Fearless Portraits

Presenting Fearless Portraits, stories of women leaders, innovators, and trailblazers. Some of them are well-known, some are obscure, all of them worked to make a difference in the world. In each episode, you’ll learn the story of an amazing changemaker in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee. Fearless Portraits is hosted by Dan Landau, a New Jersey-based visual artist who repurposes maps and other items with ink drawings and intricate papercutting to create portraits of people and things.

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Episodes

Tuesday Sep 20, 2022

“Redemption! I was grabbing the air, I got so excited I was afraid I might die or something.”   Dr. Katalin Karikó Biochemist who pioneered mRNA, the technology behind the successful COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.    The Artwork: Ink drawing on a map of Philadelphia, PA. The University of Pennsylvania where she did much of her research is located near her chin.    The Story: Doubted and then demoted by academic leaders, denied grants, and derided by her peers, Katalin Kariko’s journey from disregarded scholar to world savior was a four-decade struggle. Introduced to the concept of messenger RNA (mRNA) during her undergraduate, she quickly saw the possibilities and pursued a PHD in the field, beginning in 1978. Ultimately, her research served as the basis of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines.  In 1985, Karikó left her native Hungary with her husband, two-year-old daughter, and $1,200 sewn into teddy bear (proceeds from selling the family car on the black market). She continued her research at Temple University before moving to the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. All the while, rejected grant applications piled up on Karikó’s desk. She said her mRNA research was “too novel” to get funded.   By 1995, her bosses at the university were growing impatient with the lack of funding and offered a humiliating choice: leave or be demoted to adjunct from her prestigious tenure-track position. With the demotion came a substantial pay cut. The same week, she was diagnosed with cancer.  “Usually, at that point, people just say ‘goodbye’ and leave because it’s so horrible,” she says. But Karikó  wasn’t like usual people. Undeterred by the setbacks, she doggedly continued in her research. One year, she recalled realizing in May that she had worked every day that year, including New Year’s Day, even sleeping in the office sometimes.  A few years later, a chance meeting with Drew Weissman at a photocopier changed the course of her career. A respected immunologist, Weissman was intrigued with Karikó’s research. More important, he had the funding to finance her experiments in his lab. This partnership “gave me optimism and kept me going,” says Karikó. “My salary was lower than the tech who worked next to me, but Drew was supportive and that’s what I concentrated on.” In 2005, Karikó finally had a breakthrough. On paper, mRNA was simple, in reality injecting synthetic mRNA often led to disastrous immune responses from subjects. Karikó  and Weissman figured out how to sneak mRNA into cells without triggering the alarm bells. This paved the way for vaccines and other future therapies with mRNA.  Despite this success, the University of Pennsylvania told Karikó in 2013 she was “not of faculty quality.” She left to become Senior Vice President at BioNTech, a nascent German biotech firm. “When I told them I was leaving, they laughed at me and said, ‘BioNTech doesn’t even have a website.’”  Her career’s research has since served as the basis of the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.  She screamed, “Redemption!” upon hearing the news the vaccine was effective. “I was grabbing the air, I got so excited I was afraid I might die or something. I never doubted it would work.” She celebrated by eating a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts. “   Background on mRNA: The focus of Karikó’s career was mRNA, a single-stranded messenger molecule that delivers instructions from the DNA in the cell’s nucleus to the protein-making centers called ribosomes. Without mRNA, DNA would be useless, leading some to call mRNA the “software of life.”  MRNA offers a way for the body to heal itself and its promise will likely be realized in ways far beyond the current COVID-19 vaccine application. With the COVID-19 vaccine, the mRNA tells cells to create harmless spike proteins to prepare the immune system to fight against coronavirus’ spikes. Other possibilities include other vaccines, treating cancer, and diseases like cystic fibrosis.   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, Coma Media, Hot_Music, Oleksandr Savochka, and 24414830.    Sources: BioNTech scientist Katalin Karikó risked her career to develop mRNA vaccines. Americans will start getting her coronavirus shot on Monday. (2020, December 12). Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/mrna-vaccine-pfizer-moderna-coronavirus-2020-12?international=true&r=US&IR=T  Corbley, A. (2021, February 1). She was Demoted, Doubted and Rejected But Now Her Work is the Basis of the Covid-19 Vaccine. Good News Network. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/katalin-kariko-hungarian-chemist-developed-covid-19-mrna-vaccine/  Cox, D. (2020, December 2). How mRNA went from a scientific backwater to a pandemic crusher. WIRED UK. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/mrna-coronavirus-vaccine-pfizer-biontech  Garde, D., & Globe, J. S. —. B. (2021, January 7). The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race. STAT. https://www.statnews.com/2020/11/10/the-story-of-mrna-how-a-once-dismissed-idea-became-a-leading-technology-in-the-covid-vaccine-race/  Kolata, G. (2021, September 24). Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/health/coronavirus-mrna-kariko.html  Kollewe, J. (2020, November 23). Covid vaccine technology pioneer: “I never doubted it would work.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/21/covid-vaccine-technology-pioneer-i-never-doubted-it-would-work  Newey, S., & Nuki, P. (2020, December 2). “Redemption”: How a scientist’s unwavering belief in mRNA gave the world a Covid-19 vaccine. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/redemption-one-scientists-unwavering-belief-mrna-gave-world/ Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 22). Katalin Karikó. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katalin_Karik%C3%B3

