During the summer of 2023, women wielded an extraordinary influence over the economy, marking a profound shift in numerous industries. Renowned figures such as Barbie, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé took center stage in this movement, using their platforms to inspire and transform various aspects of the business world. Their impact, spanning diverse sectors, served as a testament to the might of female entrepreneurship and leadership.
Amidst these transformative developments, the release of “Oppenheimer” brought to light a missed opportunity to spotlight the crucial roles women played in the A-bomb’s history. From the often-overlooked Calutron Girls, who operated vital calutron mass spectrometers in the Manhattan Project, to the trailblazing women scientists who propelled the project forward, their significance remained unjustly obscured.
Regrettably, “Oppenheimer” failed to fully embrace and showcase these remarkable female contributions. In a season christened the “summer of women” owing to remarkable achievements and women’s impact across various fields.
It’s worth noting that 640 women, constituting 11% of the workforce, worked at Los Alamos, with nearly half being scientists specializing in various fields. These women held essential positions, contributing to calculations, research, and testing related to the atomic bomb.
Recognizing and celebrating these exceptional contributions could have added depth and relevance to the “Oppenheimer” narrative. It would have illuminated not only the scientific brilliance of these women but also their resilience and determination in an era when gender equality remained elusive. Their stories, interwoven with the A-bomb’s history, would have testified to the pivotal role women played in shaping the course of events.
Within the broader context of a summer dominated by women’s accomplishments, acknowledging and honoring these contributions would have further underscored the importance of honoring the past as we progress toward a future that celebrates and acknowledges women’s achievements in all their glory.
The characters in the new film “Oppenheimer” are multi-dimensional, with none more so than its protagonist, Oppenheimer himself. His life was marked by accusations of communist affiliations, the loss of loved ones to suicide, and the development of the most destructive weapons in history.
Yet, while recounting Oppenheimer’s story is not inherently problematic, it prompts us to question what remains untold. Whose narratives are obscured or silenced in this storytelling?
The traditional narrative spotlights American men as Manhattan Project heroes while downplaying the exploitation of workers in the Belgian Congo for uranium and the forced displacement of Native Americans. Forgotten are the working-class women who handled uranium without understanding its dangers.
Countless women played vital roles in the project, including the Calutron Girls operating the calutron machine, female physicists contributing to bomb invention, and advocates like Lilli Hornig. These women challenge the perception that nuclear weapons were solely the creation of American men.
Women had an important role to play, and their work should not go unacknowledged, especially in the “summer of women.”
Read more detailed accounts of the women that supported the Manhattan Project at Female scientists who worked on A-bomb mostly absent from ‘Oppenheimer’ in The Washington Post and The Untold Stories Behind “Oppenheimer” in Inkstick.
With over a decade dedicated to women-led startups, Raven is a seasoned entrepreneur, strategic luminary, and passionate advocate. She's nurtured 500+ women-led businesses, securing over $100M in funding through her blend of strategic counsel, marketing mastery, and resource facilitation.