Archives of Women in Science and Engineering
Books Published on Women in Science, 1980-1995: A Brief Bibliographical Essay
Abstract: The study of women in science, in terms of cultural, historical, and sociological changes, expanded in the years 1980-1995. Due to the impact of the revitalized women's movement and increasing numbers of women in the scientific labor force, interest in the experience of women scientists resulted in numerous books and articles on the subject. By analyzing the development and research areas of these publications, researchers can obtain a historical perspective on a rapidly growing field of study.
Text by Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Former Curator, Archives of Women in Science and Engineering
Books Published on Women in Science, 1980-1995: A Brief Bibliographical Essay
The recent historical developments in the historiography and study of women in science can be illustrated by the number and types of published books dating from1980 through 1995. These books demonstrate the impact of the women's movement, the growth of social and women's history, and the development of gender research in the history of science scholarship. While there were books published on the subject of women in science prior to 1980, the true maturation of scholarship and interest by a wider audience grew after that date, due to the confluence of the factors listed above. This burgeoning scholarship is also reflected in research published in serials such as Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy; ISIS: An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences; and Signs, Journal of Women in Culture and Society during this time as well. Works on women in science, uncommon prior to 1965, were now published in increasing numbers. This scholarship has rapidly expanded on to the World Wide Web, allowing for further dissemination of the information and research from the last twenty years to students and teachers, in addition to the traditional researcher.
With the industrial and military demands of World War II and the post-war period, women began to enter science fields in increasing numbers in the latter half of the twentieth century. These new women scientists contributed significantly to this increase. The combination of the revitalized women's movement of the 1960s and the developing academic interest in social history and radical movements resulted in the development of women's studies programs throughout the U.S.. This growing interest in the separate and unique experiences of women is demonstrated in the range of materials published. There were new books and articles that focused on the history of women in culture, the role of women in society, the discrimination that they faced, and how they were often denied active participation in mainstream society. Historians, sociologists, feminists and other scholars began examining the history and current status of women in science with fresh eyes. These studies themselves followed a natural progression and expansion through compensatory biographies and histories, analytic analyses, and feminist critiques. (3) It is well worth examining the nature of publications relating to the topic of women in science, and for the future, to analyze its progression more thoroughly.
This bibliographical essay will offer a brief survey of books published during the time period, 1980-1995. The purpose of this essay is not to provide a complete and thorough overview of every significant work published, but to provide an overview for the beginning researcher. An expanded bibliography is available at the conclusion of this article. The works are arranged by their subject formats, and include: bibliography and indexes; biography; compilations; feminist critique of science/gender studies; history of science; and profession surveys/educational guides. This bibliography presents the varied areas of women in science scholarship, and illustrates the topic diversity.
Bailey, Martha J. American Women in
Science: A Biographical Dictionary. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1994.
Herzenberg, Caroline L. Women Scientists from Antiquity to the Present: An Index: An International Reference Listing and Biographical Directory of some Notable Women Scientists from Ancient to Modern. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1986.
The History of Women and Science, Health, and Technology: A Bibliographic Guide to the Professions and the Disciplines. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Women's Studies Librarian, 1993.
Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women and Science: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.
Siegel, Patricia Joan. Women in the
Scientific Search: An American Bio-Bibliography, 1724-1979. Metuchen, NJ:
Scarecrow Press, 1985.
For historians of science, it
has often been difficult to identify women scientists in the formal historical
record. Traditional publications, such as Men in Science, did not always
include women working in the scientific field. Fortunately, there were a number
of historical and bibliographical indexes published in the 1980s and 1990s to
aid researchers. Martha Bailey's recent American Women in Science: A
Biographical Dictionary (1994), helpfully details the lives of
American women from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Organized
alphabetically, the entries include birth and death dates, educational and
employment backgrounds, and their contributions to science.