Tuesday Sep 06, 2022

“I interested Miss Alice Ball… in the chemical problem of obtaining… the active agents in the oil of chaulmoogra. After a great deal of experimental work, Miss Ball solved the problem.”   Dr. Harry Hollmann  Writing about chemist Alice Ball and her groundbreaking cure for leprosy in a scientific journal   The Artwork: Ball’s portrait in the Fearless Portraits project consists of an Ink drawing on a map of Honolulu, HI. The University of Hawaii where she worked is visible on the bridge of her nose. Wearing a graduation cap and gown, the portrait is based on the only known photograph of Ball.  The Story: An ancient disease, leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) has afflicted humans since biblical times. Viewed as a shameful curse, for most of history, leprosy was “treated” by throwing victims out of their homes and isolating them in leper colonies where they lived in poverty and pain as their disease progressed and complications eventually killed them. That is, until 1916, when a 23-year-old Alice Ball developed the first cure for the skin disease.  Born in 1892 in Seattle, Washington, Ball excelled in science and she earned bachelors’ degrees in chemistry and pharmacy at the University of Washington and went to what is now the University of Hawaii to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry. After graduating as the first black woman to earn a master’s degree at the school, she was invited to teach chemistry, becoming the first woman to teach there.  While teaching college chemistry, she was approached by Harry Hollman, a doctor treating leprosy patients. At his suggestion, she began researching the problem of using chaulmoogra oil as a treatment / for leprosy. Chaulmoogra oil had been used to treat leprosy for hundreds of years, but it was difficult to administer to patients and not very effective. Ball was able to isolate the relevant compounds in the oil and developed a technique for injecting the oil. The results were very successful.  Sadly, she died a few months later before her findings could be published.  A male colleague stole her research and named the discovery after himself. He received accolades from around the world for his stolen leprosy cure and later parlayed his success into the presidency of the university.   Hollman attempted to set the record straight six years later in 1922, writing in a scientific journal, “I interested Miss Alice Ball, M.S., an instructress in chemistry at the College of Hawaii in the chemical problem of obtaining for me the active agents in the oil of chaulmoogra. After a great amount of experimental work, Miss Ball solved the problem for me by making the ethyl esters of the fatty acids found in chaulmoogra oil, employing the technic herewith described,” which he referred to as “Ball’s Method.”    The Ball Method was far more efficacious than the previous topical and oral chaulmoogra oil therapies and thousands of leprosy patients around the world were successfully treated with it. The Ball Method remained the standard for leprosy treatment until the 1940s, when new classes of drugs were developed. Ball became ill during her research and returned to Seattle for treatment. She died at the age of 24 on December 31, 1916. The cause of death is unknown, although it may have been due to chlorine gas exposure during a lab accident. Whatever the case, she wasn’t around to defend her work and despite Hollman’s 1922 article, Ball remained in obscurity for decades.  It was not until 2000, that the University of Hawaii recognized Ball with a plaque on campus, at the urging of scholars Dr. Kathryn Takara and Stan Ali. Around the corner from the plaque is the stately hall named for Ball’s research thief. Also in 2000, the Governor of Hawaii named February 29 “Alice Ball Day.” Other honors and accolades have since been bestowed on Ball.   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, Aleksandr Karabanov, and DayFox.   Sources: Ball, Alice Augusta. (n.d.). ScholarSpace | University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/1837#:%7E:text=On%20February%2029%2C%202000%2C%20the,lone%20chaulmoogra%20tree%20on%20campus.  Bennett BH, Parker DL, Robson M. Leprosy: steps along the journey of eradication. Public Health Rep. 2008 Mar-Apr;123(2):198-205. doi: 10.1177/003335490812300212.  Brewster, C. D. (2021, May 4). How the Woman Who Found a Leprosy Treatment Was Almost Lost to History. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/alice-ball-leprosy-hansens-disease-hawaii-womens-history-science  Hollman, H. T. (1922). The Fatty Acids of Chaulmoogra Oil in the Treatment of Leprosy and Other Diseases. Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology, 5(1), 94–101. https://doi.org/10.1001/archderm.1922.02350260097010  Knutsen, E. (2018, August 25). This phenomenal young woman found a cure for leprosy, but the man she worked with got the credit. Timeline. https://medium.com/s/the-matilda-effect/alice-ball-matilda-effect-6b5fb64c74d6  Parascandola J. Chaulmoogra oil and the treatment of leprosy. Pharm Hist. 2003;45(2):47-57. Retrieved from https://lhncbc.nlm.nih.gov/LHC-publications/PDF/pub2003048.pdf Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 30). Alice Ball. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Ball

