Newburyport author highlights female scientists in 'Historical Heroines' coloring book

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photoAuthor Elizabeth Lorayne with her “Historical Heroines” coloring book. 

NEWBURYPORT — Female scientists have not always been treated with respect.

Ellen Swallow Richards, a Massachusetts researcher (1842-1911), would have earned her doctoral degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology “but the school refused to be the first (school of science) to give a woman a Ph.D.”

So writes local author Elizabeth Lorayne, who recently produced “The Historical Heroines Coloring Book, Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries” printed by White Wave Press.

This is her third book focusing on the capabilities of women and all are geared for young readers.

“I like to write about women who went against the grain,” said Lorayne, who has self-published all three books.

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, many women couldn’t even go to school but some showed perseverance and succeeded,” she said. “In the coloring book about women in the sciences, readers can find remarkable women who are not well known.”

Her other two books are “The Adventures of Piratess Tilly” and “The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, Easter Island,” both written in the past several years.

Lorayne is scheduled to speak and read from her work on Friday at 7 p.m. at Jabberwocky Bookshop.

Lorayne, 33, studied in Pennsylvania and New York before settling here with her husband and 5-year-old daughter.

Lorayne, a Seattle native, took a year off after high school to volunteer at the Duke University primate center.

She then studied science at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania before enrolling at The New School in New York City, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts after studying art, writing and psychology.

Lorayne found that even in these “modern times,” few nonfiction authors seem to lionize the achievements of women.

So Lorayne created Piratress Tilly as a child who was a successful mariner, and linked with a free-lance artist to create two books that have appeal for adults and children.

“Historical Heroines” is a coloring book and focuses on great female scientists about whom one can read a page of text, and then use crayons to color images on the facing page.

Her subjects focus on women from Alice Ball, an African-American chemist, to Ada Lovelace, a British mathematician, and Wang Zhenyi, a Chinese astronomer.

She also sheds light on German-born Maria Sibylla Merian, who in 1699 began to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly, and Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann, who was born in 1888, discovered the Earth’s inner core, won numerous awards, and died in Copenhagen at the age of 104.

Seattle science historian Michael Barton helped Lorayne pick the subjects, and 31 women are featured in her handsomely illustrated book, which costs $14.95.

If the author writes about women who went against the grain, she also seems to go against the grain in the pursuit of publishing itself. Lorayne has not approached a national publisher, who might be able to provide wider distribution.

Also, much of her financial support comes from people she doesn’t know. Lorayne was successful in raising close to $6,400 from an online kickstarter.com campaign.

Kickstarter.com is an online application that permits artists and writers to receive financial support from people who learn about the project from descriptions, photos and videos the author contributes to the site.

“I had 220 backers and I don’t know most of them,” she said.

More information can be found at Elizabethlorayne.com.

Dyke Hendrickson writes about Newburyport. He can be reached at 978-961-3149, or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.

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