Thirty Women Who Changed American Science, 1970–2010

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 311 (Hynes Convention Center)
Margaret Walsh Rossiter , History Department Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Back around 1970 here were hardly any women at all visible in American science (with the exception of Mina Rees, who served as president of the 120-year-old AAAS in 1969-70). Now there are many at all levels on up to winners of the Nobel Prize, presidents of universities and scientific societies, and members of the National Academies. I attempted to describe in a recently published book (Women Scientists in America: Forging a New World since 1972 [Johns Hopkins UP, 2012]) how such a marginal group became so prominent in just thirty or so years. As a result of this historical investigation I have identified about 30 women, who were about age 30-50 in 1970, who though underemployed and marginalized had a lot of skills, talents, energy, and political acumen which they used collectively to build a successful movement at minimal cost.

Among these innovative activist tactics were:

—sit-ins—tactics of civil rights movement;

--lawsuits (once laws were passed and took effect);

--other confrontations.

--forming new organization: within societies: --caucuses

—group solidarity, voice;



--mastering nomination procedures, rosters, pack voting , vs. apathy

-- new units as AAAS’s own “Office for Opportunities in Science”

-- new NSF programs.

--independent organizations:

 --practical concepts, as “chilly climate”

--fund-raisin--executive skills


--more and better data, by sex and race

--soft-money projects—as EYHTM, Clare Both Luce Professorships.