Before Margaret Rossiter wrote her book Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1982), science historians had not paid much attention to women scientists. There was the occasional bibliography, but no survey of what Rossiter found were large numbers of underrecognized and underemployed women who had managed to work in the lab.

Rossiter transformed dusty records archived letters, manuscripts and obituaries of women's past scientific achievements into a comprehensive analysis of the position of women in the social organization of science. And she found it was a very poor fit. The influx of thousands of women into science, she notes, had occurred at the price of accepting a pattern of segregated employment and underrecognition, which, try as they might, most women could not escape.

Now researching her second book on the more recent history of women scientists in the 1940s through the 1960s,...

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