It’s Franklin, Not Rosie

By Olivia Lappin and Sam Sheran

Here at Sci-Tech, our dorms are named after pioneer Jewish scientists as a way to honor their memories. We have dorms named for Ralph Baer, Ilan Ramon, Gloria Katz, Gertrude Elion, and Carl Sagan. Finally, there is Franklin, formerly known as Rosie, named for Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind Franklin was a geneticist whose work discovered that our DNA was in a double helix structure, provided more information on how viruses are structured, and laid the foundation for structural virology. She used X-ray diffraction methods in order to pursue her research. Her work was then stolen by the duo Watson and Crick who used it to further and prove their own theory and went on to win praise and acclaim, including a Nobel Prize, for Franklin’s discovery. Unfortunately, by the time they won their Nobel Prize and fame, Franklin had passed away. 

This wasn’t the first sign of disrespect Franklin faced in her career. Throughout her time as a scientist, her coworkers tended to not give her the credit she deserved. They often called her mean, derogatory nicknames, including the name Rosie, to discredit her abilities as a woman in STEM at a time when women were not often represented in STEM. You might notice that one of the names that Franklin’s male coworkers used to discredit her was also the original name of the dorm here at Sci-Tech. 

Even before we learned about Franklin’s hatred of the name, it never sat right with us that the lower camp girls’ dorm on camp was the only dorm named with a cutesy first name rather than a last name to match all the other dorms. It felt demeaning and infantilizing. Once we revisited camp and learned more about Franklin’s history with the name, it became even more critical to change the name from Rosie to Franklin. We could not afford to wait any longer. 

In Judaism, there is an idea that everyone dies twice: Once when they actually die, and once when their name is said for the last time. Thus, when one memorializes a name, they significantly expand the person’s lifespan. When we honor someone in this way, it’s important to truly honor them and remember them in the way they want to be remembered. When the dorm was named Rosie, it did not honor Franklin in a way she would have wanted to be remembered. Instead, it honored the derogatory nature of her relationship with the men around her and honored the discrimination she faced as a woman in STEM. 

In order to make a change, we talked to leadership on camp about getting the name changed and made it the focus of D’var Torah we gave during Shabbat Services. We wanted to remind and tell the entire camp about the importance of names and honor legacy, especially when it came to our dorms. When we brought this issue in front of camp, we were met with amazing support to change the name, including from campers and staff. 

Even today, being a woman in STEM is not easy. Only about 34% of the STEM workforce overall is female, and that number gets even more dramatically low in fields like engineering or specialized medicine. This isn’t simply because women don’t want to be in STEM – instead, it is because most learning environments are hostile and unwelcoming to women in STEM, even if they don’t mean to be.

Being the only, or one of the few, women in a room is absolutely terrifying and leaves many feeling unrespected and disconnected. Even at camp, girls and non-males are outnumbered and spoken over on a daily basis. Camp is unique for being one of the few places where girls and non-males are outright encouraged to speak up, where they can see older women and non-males finding success in STEM, and where they can connect with other girls with the same interests as them. Being a non-male in STEM spaces at camp is dramatically different from being one in other places. One can often look to non-male staff members who are becoming role models in the STEM field. 

To fully embrace camp’s role as a place that fully encourages and supports women in STEM, it is important that we fully honor the women in STEM, including whose names we use for our dorms. And to do that, it was important to change the name of the Rosie Dorm to its new name: Franklin.