Tuesday Aug 16, 2022

“It’s definitely an old boys’ club, and so obviously for us coming in as opposite, we definitely were looked at as not just not belonging, but really incapable of being successful.”   Robin McBride Co-founded McBride Sisters Wine Company with Andréa McBride, the largest Black-owned wine company in the US   The Artwork: The McBride’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait project consists of an ink drawing of the two of them on a map of California. Both wearing suits, and clasping wine glasses in their hands, Robin is on the left and Andréa is on the right. Monterey, CA, where Andréa grew up and where some of their wine is from, is located on the right side of Robin.    The Story: The journey to building one of the largest Black-owned wine companies in the world began in very unlikely circumstances. Andrea McBride was a teenager living in foster care in New Zealand when she got a phone call from her estranged biological father in Alabama. He was calling to deliver the double shot of surprise news that he was dying of cancer and before he died, he wanted to connect her with his other daughter—Robin—whose existence Andrea had never known of. He died before they could find Robin, but Andrea did get to meet her father’s family and they sent letters to every Robin McBride in the phone book until they finally found the right Robin. She was living across the country in Monterey, CA.  When they finally got to speak to each other for the first time in 1999, one of their ice breaker questions was “what was it like where you grew up?” and they discovered they both grew up in winemaking areas and they were passionate about wine. In an effort to bond, they went to wine tastings and vineyard tours. After a few glasses of wine, they started to dream about having their own wine company together.  That dream became a reality in 2005, when they scraped together the $1,800 to buy an importer’s license and began selling New Zealand sauvignon blanc to high-end restaurants. Their operation continued to grow and in 2016, they took it a leap further and formed the McBride Sister’s Wine Company. In 2020, the company cleared $5.5m in sales.  Selling wines from each of their homelands, New Zealand and California, McBride Sisters Collection wines are available across the US.   The journey from first importing wine to creating a multi-million dollar wine business was not an easy one. They built their company without any investors or advisors in the beginning and faced challenges in a sector that is “notorious for its gatekeeping,” says Robin.  “It’s definitely an old boys’ club,” says Robin of the wine industry. “A large part of the industry is run by a very small group of older white wealthy men. There are a lot of dynasties in wine and family lineages that still run things. And so obviously for us coming in as the opposite—really of everything that, to that point, had been successful in the wine world, which was an older white man—we definitely were looked at as not just not belonging, but really incapable of being successful.” The traditional way to sell wine was to work with wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, working each step like a ladder until the bottles eventually made it to store shelves. The McBrides found ways to bypass these gatekeepers by creating demand directly with customers.  “A lot of our experiences of us being curious about wine and how we were treated when we were in those tasting rooms and stuff is really a lot of the foundation of what our company is built on today, which is making wine accessible for everybody and helping people on their journey and making it fun,” says Andréa. This customer-centric philosophy around wine helped propel their business into the largest Black-owned wine company in the US.   Background: Beyond their own wine business, the McBrides are passionate about elevating women and people of color by raising a more diverse generation of winemakers and consumers.  “Our purpose and our mission,” says Andréa, “Is to change the face of wine for our community and for our industry. When we talk about our community, who we serve, we find that who is attracted to our brands are women and people of color. This is a really big group of people that the wine industry doesn't do that great a job in welcoming. For a long time, we have been one of the only Black-owned brands that has national distribution that is available at national grocery stores. We want to leave the wine industry better than when we started. We don't think that we should be the only ones here.” In 2019, they launched the SHE CAN line of canned wines, which underwrites the SHE CAN Fund. A concerted effort to help close the gender and race gap in the wine world, the fund has contributed more than $3 million in scholarships, in-kind skills development, technical training, and ad credits to women vintners.    Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and MusicTown.   Sources: Brooks, S. (2021, August 30). 20 Minutes With: The McBride Sisters, Founders of the Largest Black-Owned Wine Brand in the U.S. Barron’s. https://www.barrons.com/articles/20-minutes-with-the-mcbride-sisters-founders-of-the-largest-black-owned-wine-brand-in-the-u-s-01630349788  How I Built This. (2020a, October 19). McBride Sisters Wine (Part 1 of 2): Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/15/924227706/mcbride-sisters-wine-part-1-of-2-robin-mcbride-and-andr-a-mcbride-john  How I Built This. (2020b, October 23). McBride Sisters Wine (Part 2 of 2): Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/10/23/927158151/mcbride-sisters-wine-part-2-of-2-robin-mcbride-and-andr-a-mcbride-john  Richardson, R. (2022, April 5). McBride Sisters Helm the Country’s Largest Black-Owned Wine Brand. TODAY.Com. https://www.today.com/food/people/mcbride-sisters-largest-black-owned-wine-company-in-us-rcna22036  Worobiec, M. (2020, October 27). Wine’s Dynamo Sister Team. Wine Spectator. https://www.winespectator.com/articles/wines-dynamo-sister-team

