Sexism, Society, and Science

Assignment 1: Sexism, Society, and Science

Write a two-page paper (five-paragraph) essay discussing two of the following readings:

Margaret Edson, Wit

David Noble “Women in a World Without Women,” from A World Without Women

Deborah Warner, “Science Education for Women in Antebellum America,” History of Women in Sciences

Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America, chapter 4: “A Manly Profession,” 73-99, notes

Sena Jeter Naslund, excerpt on Maria Mitchell from Ahab’s Wife

Nina Baym, American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences, chapter 7: “Testing Scientific Limits: Emma Willard and Maria Mitchell”

Your paper should cite at least two readings from the above list within an argument based on the evidence from the texts. Build an argument within the paper considering aspects of barriers and facilitators women have faced in Western Europe and the U.S. in the early modern and modern periods and coming to a conclusion about today’s situation for women in science.

Focus on a particular question of your own construction that deals with the “how,” “why,” and “in what way” women’s participation in science was supported or challenged by individuals. Consider sociocultural and religious values associated with women’s roles in society that supporters and challengers used in defense of their arguments. Be careful to identify the authors, texts, historical periods, scientific fields, individuals, and other aspects of the cases that you develop.

Examples of questions you might choose to write about include:

In what ways did women’s educational opportunities enable or constrain their participation in science?

What groups/individuals favored women’s science education and why did they favor it?

What groups/individuals opposed women’s science education/participation and why were they opposed?

How did women overcome resistance to persist and to promote their interests in science? What strategies did they employ? Were they effective? Why or why not?

Selecting and refining a question that you can respond to will help you develop a thesis statement.

Your short analysis should

  1. briefly summarize significant points from the arguments illustrated in the readings you select
  2. hypothesize the cultural ideas concerning masculinity or femininity that are encoded in the social values affecting women’s participation and/or performance in science
  3. provide evidence from the readings for your hypothesis

The best analyses will reflect argumentative points or allude to evidence contained within the readings; indicate citations by incorporating parenthetical references, for example: (Baym, 246) into your assignment. Remember that the quality of citation counts more than sheer quantity of references.

If you have questions or would like to discuss developing the assignment, please bring these matters up in class or on the listserv. You may also make an appointment to see me in my office; please email or speak to me outside of class concerning appointments.


The essay should be typed using double spacing. Number each page. Use one-inch justified margins on the top, bottom, and left side and a ragged one-inch right margin. Staple pages in the upper left corner; please do not use any covers. Put the following on the top of the first page or the title page: the title of the essay, your names, the title of the course, my name, the semester in which you are taking the course, and the due date of the assignment. Put all references to class texts parenthetically within the text of the paper (see above); if you consult other materials, please indicate those with a short parenthetical reference and a works cited page