Title

Re-Imag(in)ing Women in Science: Crafting Identity and Negotiating Gender in Science

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2002

Abstract

Women - and men - in science often need to imagine themselves in ways that do not readily conform to the norms prescribed by popular culture imagery. While pursuing studies of the natural world, scientists construct private and public images of themselves that affect how they navigate through and beyond the social conventions of their time. As we examine historically the images of women scientists in particular, we see again how powerful the physical body is, at once the site of our most private selves but also our very public presentation of self. The role of gender in science is heavily dependent upon evolving discourses and experiences of mind and body, domestic and professional spheres of life, and personal identities. The self-images of women scientists proved remarkably malleable, able to both compete with and yet sometimes reinforce gendered public images of women. In the process, images could sustain personal ambitions and significant scientific work. Our emphasis on the resiliency of the women studied here does not minimize their struggles, but as historians we must mark as well the sometimes unconscious and sometimes consciously strategic ways women negotiated gender norms, bringing their own agency to the pursuit of their scientific aspirations.