Tuesday Aug 02, 2022

“It is never a waste to try something and fail.” Masako “Ma-chan” Wakamiya (若宮正子) Octogenarian app developer   The Artwork: Ma-chan’s portrait in the Fearless Portraits project consists of an Ink drawing on a map of Kanagawa, the prefecture she lives in, just south of Tokyo. She’s seated on the floor next to a traditional Japanese short-legged table with a laptop open on it.    The Story: Masako “Ma-chan” Wakamiya got her first computer when she retired from a career in a bank in 1997. She found a whole new world available to her through her computer and relished the connection and community the internet offered, saying, “at the age of 60, my world expanded—I got wings!”  Ma-chan’s interest in technology continued from PCs to smartphones. As the resident tech expert in her circle, she spent a lot of time helping her friends and neighbors use their phones and she theorized older people have a hard time with smartphones and such because apps and games mostly catered to young people—either by using small print, requiring fast play, or using difficult swiping motions.  Sensing an opportunity, she thought a possible solution to help older people be more comfortable with their devices would be an app designed for them. So, at the age of 82, she set about creating an app for her peers. She settled on a game based on Japan’s annual doll festival (called Hinamatsuri). “I wanted to make games that would allow us seniors to defeat even young people on the basis of our knowledge―games that are different from the competitive ones that require quick reflexes,” she says. “As we age, our eyesight gets worse, and we can't move our fingers the way we'd like to. This game is designed so that even people with these problems can enjoy it.” She reached out to the president of an app development company she had met through volunteer work previously and presented her idea. He countered with a suggestion that she create the app herself and he would teach her over Skype.  Never one to back down from a challenge, Ma-chan dove into app development, persevering through a difficult six months to build the app.  “It was especially very difficult to organize the whole structure of the app,” she says of the challenge of learning to code. Plus most of the resources she found online to learn from were in English, adding a further level of difficulty to the project.  “It is never a waste to try something and fail,” Ma-chan said of the fits and starts she experienced while learning to code. “You will not die or get injured even if things don't pan out well. It's best to enjoy your failures. If you fail, you fail. What's wrong with that?” The game, called Hinadan, was completed just in time for the doll festival in 2017.  In the app, players move dolls in a puzzle into their appropriate positions based on the dolls’ roles (emperor, empress, and so on). The app has now been released in five languages.  Given her status as perhaps the oldest app developer in the world, news of the app went viral.  Apple CEO Tim Cook invited her to Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference where Ma-chan got to meet him and the two discussed the app together. “It was as if we were chatting in a programming class,” she said of the experience.   Background: Born in 1935 in Tokyo, the app is just the latest chapter in Ma-chan’s self-proclaimed role of “IT evangelist” where she encourages seniors to use digital technology to enrich their lives. She spreads her message through the lecture circuit in Japan and abroad, including a TEDx Talk in Tokyo and an address before a UN conference in New York. She’s also written several books, primarily around educating seniors with technology.  Another way she has taught tech skills is something she calls “Excel art.” Which is using Excel spreadsheets to create patterns. “Excel looks difficult for seniors. But I came up with an idea of drawing designs using its functions. Then, I got so excited as I was able to produce one new pattern after another,” she says.   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, OB-LIX, FreeGroove, and Solbox.    Sources: AFP TV. (2017, August 7). Never too old to code: Meet Japan’s 82-year-old app-maker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXnjNCX6Ai4  CNA Insider. (2018, February 25). 81 And Excelling | Super Octogenarians | CNA Insider. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7uN4-NiG0s  JapanGov. (2018). Game App Developer in Her 80s Opens ICT World for Fellow Seniors /. The Government of Japan - JapanGov -. https://www.japan.go.jp/tomodachi/2018/spring-summer2018/game_app_developer.html  Kambayashi, T. (2022, March 9). At 82, she coded an app. She just wanted a game she could win. The Christian Science Monitor. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/2022/0309/At-82-she-coded-an-app.-She-just-wanted-a-game-she-could-win  Kashima, Y., & Armitage, S. (2017, June 13). Meet The 82-Year-Old App Developer Who Says Life Gets Better With Age. BuzzFeed News. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/yuikashima/this-82-year-old-grandmother-is-an-apple-developer  Nikkei. (2019, November 23). Meet the 84-year-old Japanese app developer who inspired Tim Cook. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Meet-the-84-year-old-Japanese-app-developer-who-inspired-Tim-Cook2  Self Taught Japanese. (2017, June 6). 82 year old Japanese woman’s “hinadan” mobile app: sometimes it takes new technology to uncover ancient traditions. https://selftaughtjapanese.com/2017/06/06/82-year-old-japanese-womans-hinadan-mobile-app-sometimes-it-takes-new-technology-to-uncover-ancient-traditions/  TED. (n.d.). TEDxTokyoSalon | TED. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/15791 Wakamiya, M. (n.d.). Masako Wakamiya. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Masako-Wakamiya/e/B004LR7TIO%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share  Wakamiya, M. (2014, May 31). Now is the time to get your own wings | Masako Wakamiya | TEDxTokyo. TEDx Tokyo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUjXiYtOC7Y&t=644s  Wakamiya, M. (2017, February 23). ‎hinadan. App Store. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/hinadan/id1199778491 

Tuesday Jul 19, 2022

“I do not like that the front pockets of girls jeans are fake.”   Kamryn Gardner First grader who asked Old Navy to make jeans with pockets   The Artwork: Gardner’s portrait in the Fearless Portraits project consists of an Ink drawing of her holding her new pocketed jeans on a map of northern Arkansas. Bentonville, where she lives is located just over her head and the left.   The Story: Seven-year-old Kamryn Garder of Bentonville, AR had a small problem: Her pants had no pockets. She desperately wanted pockets to put her hands in and stash items. Her brother’s pants had pockets but on hers, the “pockets” were strictly ornamental.  After learning about persuasive writing in school, the first grader put the lesson into action. On the advice of her mother, she wrote a letter to retailer Old Navy. With neat penciled letters on large-ruled paper, she took the company to task for shortchanging girls out of their pockets    Dear Old Navy, I do not like that the front pockets of the girls jeans are fake. I want front pockets because I want to put my hands in them. I also would like to put things in them. Would you consider making girls jeans with front pockets that are not fake. Thank you for reading my request.  Sincerely, Kamyrn Gardner, age 7   Gardner’s brother, Landon, 9, found her argument persuasive, saying, “I’ve never had this problem [of no pockets]. But I’ve heard my sister talk about not having pockets all the time.”  The logic worked on Old Navy also and the company responded with a note about her “great feedback for us as we develop new product,” and a package of four pairs of jeans in her size. With pockets of course.  Less successful was Gardner’s efforts at writing persuasive letters to her parents to get her a camera.   Background on pockets in women's and girl's clothes Gardner isn’t the first to rail against the lack of functional pockets in women’s clothing. Women lost their pockets two centuries ago, when closer-fitting dress styles came in vogue in the 1790s. Before then, women’s pockets were essentially bags hanging from a strap around the waist and tucked under a skirt. With fluffy skirts and petticoats, the pockets were invisible. When styles changed, pockets were left behind to avoid bulges. Meanwhile, men have always enjoyed pockets.  Beginning in the 20th century, pockets for women have repeatedly come back, only to leave again, depending who’s winning the tug-of-war between practicality and fashion, (or if you prefer, empowerment and misogyny). as Christian Dior put it, “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration.”  Gardner’s complaint is about more than having a place for her hands. As writer Gail Cornwall noted in The Washington Post: “Not having pockets limits girls’ ability to experience. Not only do pockets free a child’s hands to investigate and accomplish, they also broadcast the need and right to do so to both wearer and viewer alike. Or, more accurately, it’s the contrast of the presence and absence of pockets in different kids’ clothing that sends a two-part message: Only men need functionality, and girls should learn to be women as early as possible.”   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, Coma Media, and Music Unlimited.   Sources: Bentonville Schools [@ BentonvilleSchools]. (2021, April 1). Oh, the power of persuasion especially when you’re adorable! Earlier this year, first graders at Evening Star Elementary practiced writing [Facebook post]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BentonvilleSchools/posts/10157778570856366   Burman, B. (2002). Pocketing the Difference: Gender and Pockets in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Gender History, 14(3), 447–469. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0424.00277  Cornwall, G. (2020, January 15). Why girls need pockets. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/01/15/why-girls-need-pockets/  Free, C. (2021, April 9). First-grader wrote Old Navy asking for girls’ jeans to have real pockets. The letter went viral. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/04/09/old-navy-girls-jeans-pockets/  Pelletiere, N. (2021, April 8). Old Navy responds to 1st grader’s request for girls’ jeans with real pockets. Good Morning America. https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/family/story/navy-responds-1st-graders-request-girls-jeans-real-76923645 Ushe, N. (2021, April 8). Old Navy Tells First-Grader They Plan to Develop Pockets in Girls’ Jeans After She Writes Them a Letter. PEOPLE.Com. https://people.com/human-interest/old-navy-tells-first-grader-they-plan-develop-pockets-girls-jeans-after-letter/

