The role of British and German women in early 19th-century geology: a comparative assessment
The history of the geosciences has largely been interpreted as a history of male scientists, but the inclusion of their social frame into historical research makes clear how women in various roles have participated in and shaped the history of geosciences.
The beginning of geological research in a modern sense occurred around 1800. In Germany, the early professionalization of geology and a rigid female gender model, idealizing female household duties and motherhood in a climate that was hostile to intellectual women, effectively precluded the collaboration of women, whereas in the largely non-professional culture of natural sciences in the United Kingdom, women were not excluded from participation.
In the United Kingdom at that time, wives, daughters and sisters, or even non-related female acquaintances, were an integral part of the infrastructure of British geology. They were often encouraged by leading scientists. As a result, there have been many female contributors, especially to palaeontology, in the early 19th century in the United Kingdom, forming a framework of assistants, secretaries, collectors, painters and field geologists to the leading figures in the geological sciences, thereby adding to and shaping their work.
Problems, however, arose, where women aspired to work on their own research programmes as independent female geologists.
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Where were the women in Geology? This book is a first as it unravels the diverse roles women have played in the history and development of geology as a science predominantly in the UK, Ireland and Australia, and selectively in Germany, Russia and US. The volume covers the period from the late eighteenth century to the present day and shows how the roles that women have played changed with time. These included illustrators, museum collectors and curators, educationalists, researchers and geologists. Originally as wives, sisters or mothers many were assistants to their male relatives. This book looks at all these forgotten women and for the first time historians and scientists together explore the contribution they made to this male-dominated subject. There are individual profiles on remarkable women: Catherine Raisin, Dorothea Bate, Cuvier's daughters, Grace Prestwich, Annie Greenly, Nancy Kirk, Margaret Crosfield, Ethel Skeat, Maria Ogivlie Gordon, Marie Stopes, Anne Phillips, Muriel Arber and Etheldred Bennett. Pulling together this extensive research uncovered common issues and generated emergent themes. The Editors have brought this new research together under these themes and tried to answer the question Where were the women in Geology? They go on to discuss how these role models can be applicable to today's society.