This is just a tribute
April 25, 2021 4:42 AM   Subscribe

Meet Aerospace Engineer Judith Love Cohen | Judith was, at various times in her fascinating life, an engineer who worked on the Pioneer, Apollo, and Hubble missions, an author & publisher of books about women in STEM and environmentalism in the 90s, a ballet dancer with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, an advocate for better treatment of women in the workplace, and actor Jack Black’s mother.

"It’s difficult to imagine a better role model than Cohen…she obviously loved engineering and her work. When her son Jack Black was born, she barely hit the pause button:"

Her fourth child, Jack, was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that Jack was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And… oh, yes, the baby was born, too.
posted by I_Love_Bananas (15 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
I saw someone drop that factoid on Faceboook about stopping by her office on the way to the hospital and then giving birth to Jack Black, and it stopped my mindless Facebook-scroll in its tracks and sent me to look that up because that sounded like it could not POSSIBLY be true.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:35 AM on April 25, 2021 [8 favorites]


Sounds like it could not possibly true, correct, and yet somehow...knowing that Jack Black's mom was both an aerospace engineer and a ballet dancer makes a bunch of things about the guy make perfect sense.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:18 AM on April 25, 2021 [26 favorites]


Ohhh, I see what you did there, burying the lede. ;)
posted by kschang at 8:06 AM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


She sounds AMAZING. I would read a whole book about this lady.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:39 AM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Entertainers are famous because we see them. But they are the tip of the iceberg for all the amazing people who don't live in the public eye. So while it's easy to contextualize Judith Love Cohen as "Jack Black's mom," he's simultaneously the least interesting part of her story and the most visible.
posted by rikschell at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2021 [17 favorites]


Black adds that she was, “a caring mother whose love was unconditional and whose support was limitless.
... It was reported her male colleagues would tell her to get married or have a baby and she would respond by saying she was married, had two babies, and, “now, can we get on with this?"
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 AM on April 25, 2021 [15 favorites]


I have to point it out from that last link: "Black Katz?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:07 AM on April 25, 2021


"It’s difficult to imagine a better role model than Cohen…she obviously loved engineering and her work. When her son Jack Black was born, she barely hit the pause button:"

Her fourth child, Jack, was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that Jack was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And… oh, yes, the baby was born, too.


She does sound pretty cool overall, but I'm thinking this, like other examples of people working at all hours when maybe they personally enjoy that but most people would want some work-life balance involving less work and more other parts of life, should not be normalized as positive, role model behavior, eh?
posted by eviemath at 1:03 PM on April 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Amazing. Since nobody is mentioning it I will choose to believe that she is in some way responsible for the fact that the "early Pioneer spacecraft in 1959" with which she is pictured in the article appears to have been designed as some sort of 20th century fertility goddess.
posted by merlynkline at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


Cool
posted by abuckamoon at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2021


if nothing else, there is really something about "is Jack Black's mom" being the least interesting thing about her as a person
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:32 PM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


The idea that a woman is most virtuous when she keeps on working while giving birth strikes me as so fucking toxic. This goddam American worship of work above everything. These are the kind of stories that drive women away from STEM careers.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:51 PM on April 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


> The idea that a woman is most virtuous when she keeps on working
> while giving birth strikes me as so fucking toxic


Yeah. I was avoiding expressing that because I don't want to diminish this extraordinary woman's life in any way. But she is, quite literally, extraordinary, and I don't get the impression that she felt pressured into working - more that she had multiple passions, including for being a parent, and was lucky (and driven) enough to be able to pursue many of them. But there is no need for that to be framed in the way it is.

When we had our kids we took the conscious decision that one of us would stop working in order to be a parent, which seems like quite enough work to do at all well, knowing full well that it would have both short- and long-term impact on our "wealth", and were sad that we couldn't both do so. I drew the short straw and carried on working. (Disclosure: am father, am not in America.)
posted by merlynkline at 11:12 PM on April 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Thing is for some lucky individuals, their work is their passion - equal to their family, if not more so. While many may see it as toxic, the fact that she worked through labour to her could have been a welcome distraction from the contractions - it was her fourth child so it is not like she didn't know what the process could be like.
posted by Megami at 1:24 AM on April 26, 2021 [6 favorites]


As a female scientist, I find this story so interesting. It echoes what I heard in graduate school about one of the only female faculty members, that she went back to work only 2 days after giving birth. I suppose it's tempting to assume that she did it out of passion. However, it's also just as likely that she did it because she felt she had to: there were many other stories of discrimination.

Twenty years since I heard that story, and longer than that since it happened, there are still very few women in my field. I believe that a large part of the problem is that women believe that a life of science is incompatible with family life. This article is one example of many messages carrying this idea.

"It’s difficult to imagine a better role model than Cohen…she obviously loved engineering and her work. When her son Jack Black was born, she barely hit the pause button"

Barely hitting the pause button is not the reason she is a great role model. It's not even one of the reasons. By implying that it is, the author is undermining Cohen's work advocating for better treatment of women in the workplace.
posted by pizzazz at 7:55 AM on April 26, 2021 [6 favorites]


« Older "Not every woman is offended by this name, but...   |   Astronomia I: The Fall Of Saturn Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments