A Woman’s Place is in the Lab

What follows is a perfect example of the reason that the National Women’s History Museum needs to be built. Filmmakers Chris Brown and Christine Dennis both celebrated Brown’s trailblazing female scientist mother, Gail J. Brown and highlighted NWHM in a short video, A Woman’s Place is in the Lab. Click here to see it:

A Woman’s Place is in the Lab

For more information, read the article which follows.

Dr. Gail Brown at WSU in the 1970s

A Woman’s Place is in the Lab

By Christine Dennis

As filmmakers, the highest honor is to make a film that inspires and changes the world for the better. Unfortunately, financial concerns often limit us from doing works of personal passion or social value, to say the least. Thankfully a story found us that we had to tell.

We first learned about the creation of the National Women’s History Museum while talking with Chris’s mom, Dr. Gail J. Brown. She is an honoree and dedicated supporter of the museum. Gail shared stories about the different challenges she overcame while pursuing an education and career in the 1970s. The Women’s Liberation movement was at its height and women were fighting for equality.

We were eager to learn more and support the museum in any way we could. We were moved by the headline to “share the story of the women in your life and the positive mark they have made.” Immediately, Chris Brown (Cinematographer) knew that the time was now. A short film would be the perfect medium to creatively express the power of how one woman can make a difference. It was a way for him to recognize the accomplishments of this amazing woman in his life and share her story with the world. Gail is not only a great scientist but a beautiful and loving mother.

Whoever said you can’t have a family and a career too, has never met Dr. Gail Brown. She pursued her doctorate while working full time and raising two young children. Gail is the type of person who will encourage you to pursue your passions no matter what. She truly believes that you can be anything you want to be. Her son, Chris and daughter, Samantha will attest to her unending love and support.

Since we are located in California and Gail lives in Ohio, we really didn’t have a way of filming with her. But the universe works in mysterious ways. Last February we decided to take a spontaneous road trip across the country to visit family and catch one of our favorite bands in concert. Our last stop on the trip was Ohio to visit Chris’ mom and sister. We ended up having two days to shoot before we had to turn around and drive back. It was worth every mile.

We learned about her first assignment at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Her first supervisor was known to be quite conservative and doubtful of a woman’s abilities to work in science. But Gail’s hard work and determination soon changed his opinions. One day, she had to miss a team meeting because she was focused on an experiment in the lab. When everyone asked where she was, her supervisor responded, “A woman’s place is in the lab.” I believe Madam Curie would agree. Gail is now the Principal Physicist and team leader of her Directorate at the base.

Samantha Brown

Samantha graduated with honors from Northwestern University and is now pursuing her PhD in Chemistry at Ohio State. Following in her mother’s footsteps, the sky is the limit.

Gail values taking the time to mentor other young women pursuing careers in science and research. One story involves a young high school student who was working summers with Gail in the lab, just a few years ago. She was a very bright woman with a pilot’s license and graduated summa cum laude. However, she was going to go into computer science after a high school counselor advised her that physics was a bad career for women. Gail was shocked to hear that this adversity still existed after so many years. She encouraged her young mentoree to follow her dreams. Gail’s bright student went on to pursue physics and became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and now works at the National Institute of Technology.

Gail’s road to success is an inspiring story. She was the first woman in her research department to receive the “Charles J. Cleary Award” for outstanding scientific research. She also received the “STEM Role Model Award” during Women’s History Month. Our foremothers throughout history would be proud of women today, like Dr. Gail J. Brown. We are here today because of the women who have paved the paths before us and we believe its important to remember them.

We wouldn’t even have an American flag if Betsey Ross hadn’t sewn it together! Please spread the word about the National Women’s History Museum. There is much to learn from the amazing stories of past generations. These stories are waiting for the chance to inspire a new generation of role models! For all women and men, a new glimpse at the past can change the lives of all for a peaceful future…

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