Women as Path-Breaking Scientists: An Academic Community in the Making

Patricia Farrell Donahue, George Mason University
Connie L McNeely, George Mason University
Brian L Donahue, George Mason University

The study of the history of science, scientists, and science education in the United States has long excluded or underrepresented the contribution of women. However, during the nineteenth century, a few women were able to challenge and transform their marginality to create new paths to academic and intellectual legitimation and recognition, while also attaining their own personal fulfillment and wellbeing. Even in the face of myriad societal and academic constraints and severely limited professional opportunities, they made meaningful contributions to science and to the foundations of modern science education. As the country navigated its way through the industrial revolution, the Civil War, and the Gilded Age, generations of pioneering women acquired and passed along the expertise needed to create the rarest of creatures, the first “woman professors” and “woman scientists.” Still, despite their groundbreaking achievements, their legacies remain little known and incomplete. Against this backdrop, our analysis of archival sources and related research has yielded an opportunity to observe the creation of an academic community and a nascent social movement. We explore how these early women educators and scientists created professional networks and leveraged shifting social hierarchies to gain access to higher education and the scientific professions. Inequality and inequity remain persistent obstacles to women’s representation in science and related fields. Our research and re-examination of the social history of these women scientists and their pioneering achievements can inform strategies and practices for making science and the history of science more inclusive and equitable.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 172. Making Reputations: Credentials, Metrics and Stratification in Organizational Fields