Marie Benedict is the pseudonym for Heather Terrell. She has also published novels under her real name. She is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms.
The Only Woman in the Room is a fictionalized account of Hedy Lamarr. Although better known for her Silver Screen exploits, the Austrian actress, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, also became a pioneer in the field of wireless communications following her emigration to the United States. She is widely thought to have invented WiFi.
1. Talk about Hedy's marriage to Friedrich Mandl. Was there any indication beforehand of his jealous and violent nature, any clues that might have warned Hedy off? What were the familial and political pressures that convinced Hedy, merely a teenager, to marry a man much older than she?
2. Once in America, how did Hedy's grief and guilt inspire her to turn to scientific investigation? How had her father helped prepare her for the rigors of science?
3. Are you able to grasp the basics of frequency-hopping, as well as its potential boon to the war effort? Does the author do an a good job explaining the science?
4. Talk about the era's view of women. How did Hedy react to the misogyny, prejudice, even humiliation that she faced in her attempt to interest the military in her invention. Might her beauty and fame as a "mere" film star have made it even more difficult for her to have her invention taken seriously?
5. Follow-up to Question 4: Do a bit of research into other women in history who faced similar barriers in their attempts to penetrate the male domains of science and technology. Consider the plight of the women of color at Nasa in the 1950s (Hidden Figures); or Grete Hermann, who in the 1930s found a flaw in the great mathematician John von Neumann's proof for quantum physics yet whose finding was ignored. Consider Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who in 1912 devised the method of calculating the distances of stars yet was prohibited, as a female, from operating the Harvard Observatory's telescopes. Her vital contribution to astronomy, of course, went unrecognized. Also, consider Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who, along with her husband William, pioneered modern-day cryptology, playing a major role in winning World War II. Her work went unrecognized for decades.