She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. "The world's best mom," her son Matthew said.
Thus began the obituary heard 'round the world, written for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist, wife, and mother memorialized in the New York Times last weekend. It didn't take long before the Times changed its first sentence to reference Brill's work as a rocket scientist ("She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband…"), but that hardly satisfied the outraged masses, who called her gendered portrayal "disgraceful" and "inappropriate."
The New York Times doesn't write obituaries about mothers, no matter their chops in the kitchen. They write about people who have lived extraordinary lives. Weird lives. Lives that broke some sort of cultural expectation. A rocket scientist who happens to be a mother? Now, there's a story.
Here is a list of Mrs. Brill's accomplishments (she liked to be called "Mrs. Brill," her son said), as per her NYT obit:
· Invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits (You can thank her every time you make a call.)
· Worked on satellite design in the 1940s, the only woman to be working in the rocket science field at the time
· Helped NASA develop the rocket motor for the space shuttle
· Remained married almost 60 years, until the death of her husband in 2010
· Made a mean beef stroganoff
· Raised three children
In the Times, Brill was remembered first and foremost as a wife and mother. Had she been a man, the mention ...1
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