Patricia Joan Siegel and Kay Thomas Finley published Women in the Scientific Search: An American Bio-Bibliography, 1824-1979 in 1985. The authors provide extensive annotations on basics works on American women in science, as well as specific biographical information concerning individual women scientists, and articles and books relating to that particular woman. This book introduces a starting point for locating primary resources for researching women in science, but is limited due to its lack of critical analysis. While the previous book focuses on American women, Caroline Herzenberg produces an international listing of Women Scientists from Antiquity to the Present: An Index. While the entries are limited, comprising only a name, life dates, research area, and nationality, Herzenberg also gives a citation listing of biographical works that describe the particular woman scientist in more detail. Again, this work marks a beginning point for researchers, but also compiles an important list that proves women were doing science from the beginning of recorded history.
The remaining two works focus on the writings completed about women in science. The publication of The History of Women and Science, Health, and Technology: A Bibliographic Guide to the Professions and the Disciplines (1993) by editors Phyllis Holman Weisbard, Rima D. Apple and Susan E. Searing, represents a collaborative effort between the History of Science Society and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The bibliography is organized into six sections: overviews; women in the scientific professions; health and biology; home economics/domestic science; technology; and children and young adult literature. Each citation includes authors, complete title, publication information, and a brief (1-5 sentence) description of the publication. This bibliography gives its reader an overall sense of what has been published in particular fields, particularly in regards to subject areas. An even more extensive annotated bibliography is Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie's Women and Science: An Annotated Bibliography (1996). A listing of articles and books is listed alphabetically, in addition to citation information, subject area, periods and themes. The two works, taken together, produce a fairly complete publishing record, organized by author and subject.
While indexes and lists have been a traditional method of recording scientific achievement (i.e. Men of Science), biographies of individuals have also played an important role in the history of science.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1983.
McGrayne, Sharon Bertsch. Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1993.
Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary. Edited by Charlene Morrow and Teri Perl. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Quinn, Susan. Marie Curie: A Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Women scientists are often treated as unique individuals, and their biographies, whether individual or compilations, are what usually have captured the imagination of the public. Early biographical works were used to inspire the young and to illustrate that women scientists were women above all else (4). Even after the advent of the women's movement, biographies focused on those women scientists who were famous, to show that women had made a difference in the fields of science. Evelyn Fox Keller's groundbreaking biography of Barbara McClintock, A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983) focused on McClintock as an individual scientist with a vision and an intuitive understanding of her subject. (5) McClintock followed her line of research where it led her, regardless of difficulties and challenges, and ended up winning the Nobel Prize.
Sharon Bertsch McGrayne's Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries (1993) is an eminently readable compilation of the special women who have won the Nobel Prize, and documents the tremendous obstacles these women had to overcome. What makes this work truly interesting are the questions raised concerning the women, such as Lise Meitner and Rosalind Franklin, who played major roles in scientific discoveries, yet were cut out of the recognition process. (6)
Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary is part of a biographical series published by Greenwood Press and offers a valuable overview of the women practicing in a single research area, including insights into their family backgrounds, education, research, and personal experiences. Previous publications include biographical dictionaries on Notable Women in the Life Sciences (1996) and Notable Women in the Physical Sciences (1997).
No discussion of the biographies of women scientists would be complete without a biography of Marie Curie. Curie has played a special role in the history of women in science, and there have been numerous books and articles published on her career. A worthwhile recent addition is Marie Curie: A Life by Susan Quinn. Quinn utilized primary sources formerly restricted to researchers, and has produced a very readable biography of Curie, including sections on her family, Pierre Curie, research, and obstacles she faced in the court of public opinion.
Arnold, Lois Barber. Four Lives in Science: Women's Education in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Schoicken Books, 1984.
Chinn, Pauline W.U. Becoming a Scientist: Narratives of Women Entering Science and Engineering. 1995.
Creative Couples in the Sciences. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.
Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.
Morse, Mary. Women Changing Science: Voices from a Field in Transition. New York: Insight Books, 1995.
Women of Science: Righting the
Record. Edited by
Patricia Kass-Simon and Patricia
Farnes. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1990.
