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Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972 (Volume 2) Paperback – September 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


A detailed account of the status of women scientists during an important transition period... Offering valuable information on women scientists and suggesting additional research opportunities, Rossiter's second volume stands as a significant contribution to both women's history and the history of American science.

(George E. Webb American Historical Review)

Highly readable and exquisitely informative. Rossiter's documentation of this gloomy chapter in the history of women striving to make a place for themselves in science serves as a pungent antidote for questions concerning the fairness of affirmative action.

(Journal of American History)

What we have here is a remarkable example of historian as detective... The attention Rossiter gives to identifying individuals and the details she provides about marriage, barriers... underrecognition, disappointments, and―yes―real accomplishments and rewards breathes life into her frequently poignant account.


Rossiter's resourcefulness and thoroughness yield a cornucopia of information... [Her] formidable achievement is to provide a full, complex picture of the marginalisation of American women scientists in this era... I recommend this book to anyone involved in science: the questions about the sexual politics of science it tackles and provokes are too important to be ignored.

(New Scientist)

Rossiter marshals an astounding array of evidence to assess women's work, roles, productivity, and advances as American scientists. Not content to study only those women who held collegiate faculty posts, she also examines female scientists in government, industry, and self-employment, devoting strong chapters to each... Most impressive in its careful, scientific approach to data that others have previously offered, analyzed, and packaged.

(Harvard Educational Review)

An engaging and eye-opening book... This is a story not only of science, but of the resolution and courage of women scientists who struggled to continue in their professions even when confronted repeatedly with adversity.

(Chemical and Engineering News)

About the Author

Margaret W. Rossiter is the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of the History of Science at Cornell University and editor of Isis and Osiris. Her book Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 is also available from Johns Hopkins.


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Product Details

  • Series: Women Scientists in America
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801857112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801857119
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By K. Davis on May 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As I read this second volume of Women Scientists in America, I learned that

1. During World War II, most women scientists worked as technicians or as substitutes for men who were doing higher-level war

2. After the war, these women were displaced by returning veterans.

3. In the 1950's and early 1960's it became more common for women scientists to be married, but some settings which had been
"woman scientist friendly" (normal schools, women's colleges, and home economics departments) became less so.

4. After the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and the founding of the National Organization for Women
in the mid 1960's, women scientists began to speak and write about discrimination against them.

There was much more in the book. Dr. Rossiter had done a thorough literature search; she included 144 pages of notes and a 25 page bibliographical essay. She used the information to provide strong scholarly support for her conclusions and to provide many tables of statistics and names. The quality of this book was recognized by her peers; it received the Pfizer Award for Outstanding Book in the History of Science in 1997.

I would rate this book as five stars for those with a scholarly interest in the history of science or women's studies and four stars for those (like me) with an interest in the lives of individual women scientists. After I finished reading this book, I wanted to know more about the motivations, circumstances, and satisfactions of individual women. I plan to read some of the biographies listed in Dr. Rossiter's bibliographic essay and some recent books, The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kienan, On the Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder, and Rachel Carson: Witness to Nature by Linda Lear.
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