Tuesday Jul 05, 2022

“There is only one thing worse than coming from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes and that is not going to the lab at all.”   Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (吳健雄) Experimental physicist, known as the “First Lady of Physics”   The Artwork: Wu’s portrait in the Fearless Portraits project consists of an Ink drawing on a map of Manhattan, New York City. Columbia University, where she worked, is located in the collar of her lab coat on the left side.   The Story: The laws of physics are immutable. Constants in an ever-changing universe. Since 1925, physicists had accepted the parity principle—which dictates that nature is symmetrical and two mirror-image systems will behave in identical fashion to each other—as scientific fact.  That is, until 30 years later, when Dr. Wu did the impossible and proved the Law of Conservation of Parity wrong.  A world-renowned physicist at Columbia University, Wu was approached by colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang in 1956 with the idea of testing a theory on the parity principle’s limitations. Famously dedicated to her work, Wu canceled her planned trip to Europe and Asia to test the theory she herself gave a one-in-a-million chance of being correct.  Her experiment found electrons behaving asymmetrically, shattering what had been a fundamental concept in nuclear physics. Her findings shocked the scientific community and won the Nobel Prize in Physics the following year. In what was widely panned as one of the greatest mistakes by the Nobel committee, the award went to Wu’s collaborators, Yang and Lee, while Wu herself was not honored for her monumental achievement until 1978 when she was given the inaugural Wolf Prize.   Background on Wu The Nobel snub was far from the first time Wu encountered sexism.  Born on May 31, 1912, in the village of Liuhe in Jiangsu province, China, near Shanghai. There was no school for girls in the village, so her father founded one. She excelled in her studies, going on to college and graduating at the top of her class with a degree in physics in 1934.  She came to the US to continue her studies at the University of Michigan, but was shocked at the sexism she encountered. Upon learning female students were not even allowed to use the front entrance at UMich, she enrolled at UC Berkeley where she earned her Ph.D. Shortly after, in 1942, she took a job at Princeton University, where she became the first woman hired as a faculty member of the physics department. Two years later, she joined Manhattan Project’s laboratories at Columbia University. She stayed at Columbia until her retirement in 1981.  Wu traveled and lectured widely, encouraging young women to follow in her footsteps and build careers in STEM. A fierce critic of gender barriers and discrimination—particularly in science—she said, “I sincerely doubt that any open-minded person really believes in the notion that women have no intellectual capacity for science and technology.”   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and Hot_Music.   Sources: Atomic Heritage Foundation. (n.d.). Chien-Shiung Wu. https://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/chien-shiung-wu  A-Z Quotes. (n.d.). Chien-Shiung Wu Quote. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/763081  Jones, M. (2014, March 30). Chien-Shiung Wu: The First Lady of Physics. Futurism. https://futurism.com/chien-shiung-wu-the-first-lady-of-physics  Leah Melle, [@leahmelle]. (2021, April 21). Verified Notable women in science youve probably never heard about by @leahmelle 🙌👆 [Instagram post]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/CN5Y5sylSqW/?igshid=8ga7184ilojy  National Park Service. (n.d.). Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, The First Lady of Physics (U.S. National Park Service). https://www.nps.gov/people/dr-chien-shiung-wu-the-first-lady-of-physics.htm  New York Historical Society. (2021, June 24). Life Story: Chien-Shiung Wu, 1912–1997. Women & the American Story. https://wams.nyhistory.org/confidence-and-crises/world-war-ii/chien-shiung-wu/  NIST. (2016, September 26). The Reversal of Parity Law in Nuclear Physics. https://www.nist.gov/pml/fall-parity/reversal-parity-law-nuclear-physics  UKRI. (2018, February 18). Chien-Shiung Wu. UKRI.Org. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20211223122104/https://stfc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/features/chien-shiung-wu/  Wikipedia contributors. (2022a, April 17). Wu experiment. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_experiment Wikipedia contributors. (2022b, June 8). Chien-Shiung Wu. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chien-Shiung_Wu      