Compilations, organized by a
particular research area with an overlying theme, can also provide examples of
women's scientific work in a variety of areas. Four Lives in Science:
Women's Education in the Nineteenth Century (1984) by Lois Barber Arnold
focuses on four significant women in
science, Bachman, Phelps,
Gregory, and Bascom, duringthe nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arnold uses brief biographies
combined with primary sources to demonstrate the influence of education on these
women. She ends with a chapter that attempts to draw a general view of women's
education, but one could critically analyze the generalizations that can be
drawn from the lives of these exceptional women compared with the ordinary, day
to day experiences of the majority of American women. Creative Couples in
the Sciences, provides a series of 18 essays on the collaborations of
scientific couple, and how often, the female partner often bore "the brunt of
society's asymmetric evaluation of the genders." Couples included are Marie and
Pierre Curie, Carl and Gerty Cori, Frieda Cobb Blanchard and Frank Nelson
Blanchard, as well as essays on couples who were not so successful in their
collaboration, e.g., Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric, and Margaret Mead and
Women of Science: Righting the Record, edited by Patricia Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes, provides a wealth of biographical and background information on women scientists in the U.S., focusing on the research areas of archaeology, astronomy, chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics, medicine, and crystallography. The editors of this volume saw these essays as answers to questions posed to the women's movement and the role of women in science: were women capable of doing science?
A recent publishing trend has resulted in compilations based on underdocumented women in science: a combination of biographical information with a personal narrative. Recent examples include: Becoming a Scientist: Narratives of Women Entering Science and Engineering (1995); Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants (1997) and Women Changing Science: Voices from a Field in Transition (1995). Each gives examples of women scientists working today, with a wide range of participants and research fields. Compilations can be cursory by their very nature, yet the contextual information they can provide in a given field is extraordinary. One good example is Marelene Rayner-Canham's A Devotion to Their Science: Pioneer Women in Radioactivity (Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1997).
Feminist Critique of Science/Gender Studies
Gornick, Vivian. Women in Science: Portraits from a World in Transition. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1984.
Rose, Hilary. Love, Power, and Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Transformation of the Sciences. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives:
Women in Science, 1789-1979.
Edited by Pnina G. Abir-Am and Dorinda
Outram. New Brunswick:
Rutgers University Press, 1987.
The development of the
feminist critique of science began in the 1970s and 1980s as scholars turned
their attention to the societal underpinnings of the actual practice of science,
and how this has had an impact not only on women, but on the direction of
research. There are numerous books and articles on this topic, and a good
bibliography (1989) of core readings can be found in "Feminist Critiques of
Science: The Epistomelogical and Methodological Literature," published in
Women's Studies International Forum (12, #3 1989). (7) It covers the
feminist critique of science and the concepts of gendered construction
underlying the practice of science question the foundations of science hierarchy
by asking, who is doing the research? What kinds of questions are they asking?
Who is funding particular kinds of research? Do men and women see research
questions differently? Do they find their answers based on gendered methods of
Vivian Gornick's Women in Science is directly related to the women's movement and the drive towards learning about and analyzing the specific experience of women as a group. Gornick spoke to over 100 women scientists about their experiences in science, and provides a thought provoking record of the difficulties that women face, yesterday and today. The Death of Nature, by Carolyn Merchant, is an excellent feminist analysis, utilizing history, the arts, literature and science, to demonstrate the impact of a gendered "mechanistic" view of nature on our society. Love, Power and Knowledge by Hilary Rose provides an overwhelming overview of the history and theory of the feminist critique of science, the revising of scientific research and practice, the role of women scientists within the scientific hierarchy, and the future new challenges in the life sciences.
Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives, Women in Science, 1789-1979, edited by Pnina G. Abir-Am and Dorinda Outram, have compiled a variety of essays that discuss the delicate balance between career and personal life that so many women scientists, past and present, have tried to find. The feminist/gender focused study of science is an active research area, and the reader would do well to read works by the following authors: Ruth Bleier (Feminist Approaches to Science (1986)); Anne Fausto-Sterling (Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men (1992)); Elizabeth Fee (Women and Health: The Politics of Sex in Medicine (1983)); Evelyn Fox Keller (Reflections on Gender and Science (1985)); Donna Haraway (Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1989)); Sandra Harding (Is Science Multicultural?: Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies (1998)); Ruth Hubbard (Reinventing Biology: Respect for Life and the Creation of Knowledge (1995)); Helen E. Longino (Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry (1995)); Sue V. Rosser (Biology & Feminism: A Dynamic Interaction (1992)); Londa Schiebinger (The Mind has No Sex? : Women in the Origins of Modern Science (1989)), and Nancy Tuana (The Less Noble Sex: Scientific, Religious, and Philosophical Conceptions of Woman's Nature (1993)).
Creese, Mary R. Ladies in the laboratory? : American and British Women in Science, 1800-1900 : A Survey of their Contributions to Research. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.
Phillips, Patricia. The Scientific Lady: A Social History of Women's Scientific Interests, 1520-1918. London: Weidenfeild and Nicolson, 1990.
Rossiter, Margaret W. Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
in regards to women in science, is exemplified by the work of science historian,
Margaret W. Rossiter. Her two volumes: American Women in Science: Struggles
and Strategies to 1940; and American Women in Science: Before Affirmative
Action, 1940-1972 remain the standard works in this regard. Rossiter's
volumes present the history of women in science from an historical and
sociological standpoint, relying on statistics and other primary sources. The
experience of the individual is combined and expanded to represent the general
experiences of women in the discipline of science. The result is an overview of
the role of women—their experiences, the discrimination, their triumphs, their
efforts to recognize and reward themselves.
Of the remaining two historical selections, in Ladies in the Laboratory, author Mary Creese attempts to combine biographical sketches and historical survey approaches to women scientists in America and Britain, by analyzing research outputs for various research areas via journal articles. While this focus on published articles somewhat narrows the type of women and work examined, this 1998 publication is an excellent resource. Phillip's Scientific Lady, focuses on the history of women participating in science in England during the 19th century. This work describes their interests in regards to astronomy and chemistry, and their efforts to attend the meetings of traditional English scientific societies. The author provides an earlier historical view of women in science, and their relationship to society at large.
Women in the Profession Surveys and Educational Guides
Rayman, Paula. Pathways for women in the sciences: The Wellesley Report. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1993-1997.
Warren, Rebecca Lowe. The Scientist Within You. Eugene, OR: ACI Publishing, 1995.
Women and Minorities in Science: Strategies for Increasing Participation. Edited by Sheila M. Humphrey. Boulder, CO: Westview Press for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1982.
An early work, Women and Minorities in Science: Strategies for Increasing Participation deals with issues that are still current in the late 1990s, such as obtaining equal opportunity through the mastery of mathematics, how to develop conference workshops and curriculums, and running successful retention programs. Especially important for today's students and scholars are professional surveys of the scientific profession and plans for the recruiting and retention of women in science. The Wellesley Pathways Project was a survey of Wellesley students and alumnae and statistically analyzed their attachment to science while in school and during their career. Data on these students and examples of how women can be encouraged in science, math, and engineering, provide relevant strategies to today's academic institutions.
Increasingly, programs are beginning to focus on younger students with an interest in science and assist them in maintaining that interest to and on through college. The Scientist Within You, by Rebecca Lowe Warren, targets younger readers by offering a combination of biographical information, personal experiences, and related scientific experiments. The author provides a wide variety of role models, including the African-American astronaut, Mae Jemison.
While this is not an exhaustive survey of books available on women in science, by any means, the researcher should be able to obtain a sense of the authors and types of scholarship currently available regarding women in science. The explosion of research and numerous new questions raised in the years since 1980 have resulted in a rich and complex area of historical study. Placing these books in that historical and cultural context can only add to our knowledge of the role and place of women, not only in science, but more broadly in American culture and society.