Narrative Portraits

This section of the exhibition began in 2014 as an oral history initiative to document and share the experiences of women faculty working in science, technology, engineering, math, and social science at the University of Virginia. Sixteen different women faculty were interviewed and asked to conceptualize their life as a book and share their life experiences as “chapters.” The oral histories ranged from childhood to professional experiences, inside and outside academia, here at UVA and at other institutions. The narrative portraits presented here are deeply reflective and discerning, illustrating a convergence of scientific careers and personal memories. They are part of a much broader set of themes and historical threads that are represented within the exhibition as a whole.

Collectively, the biographical narratives of these women reveal common threads and experiences, as well as institutionally ingrained challenges that connect women working in academia across disciplines. Despite the challenges, feelings of uncertainty and experiences of discrimination, the women represented here prevail over their adversities. And, as you will see, they love what they do, and excel at it.

Each quotation offers a picture of circumstances

Each quotation offers a picture of circumstances that represent the experiences of all interviewees, circumstances that have shaped their personal stories—and their scientific discoveries. They are scientific pioneers, professors, mentors, wives, friends and mothers.  As you explore this exhibit you will recognize both the diversity and the commonality embodied in their stories. Read their words closely and with empathy. Make connections. And look for the themes that are bound to arise as you engage.


Gendered Expectations

Finding a Professional Voice

Making a Life



Lastly, please note that we share these histories without revealing the interviewees’ names in order to respect their privacy. Each quote included in the exhibition has been approved for release by the interviewees.


Gendered Expectations | Finding a Professional Voice | Making a Life | Mentoring

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Sponsored by the NSF ADVANCE AWARD #1209197.