Tuesday Jun 21, 2022

“Economics should be about caring for real people.” Janet Yellen First female Secretary of the Treasury First female Chair of the Federal Reserve Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors First person to hold all three roles   The Artwork: Yellen’s portrait in the Fearless Portraits project consists of an Ink and colored pencil drawing on a map of San Francisco. She’s wearing a purple blazer with her trademarked popped collar. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco she presided over from 2004 – 2010 is on the right side of the map, just over her shoulder.    The Story: Janet Yellen’s philosophy on how economics should be about caring for real people had its roots in her childhood. Growing up in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood, she watched a stream of factory workers and dock hands visit her father’s medical practice, paying $2 cash to be seen, or not paying if they couldn’t. “I came to understand the effect that unemployment could have on people in human terms,” she says.  This philosophy was solidified in college during a macroeconomics lecture: “I remember sitting in class and learning about how there were policy decisions that could have been taken during the Great Depression to alleviate all that human suffering—that was a real ‘aha’ moment for me. I realized that public policy can, and should, address these problems.” Fast forward 50 years and Yellen—in her role as president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank—would be among the first to raise concerns about the impending subprime mortgage bubble. Later, as vice chair of the Fed and then chair of the Fed, she oversaw a controversial plan to buy trillions of dollars in assets to prevent the economy from further collapse. Called quantitative easing, the plan may well have been the difference between keeping a job or losing it for millions of workers in the US economy.  Yellen’s human-centric economics mindset was a marked shift in thinking for the Federal Reserve and later to the Department of the Treasury. As she put it, the job of central bankers as she sees it, “isn’t just about fighting inflation or monitoring the financial system. It’s about trying to help ordinary households get back on their feet and about creating a labor market where people can feel secure and work and get ahead.”  In her long and distinguished career, Yellen served as one of President Clinton’s top aides, chairing the Council of Economic Advisors. Then, she led the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and became the first female Chair of the Federal Reserve system in 2014. Five days into Joe Biden’s presidency, Yellen was confirmed by the Senate as the first female Secretary of the Treasury. She is the first person in history to hold all three of the US’s top economic positions.    Background on Yellen: Yellen’s household is a true economics powerhouse. She’s married to Nobel laureate and UC Berkeley professor George Akerlof and their son, Robert, is also an economics professor.  Aside from collaborating on raising their son together, (Yellen notes that if all hours on parenting and housework were added up, Akerlof did “more than 50%”) the economics super couple also co-wrote a famous paper together. Drawing on their experience hiring a babysitter for their son, the paper illuminates why lower wages don’t always lead to higher employment.  “Firms are not always willing to cut wages, even if there are people lined up outside the gates to work. So, why don’t they?” asks Yellen. Their conclusion was that some companies choose to pay higher wages to attract better talent and motivate their employees to do good work.  As Yellen notes, “When you hire a nanny, the question you ask yourself is, ‘what’s best for my precious child?’ And do you really want someone who feels that your motive in life is to minimize the amount you spend on your child?”   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and Praz Khanal.   Sources:  Akerlof, G. A., & Yellen, J. L. (1988). Fairness and Unemployment. The American Economic Review, 78(2), 44–49. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1818095 Akerlof, G. A., & Yellen, J. L. (1990). The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 105(2), 255. https://doi.org/10.2307/2937787  Amadeo, K. (2021, March 4). Who Was the Only Female Federal Reserve Chair? The Balance. https://www.thebalance.com/janet-yellen-3305503  Appelbaum, B., & Couturier, K. (n.d.). Yellen’s Path to the Pinnacle. Timeline - NYTimes.Com. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/yellen-timeline.html#/#time276_7992  Bell, S. (2018, January 24). The Tragedy of Janet Yellen. POLITICO Magazine. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/24/janet-yellen-fed-chair-donald-trump-216509/  Chozick, A. (2017, December 11). Janet Yellen Didn’t Set Out to Be a Feminist Hero. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/09/business/janet-yellen-didnt-set-out-to-be-a-feminist-hero.html  Counts, L. (2021, January 12). Prof. Janet Yellen, trailblazing former Fed chair, is Biden’s Treasury pick. Haas News | Berkeley Haas. https://newsroom.haas.berkeley.edu/research/janet-yellen-former-fed-chair-bidens-expected-treasury-pick/  Foroohar, R. (2014, January 20). Janet Yellen: The Sixteen Trillion Dollar Woman. TIME.Com. http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,2162267,00.html  Gibbs, N. (2014, January 9). The Most Unprecedented Thing About Janet Yellen. Time. https://time.com/275/nancy-gibbs-janet-yellen/  Graveline, D. (2017, September 22). Famous Speech Friday: Janet Yellen on holding women back. Denise Graveline. https://denisegraveline.org/2017/09/famous-speech-friday-janet-yellen-on.html  Lane, S. (2020, November 30). Biden names Janet Yellen as his Treasury nominee. The Hill. https://thehill.com/policy/finance/526996-biden-picks-janet-yellen-for-treasury-secretary?rl=1  Mejia, Z. (2018, December 12). Janet Yellen survived the “horrifying” financial crisis thanks to this one simple habit. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/12/how-did-janet-yellen-survive-the-horrifying-financial-crisis-sleep-.html  The Economic Times. (2013, October 12). Janet Yellen moves out of her Nobel-laureate husband George Akerlof’s shadow. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/janet-yellen-moves-out-of-her-nobel-laureate-husband-george-akerlofs-shadow/articleshow/23993099.cms?from=mdr  Wolverson, R. (2021, January 27). Janet Yellen’s past mistakes will haunt her as treasury secretary. Quartz. https://qz.com/1962724/janet-yellens-greatest-mistakes-will-haunt-her-toughest-job-yet/ 

