Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Podkayne's Downfall or Why Mothers Should Not Work Outside the Home

The epilog of Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein contains a diatribe by "Uncle Tom" directed toward Poddy's parents, blaming them generally, and her mother most particularly, for the tragedy that has befallen poor Poddy. Her mother's high profile engineering profile has led to the downfall of her family, and Uncle Tom insists he has told them time and again of the dangers of having a mother who is not utterly devoted to hearth and home.

This lecture echoes the colleague who told me that science was a "grim life" for a woman. You can't raise your children properly; you can't devote yourself completely to the science, so it simply cannot be worth doing. What of the women, like Podkayne's mother, who work at an extremely high level? Women who make ground breaking contributions to their fields? Does motherhood still trump science for them? Heinlein implies that it does.