school--and certainly not as a science major.

“I think I was protected because I was a foreign student. I was different anyway.  The first couple years of graduate school, I frequently was the only woman in class. I remember there was one professor who was away and got his assistant to give his lecture for him. This substitute, each time he showed up, he would look at the class and say, “Lady and Gentlemen.” 
(To be continued. Next: No Place for Women.)

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