Tuesday Jun 07, 2022

“If you are independent, you will never be afraid to be alone or to leave a job.”  Brenda Landau Businesswoman   The Art: Brenda’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait project consists of an ink drawing of her, on a map of Guatemala. Her hometown of Salama, Baja Verapaz, is visible on her neck.   The Story:  The day after New Year’s, 2021, Brenda Landau went out for a long run. It’s just her. Feet pounding the pavement. The miles ticking by with buzzes on her running watch. It’s the day after New Year’s Day, 2021. Running a half marathon wasn’t some kind of New Year’s resolution. It was just what Brenda Landau did to relax. This was at least the fourth half marathon she’d run alone during the COVID-19 lockdowns since the previous March.  While her feet moved in a steady rhythm, she reflected on where she was in her life so far: happily married with two daughters, enjoying professional success as a finance executive and a head full of fun dreams for the future.  Born into a large family in the mountainous heart of Guatemala, she was the fifth of nine children. Her mother had a second-grade education and did not encourage education among her children. Not liking the future she saw for herself in her small hometown, she changed her story. “As a middle child, I was always independent and never afraid to try new things,” says Brenda. “From climbing trees as a child and jumping off to taking a job as a teen managing a magazine in my hometown and turning around its struggling sales.” She moved to the United States, learned English, put herself through college by working 60 hours a week and graduated with top academic honors. The first in her family to earn a college degree, she ultimately earned an MBA as well.  Professionally, she thrived as well, building a successful career in accounting and finance and enjoys mentoring other women. “I always say, ‘do something that makes you independent—in your thinking, in your finances, in every way. If you’re independent, you’ll never be afraid to be alone or to leave a job,’” she says.   In 2020, NJBIZ named her to their “Best 50 Women in Business” list.  When not running a company’s finances or playing with her children, Brenda is passionate about fitness, and ran the New York City Marathon in 2017.  She lives in central New Jersey with the host of this show and their two children.   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, and Brenda's brothers playing marimba in Salama.   Sources: Brenda Landau, interviews by author, New Jersey, February 20 & December 11, 2021. NJ BIZ Staff, N. (2020, September 24). Introducing: The 2020 NJBIZ Best 50 Women in Business. NJBIZ. https://njbiz.com/introducing-2020-njbiz-best-women-business-awards/   

Tuesday May 17, 2022

“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” Maggie Kuhn Elder rights activist & founder of the Gray Panthers   The Artwork: Maggie Kuhn’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait project consists of an ink drawing of her Ink drawing on a map of Philadelphia, PA, where she lived and worked.   The Story: In 1970, Maggie Kuhn was working a job she loved at the Presbyterian Church when she was forced to retire due to the mandatory retirement age of 65. Despite 20 years of work for the church, her supervisors refused to let her stay on.  “I felt dazed. I was hurt and then, as time passed, outraged. Something clicked in my mind and I saw that my problem was not mine alone. Instead of sinking into despair, I did what came most naturally to me: I telephoned some friends and called a meeting,” she later wrote in her autobiography, No Stone Unturned, The Life and Times of Maggie Kuhn. Each of the meeting attendees was also being forced into retirement. “We discovered we had new freedom as a result of retiring,” wrote Kuhn. “We had no responsibility to a corporation or organization. We could take risks, speak out. We said, ‘With this new freedom we have, let’s see what we can do to change the world.’” So, Kuhn and her friends created a movement. Initially given the ungainly name of Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change, the group was dubbed the Gray Panthers by a talk show host who quipped they were as militant as the Black Panthers. The moniker stuck and the Gray Panthers quickly carved out an advocacy niche. One hundred people attended its first public meeting.  The Gray Panthers worked to fight the idea of “disengagement theory,” a popular idea in the 70s that argued old age involved a necessary separation from work, families, communities, and general society as a prelude to death.  Kuhn believed this was nonsense, saying, “The first myth is that old age is a disease, a terrible disease that you never admit you've got, so you lie about your age. Well, it's not a disease—it's a triumph. Because you've survived. Failure, disappointment, sickness, loss—you're still here.” As a living refutation of the disengagement theory, Kuhn became a national celebrity, appearing on TV frequently and giving talks all over the US in her role as National Convener of the Panthers. She logged 100,000 miles annually, traveling from one event to another. Her grueling schedule was partly fueled through her motto of “do at least one outrageous thing a day.” In a full circle moment for Kuhn, the Gray Panthers were ultimately successful in getting Congress to ban mandatory retirement for most jobs in 1986. President Ronald Reagan—then the oldest ever President of the United States, signed the law.  Still extant today, the Gray Panthers’ membership has declined as it faces stiff competition from AARP.   Background on Kuhn: Although she founded the Gray Panthers in response to mandatory retirement in 1970, Kuhn began advocating for elder rights in 1961 as an extension of her lifelong interest in human rights.  Kuhn attributed her activism to her sociology classes in college, saying, “Sociology, for me, related the community to the individual, and showed us a way to act responsibly in groups.” After attending the 1961 White House Conference on Aging in her professional capacity with the Presbyterian Church, she began visiting Presbyterian retirement homes and was dismayed with how she saw residents treated. As editor of the Presbyterian journal “Social Progress,” she encouraged church members to get involved with elder issues among a wide swath of social problems such as nuclear proliferation, gender equality and more.  After living a life of advocacy, her advice to activists interested in creating social change was to “Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” Kuhn was born on August 3, 1095 in Buffalo, New York to a conservative middle class family. She died at her home in Philadelphia on April 22, 1995, at the age of 89.    Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno, Oleksii Kaplunskyi, Musictown, and Sergei Chetnertnykh.   Sources: Douglas, S. J. (2020, September 9). Opinion | The Forgotten History of the Radical ‘Elders of the Tribe.’ The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/opinion/sunday/gray-panthers-maggie-kuhn.html  Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Maggie Kuhn | American activist. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Maggie-Kuhn  Folkart, B. A. (2019, March 5). Maggie Kuhn, 89; Iconoclastic Founder of Gray Panthers. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-04-23-mn-58042-story.html  Gray Panthers. (n.d.). Maggie Kuhn. Gray Panthers NYC. https://www.graypanthersnyc.org/maggie-kuhn  Kuhn, M. (1991). No Stone Unturned: The Life and Times of Maggie Kuhn (1st ed.). Ballantine Books. Levy, C. (1995, April 23). Gray Panthers Co-Founder Maggie Kuhn Dies At 89. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1995/04/23/gray-panthers-co-founder-maggie-kuhn-dies-at-89/a7c55189-b388-4e95-aafe-0d7d9a9163a1/  Roberts, S. V. (1986, October 18). HOUSE VOTES TO END MANDATORY RETIREMENT RULES. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/18/us/house-votes-to-end-mandatory-retirement-rules.html  The National Women’s Hall of Fame. (2015, October 17). Kuhn, Maggie. National Women’s Hall of Fame. https://www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/maggie-kuhn/  Wikipedia contributors. (2021, December 7). Gray Panthers. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_Panthers  Wikipedia contributors. (2022, February 1). Maggie Kuhn. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_Kuhn Your Dictionary. (n.d.). Maggie Kuhn. YourDictionary.Com. https://biography.yourdictionary.com/maggie-kuhn

