Cardy Raper skillfully interweaves the scientific and the personal into a fast-moving and delightful read, offering candid and sage perspectives on a fascinating life.
-Ursula Goodenough, PhD
Professor of Botany, Washington University
Author of Sacred Depths of Nature
What makes this memoir so readable and engrossing is Cardy’s frank account of her circumstances both in and out of the laboratory. Family photographs, and pictures and drawings of the organisms she worked with, add to the reader’s interest. This book encourages aspiring students—men as well as women—in how to overcome difficulties. Cardy Raper, a Harvard PhD, might well claim to have lived up to the slogan of the Harvard band Illegitimum non carborundum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down!
-Peter R. Day, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Author of Plant-Fungal Pathogen Interaction
What forces attract a woman to science? What influences allow her to persist and, ultimately thrive in domains that do not welcome female talent? This captivating memoir by Cardy Raper reveals the pulls and passions, as well as the setbacks, in the life within and outside the laboratory of one prominent woman scientist. As we learn about Dr. Raper and the people in her world, we also learn about the science of reproduction and the amazing capabilities of the many-sexed fungi. Both the human and the scientific stories convey one important lesson: If we are to thrive as organisms, we must prove adaptable in our methods but never stray far from our essential passions and purpose. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sex and gender.
-Faye J. Crosby, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Provost Cowell College
University of California Santa Cruz
Author of Affirmative Action is Dead; Long Live Affirmative Action.
Cardy Raper succeeded in being what she dreamed of as a young girl: a successful scientist with her own laboratory at the forefront of her subject. But it was not a conventional path to success. She married her teacher and mentor, a man much older than she, and devoted time to child rearing before she could return to science and work with him in his laboratory at Harvard University. John Raper died unexpectedly, leaving her a widow at 49. From then on it was a hard struggle. She had first to obtain her PhD and then find a job where she could keep her science alive. Eventually Cardy learned to be a molecular biologist, won independent research funding, and set up her own laboratory at the University of Vermont. Cardy believed in herself despite the setbacks, a belief instilled early on by caring parents and five supportive older brothers. This is the personal story of an exceptional woman scientist.
Lorna Casselton, FRS
Professor of Plant Sciences University of Oxford
Foreign Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society
Cardy Raper demolishes the caricature many of us have of women scientists: nerdy, bespectacled, polysyllabic, introverted spinsters devoted to their (usually abstruse) field of inquiry. She’s devoted, all right, not to just her science, but to life: From a childhood fascination with the natural world to a love affair with and marriage to a faculty mentor; from motherhood to widowhood; and finally from a voyage of discovery into what was at the time strictly a man’s world, to worldwide recognition as a leader of research in the fascinating world of fungi. Warmhearted yet vulnerable, often frustrated and saddened but never defeated, Cardy takes us with her as she enthusiastically probes the little-known world of fungi (where one species may have 20,000 genders), the often hostile atmosphere of male dominated research, and the life of a working wife and mother.
– Willem Lange
New England storyteller and
Author of ‘Where Does The Wild Goose Go?‘, ‘Intermittent Bliss‘, and others.
A young woman sat down next to me at a local Berkeley coffee shop and asked, “Are you really reading about Love, Sex and Mushrooms? Awesome!!!” The book of the same title by Cardy Raper is truly awesome, with an equal measure of enthusiasm for all three topics. The travel adventure with Cardy is a candid, sometimes sorrowful and often humorous, walk through the many byways of her life. Cardy grew up in a pack full of brothers “Little Cardy, her head is so hardy,” with an interest in science from a very early age. She lived during a time when women in scientific positions of power were very few in number, but pursued her interests in biology with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and with a short stint as a technician, working on such mycological treasures as the enigmatic sex hormones of Achyla. Her career in science and fungi in particular was shaped by her relationship with the famed mycologist John (Red) Raper; Cardy was Red’s first graduate student at the University of Chicago. Their work relationship blossomed into a love relationship that continued through marriage, children and relocation to Harvard.
One of the good things about independent publishing is that it gives us a window into the life stories of fascinating members of our community, whether or not those stories are commercial. And Cardy Raper, an octogenarian Burlington resident, certainly has a story. Raised in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and toughened by the teasing of five older brothers, she was entranced by science since the third grade. In those days, a woman pursuing graduate study in that field was a rarity. But at the University of Chicago in the 1940s, the author found her mentor — and future husband — Red Raper, a young professor who was studying the bizarre sex habits of water molds.
Cardy Raper’s An American Harvest is the oral history of a remarkable family from rural North Carolina. In the tradition of the Foxfire series, Ms. Raper has recorded a wonderfully authentic swatch of Southern Americana, ranging from tobacco raising to hog butchering, old-time revivals to neighborhood corn-shucking, and clannish feuds to helping one’s neighbors in times of need. An American Harvest is a loving evocation of a hard place to make a living but a grand place to live. I loved these stories.
– Howard Frank Mosher
Author of A Stranger in the Kingdom and Walking to Gatlinburg
An American Harvest provides an engrossing, intimate, and revealing portrait of an extraordinary family, the eight children of Frank and Julia Crouse Raper. Growing up on a North Carolina tobacco farm in the early twentieth century without any modern conveniences, all eight children attended college and enjoyed successful careers, with three of them becoming internationally renowned in their fields.
By weaving together narratives largely drawn from a family reunion in 1965, photographs, and other sources, Cardy Raper ably shows how the family’s success was forged in an environment marked by incessant hard work, strong moral and ethical values, active civic engagement, and perhaps above all a thirst for education. The work offers a window into an American way of life that seems long ago and far away a century later.
– Clifford M. Kuhn
Georgia State University
Specialist in 20th Century southern history and in oral history
Author of Living Atlanta: An Oral History of the City, 1914-1948 and
Contesting the New South Order and, At the Crossroads: Arthur Raper, the South, and the World (forthcoming, University of North Carolina Press)