CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon native Ava Helen Pauling may be best known as the spouse of Linus Pauling, the only individual to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, but she also had a career of her own – as an activist for civil rights, peace, feminism and environmental stewardship.
Now the Oregon State University Press is publishing the first biography of this activist, who met her future husband in a classroom on campus and was a catalyst in his career as well as her own.
Written by OSU historian Mina Carson, the book provides an account of Ava Helen Pauling’s rich career and the history behind what the author calls “one of the great love stories of the 20th century.”
The book, “Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary,” is available from the OSU Press at: http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/ava-helen-pauling
“I first became interested in Ava Helen Pauling because of her peace and anti-nuclear testing activities,” Carson said. “I became downright intrigued when I started reading her papers in (the university’s) Special Collections and realized that based on her personal charm, as well as her status as the spouse of Linus Pauling, she was able to create a worldwide network of friends and allies in movements that reacted against the political strictures and military mobilization of the Cold War.
“Although she was a free-thinking youngster, she began her adult life as a conventional young woman determined to be a good wife and mother,” Carson added, “and matured into an articulate feminist.”
After marriage, Ava Helen Pauling found herself tugged between supporting her husband’s science career and wanting to embrace the social and political causes close to her heart. Those goals merged over time, Carson points out, shaping a more complete identity and lifting her into prominence as an influential activist.
Together the Paulings fought to limit nuclear proliferation and halt the testing worldwide of nuclear devices – an effort that garnered Linus Pauling a Nobel Peace Prize.
“Ava Helen Pauling undoubtedly was the one who inspired Linus Pauling to go beyond his science and take political stands and career risks based on moral conviction,” Carson said.
Carson, an associate professor of history at OSU, completed much of her research on Ava Helen Pauling while participating in the OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center’s Resident Scholar Program. She has also written a book on the American Settlement Movement, and co-authored a book on female musicians with Tisa Lewis and Susan M. Shaw, Girls Rock! Fifty Years of Women Making Music.
Carson will make a presentation on Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary to celebrate the book’s publication on Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m. at the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 S.W. Park Avenue in Portland. The event is free and open to the public.