Tuesday May 03, 2022

“I classify my research as where equity meets science. The people who are really going to need [smart sutures] will not be able to afford them. So, I decided to make something cost-effective.” Dasia Taylor Inventor   The artwork Dasia Taylor’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait Project consists of an ink drawing on a map of Iowa. Her hometown of Iowa City is located on the right side, where her neck meets her shoulder.   The story:  When 17-year-old Dasia Taylor heard about smart sutures—which use electrical currents and smart phone connections to monitor wound infections—she was intrigued, but she also saw a problem: the people who would need these the most would have the lowest access to them.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2-4% of sutured wounds become infected in the US. That number rises to 10-20% in some developing countries, where digital access also drops.  Taylor saw an opportunity to bring equity to this situation and set to work developing a low-tech solution to improving health outcomes. And she wasn’t going to let something like not having participated in a science fair since first grade hold her back. She began researching the problem of wound infection with her chemistry teacher at Iowa City West High School in the fall of 2019. While healthy human skin has an acidic pH of about 5, infected skin reaches pH 9. After juicing dozens of beets, Taylor discovered beet juice changes color from red to purple at the same pH level as infected skin.  After experimenting with different threads, Taylor found a cotton/polyester blend worked the best. When treated with the beet dye, the thread would change color in five minutes when in the presence of an infection. The goal of this color-changing thread is for patients to self-monitor themselves and know when to seek medical attention.   She began entering her work into science fairs and quickly began racking up prizes, even becoming a finalist in the Regeneron Science Talent Search. The annual talent search is one of the most prestigious science contests for high school students.  Taylor says she’s patenting her invention and looking to set up lab space to continue her research before starting college, where she plans to study political science and become a lawyer.  “I have to continue my research. These stitches literally will revolutionize wound treatment in developing countries,” she says. “I'm definitely not stopping until my stitches get to those who need them.”   Music: This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and Anton Vlasov.    Sources: Firozi, P. (2021, April 1). A high-schooler wanted infection-detecting sutures to be more accessible. She used beets. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/04/01/high-schooler-wanted-infection-detecting-sutures-be-more-accessible-she-used-beets/  Inside Edition. (2021, April 1). An Iowa High School Student Invented a Cost-Effective Way to Detect Infections in Surgical Patients. https://www.insideedition.com/an-iowa-high-school-student-invented-a-cost-effective-way-to-detect-infections-in-surgical-patients  Kantor, W. G. (2021, May 14). Iowa Teen Inspired by Grey’s Anatomy Invents Stitches That Change Color When Wound Is Infected. PEOPLE.Com. https://people.com/human-interest/iowa-teen-inspired-by-greys-anatomy-invents-stitches-that-change-color-when-infected/  Krupa, A. C. H. A. M. (2021, April 17). A student harnessed the power of beets to make healing from surgery safer -- and more equitable. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/17/us/student-beets-color-changing-sutures-wellness-trnd/index.html  Local 4 News WHBF. (2021, February 18). In Our Community | Dasia Taylor. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ercvAKNrSVk  Machemer, T. (2021, March 25). This High Schooler Invented Color-Changing Sutures to Detect Infection. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/high-schooler-invented-color-changing-sutures-detect-infection-180977345/  Muzdakis, M. (2021, April 6). High School Senior Creates Color Changing Surgical Sutures That Alert Infection. My Modern Met. https://mymodernmet.com/dasia-taylor-beet-surgical-sutures/  Schilke, R. (2021, February 1). West High senior Dasia Taylor recognized as Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalist. The Daily Iowan. https://dailyiowan.com/2021/01/31/west-high-senior-dasia-taylor-recognized-as-regeneron-science-talent-search-finalist/  Spencer, C. (2021, March 30). Black Teen, Dasia Taylor, is the inventor of a method to detect surgical infections. Black Enterprise. https://www.blackenterprise.com/black-teen-dasia-taylor-is-the-inventor-of-a-method-to-detect-surgical-infections/  The Ellen Degeneres Show. (2021, April 26). Astounding Teen Inventor Is Changing the Medical Field. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZILJSMFd3s 

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Your host Dan Landau

I am a self-taught artist specializing in figurative works drawn on maps. My work has been published in a variety of outlets, including The New York Times, Huff Post, and The Nation, and is held in private collections around the world. I live in New Jersey with my favorite muses: my wife and two daughters.

Why maps?

I’ve always liked maps. As a kid, I pored over the map inserts that came with my National Geographic magazines. Now, I use maps as my canvas for creating art.

My work typically consists of subjects drawn in ink on paper maps. Sometimes I cut away portions of the map, leaving the drawing and the roads behind. I like to work with maps because maps have quite a bit of meaning baked into them. They represent places with special associations for us. They help us get to know new places. I use maps as a metaphor for connection and exploration in my work.

Map selection is a crucial part of my process. Sometimes my subjects are deeply and obviously entwined with the maps I draw them on—for example, women profiled in the Fearless Portraits series are drawn on maps of locations connected to their stories. Sometimes the connection is more abstract—evoking ideas of a journey and philosophical travel. Or, perhaps I just liked how the curve of a road matched the subject’s nose.

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