“ It was really nice to meet with the larger women physicist community at Aspen by having lunch at Bernice Durand's. This was most enjoyable, and we discussed many issues facing women physicists coming to the center, and what could make it easier.”

Women at the Center



In the Beginning – Bernice Durand

In 1962, physicist couples Grace and Larry Spruch and Faye Ajzenberg-Selove and Walter Selove came to the first season of the Aspen Center for Physics. By 1971, Bernice Durand's first summer at the ACP, there were five such couples. Besides her, the women were Susan Kovesi-Domokos, Suha Gursey, Natasha Meshkov, and Freda Salzman. All five women found the ACP wonderfully welcoming and comparatively over–run with female participants! Bernice remembers lots of support and advice from the more senior Suha, Natasha, and Freda.

However only their husbands were listed as participants; the women sat at ad hoc tables in the men's offices. In 1972 seven physicist women were listed as participants. Bernice was elected the first woman Trustee of the ACP in 1981. She is currently an Honorary Trustee and former General Member.

The Durands had built a house near the ACP, where they gave after–picnic home–baked dessert parties for ACP families and friends. In 2008 she transitioned to something else she'd first tried in 2003; she now invites all the women ACP participants for a weekly informal lunch. She still provides the home–baked cookies. In the summer of 2011, there were 98 women participants at the ACP, with 4 to 12 around the Durand weekly lunch table most weeks.

These gatherings provide a wonderful opportunity for the women in different fields to get to know about each other and their work, share experiences and discover common interests. They also are an important means for building community – and for the women General Members in attendance to get a sense of whether there are any gender–related issues that the ACP should be working on.

Promoting Women's Participation – Elizabeth Simmons, Catherine Kallin, Katherine Freese

Because participation in the research program at the ACP is an important means of integrating new scientists into the mainstream of the physics community, the Center is particularly well–suited for reaching out to those traditionally kept at the edges. Accordingly, Catherine Kallin, Katherine Freese and Elizabeth Simmons applied in 1993 for permission to organize a workshop on Women in Physics at the Center during the summer of 1994. While no one workshop could resolve all of the challenges facing women in physics, the organizers felt a workshop at the influential Center would have a relatively wide impact on the physics community. The Program Committee approved the proposal and the Focal Week on Women in Physics took place in July 1994. The following two articles published in the CSWP Gazette discuss the aims, immediate outcomes, and longer–term impact of the workshop. Due to reforms suggested by the Focal Week, womens' participation in the scientific programs, speaker series, and governance of the ACP has more than doubled.

Click these links below to read the articles:

Aspen Focal Week on Women in Physics

Article reprinted with permission from CSWP Gazette summer 1995
by Katherine Freese (Univ. of Michigan), Catherine Kallin (McMaster Univ.), Elizabeth Simmons (Boston University).

Update on the Aspen Focal Week on Women in Physics

Article reprinted with permission from CSWP Gazette summer 1997
by Katherine Freese (Univ. of Michigan), Catherine Kallin (McMaster Univ.), Elizabeth Simmons (Boston University).