History of Women Scientists in America

History of Women Scientists in America

The increased role of women in science in this country was the result of the convergence of two trends: the growth in higher education and expanded employment for middle-class women on the one hand, and the growth, bureaucratization and professionalization of science and technology, on the other. However, many viewed women as appropriate only for “womanly” activities, i.e., soft, delicate, emotional, nurturing activities, and science was seen as almost the opposite, i.e., tough, rigorous, rational, masculine, etc. Much of the history of women in science reflects tension between these two mutually exclusive stereotypes that affected both women’s and men’s behavior. The Academy provided an institutional home for unaffiliated scholar Margaret Rossiter as she traced the career development of American women scientists in the United States. Her resulting volume describes the activities and personalities of numerous women scientists - astronomers, chemists, biologists, and psychologists — who overcame extraordinary obstacles to contribute to the growth of American science through 1940. The book won the 1983 Berkshire Prize from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.

Resulting Publication

  • Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940, by Margaret W. Rossiter. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982. Available from Publisher.

Project Data

  • PROJECT DATE: 1978-1982
  • PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Margaret W. Rossiter (American Academy)
  • SOURCE OF FUNDING: National Science Foundation


Project Leader
Staff Coordinator