Tonight I went to this fabulous event at the University of Michigan Library: a talk by Marina von Neumann Whitman about her memoir, The Martian’s Daughter. Mrs. Whitman is the daughter of John von Neumann – a mathematician who made extremely important contributions to the world of mathematics, economics and computer science.
Whitman read the prologue to her book and then told a few anecdotes before taking questions. I cannot wait to read this book – though I did buy a copy and have it signed for my mother who I am sure will love it given her own experience as one of *very few* women in the computer science department as an undergraduate at Princeton back in the late 70s.
The book clearly addresses what it was like to be von Neumann’s child, but there is also a running theme throughout the book around her father’s high expectations of her intellectually and academically and the tension she had balancing these with her personal life. She married quite young, to her father’s dismay. But she said, this drove her to excel intellectually and academically. And excel she did.
I was tempted to ask a question during the Q&A but ultimately, I did not. The last chapter of her book is titled “Having it all.” Now, this book was just published. I wonder to what degree she was referencing Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic piece that generated so much buzz? More importantly, I wonder how she personally responds to that article? Everything she said on that podium was very much “women CAN and SHOULD have it all.” I wonder how she would handle some of Slaughter’s criticisms of that position? Note that I am not taking a side here, I am just curious as to what Whitman thinks about Slaughter’s argument.
Anyways, thank you Mrs. Whitman for a lovely and inspiring evening! Maybe one day I will be able to ask you my questions…