| 1923New Kensington, Pennsylvania|
Neurophysiologist, Activist, Feminist
The Hypothalamus of the Rhesus Monkey: A Cytoarchitectonic Atlas
Ruth Bleier Wikipedia
Ruth Harriet Bleier (1923–1988) was a neurophysiologist who is also one of the first feminist scholars to explore how gender biases have shaped biology. Her career consisted of combining her academic interests with her commitment to social justice for women and the lower-class.
Bleier was born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania in 1923. She received her B.A. in 1945 from Goucher College, and subsequently received her M.D. from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1949. She interned at the Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and then practiced general medicine in the inner city of Baltimore for ten years. She married Leon Eisenberg, and together they raised 2 children and ran a medical clinic for the impoverished population of Baltimore.
Bleier advocated for civil rights with the Maryland Committee for Peace in the early 1950s; this work lead to a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC), which was run by Senator Joseph McCarthy at the time period. Due to her lack of cooperation, she was placed on the HUAAC blacklist; this resulted in Bleier losing her hospital privileges. Since she lost her legal ability to practice medicine, Bleier went to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1957 to study neuroanatomy with Professor Jerzy Rose, completing her post-doctoral fellowship in 1961. Bleier gave up her medical practice in order to teach psychiatry and physiology at the Adolph Meyer Laboratory of Neuroanatomy. She then joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of Neurophysiology in 1967; at the same time Bleier was also working with Weisman Center of Mental Retardation and the Wisconsin Regional Primate Center. Bleier is a known authority on the animal hypothalamus: she has published three works on the subject.
In the 1970s, Bleier began to see how the biological sciences were affected by sexism and other cultural biases, and thus devoted herself to the application of feminist analyses and viewpoint to the practices and theories of science. She also began to focus on improving women’s access and station in higher education. Bleier argued against the idea of sociobiology as an explanation of conventional gender roles. In her work she demonstrated how gender, sexuality, and science, rather than being static and judgment-free, are constantly changing in response to social values and ideas
Her books regarding biology and feminism, Science and Gender: A Critique of Biology and Its Theories on Women (1984) and Feminist Approaches to Science (1986), have become prominent readings for women's studies to explore the biological differences of sexes and the origins of gender differences.
Sticking to her activist routes, Bleier became a founding member of the Association of Faculty Women at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Association challenged the administration to reassess the status and salaries of female instructors campus-wide and to rectify inequalities. The Association succeeded in equaling pay for men and women university workers, and also succeeded in integrating gymnasiums by having the women faculty have a group shower in the men's locker room. Bleier also helped establish the Woman's Studies Program in 1975, and even served as chair from 1982 to 1886.
Bleier came out as a lesbian after her marriage to her husband ended and began her work to create lesbian rights within the women's movement. She organized a lesbian restaurant, lesbian social events, a feminist book store. Additionally, Bleier advocated for abortion rights with Dr. Elizabeth Karlin.
Bleier died in 1988 from cancer at sixty-four years old. The University of Wisconsin annually awards the Ruth Bleier scholarships in order to encourage young women to go into STEM careers, and the University's Department of History of Medicine has an endowed chair in her honor.