Women in Science
Learn about the history of women’s formal study in the sciences. Delve into early arguments on both sides of the question of women’s education, including the work of advocates Mary Astell, Anna Brackett, Alice Freeman Palmer, and the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. Explore programs such as science fairs that encourage an interest in science and browse the history of women in higher education at both women’s colleges and coeducational institutions.
Explore the evolution of women’s involvement in the study of botany, from the emergence of botanical illustration and plant collecting as acceptable pursuits for women, through formal education, and pioneering work in the field and the lab. Unearth the lush illustrations of Maria Sibylla Merian, writings on California botany by Alice Eastwood, letters and photographs from Mary Agnes Chase’s expedition to Brazil, and microscopic images from Katherine Esau’s lab.
Discover women’s impact in the field of medicine, as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and researchers. Learn about groundbreaking doctors such as Elizabeth Blackwell, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, Susan La Flesche Picotte, and others. Explore key achievements such as the founding of the Red Cross, the development of a Nobel prize-winning technique for blood screening, and the invention of a standardized way to assess the health of newborns.
Build your knowledge of women engineers, whether they be celebrated pioneers or the unidentified women who study, analyze, design, improve, solve problems, and generally make things work. Meet electrical engineer Edith Clarke, inventor of the graphical calculator, mechanical engineer Margaret Ingels, who developed an effective temperature scale for air conditioning, civil engineer Marilyn Reece, whose work includes the Santa Monica-San Diego Freeway interchange in California, and more.
Many women paved the way for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and more have followed. Discover the history of NASA’s “human computers,” early aerospace industry pioneers, and the struggle for American women to be allowed into the astronaut program. Explore the ‘firsts’ of women in space, including Valentina Tereshkova’s 1963 space flight, Kathryn Sullivan’s spacewalk, and Peggy A. Whitson’s turn as commander of the International Space Station.
Gender in Science
Efforts to increase the participation of women and other underrepresented communities in the sciences, technology, and engineering are not merely a recent concern. Learn more about the positive role of professional societies, the influence of World War II and the Cold War on recruiting efforts, and the factors, both substantiated and debunked, that contribute to the low representation of women in STEM fields.
Topic curated by Kelcy Shepherd, Digital Public Library of America