From the moment I first heard about her, sitting outside the door at the Sorbonne University lectures and taking notes because she was excluded entry based soley on the fact she was a woman, she became an inspiration. At that time, The Sorbonne and indeed, most other universities admitted only male enrolments. She became both a symbol for me as a young woman, about how far we had come in relation to equal rights, but also an extraordinary example of just what women can achieve, despite the odds so often stacked against them.
So much do I admire Marie Curie, that I actually travelled to Warsaw just to visit the Marie Curie Museum to pay my respects and learn a little more about her.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Marie Curie Museum was closed for the two days of my stay, so I was limited to seeing only the exterior of the building.
Women like Marie Curie helped open the doors of higher education for other women. She proved, despite her exclusion from formal qualifications and denied the opportunities to experiment open to students formally enrolled in science, her mind and skills were at least as good and arguably better, than that of most of her male peers.
Marie Curie went on to be the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (Physics) in 1903 and even gained a second in another field of scientific research, (Chemistry) in 1911.
Today, girls continue to be denied equal opportunity to education in many places around the world. Whilst virtually all countries now include women and girls in official enrolments from kindergarten through to tertiary eduction, poverty, family perceptions of female life roles and beliefs that continue, often mistakenly, to view males as the sole future providers for their families, still limit educational opportunities and access for women and girls.
How many Marie Curies have been left behind in this process and excluded from achieving their full potential?
What price does humanity pay for this?
It is now thoroughly proven that ensuring women are well educated benefits the society as a whole, not just the individual woman. So often women have sole responsibility as breadwinners, ensuring they are able to attain qualifications that equip them to earn a good living benefits not just the individual woman, but also her children and extended family. Access to education equates with access to more highly paid employment opportunities. Women pass on the benefits of education way beyond themselves, but particularly to their own children, as mothers. How impoverished would our society be if women were still regarded in the narrow terms they were as recently ago as the 1950s?
Wife, mother, home-maker; all are important roles, but all women deserve both the choice and opportunity to define themselves and contribute beyond these roles. Education is the key that opens the door to choices and opportunities. Education does not begin and end with formal schooling, but remains a life long process.
The two greatest investments in life any of us can make are both education and travel. They are the internal investments in our minds and being, that no one can ever take away from us. Way "safer than houses" or the stock market. Travel is just an informal means and sometimes a means to an end when it comes to education. Thankfully, Marie Curie, managed both, leaving her native Poland, to pursue higher education in Paris. Only her own determination permitted her to access and surpass what, until then, had been denied women of her time. Her working life and marriage to Pierre Curie were outcomes of her pursuit of education and arguably, set her on her own journey of life-long learning and extraordinary achievements. Marie Curie, having thoroughly proven her scientiific and educational merit, ended up being engaged as a teacher at the Sorbonne!