Collecting Gender: Women Participation in 1930s Scientific Collecting


  • Felicia Hammons Wichita State University


women in science, scientific collecting community, periphery scientists, gender equality, Raymond H. Beamer, University of Kansas


The professionalization of science during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries had a profound effect upon the place of women within the science discipline. Women were refused access to higher education and its translation into employment, especially in higher status positions such as professorship.1 As authors Henry Etzkowitz and Carol Kemelgor explained, "The traditional family environment freed up men to pursue research, while also giving them time to engage in the 'laboratory politics' that leads to managerial positions."2 Women remained bound to and defined by their gendered domestic roles as wife and mother, which strained their pursuit of research and their activity within science culture politics.3 Women scientists were therefore relegated to lower status positions, commonly those of periphery science. Periphery science has historically been less favored and less publicly acknowledged or honored compared with the work of "professional" male scientists.4 But gender historians should discuss both the obstacles women scientists faced as well as the ways in which women did participate in science. This work is an investigation into the subculture and community of scientific collecting through the analysis of 1920s and 1930s entomological collecting trip field notes by the Beamer family from University of Kansas. A subculture can be defined as "an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society."5 Collecting was a subculture of both professional science culture and mainstream American society. It was marked by its regional location in the American West and did exhibit patterns of behavior that distinguished it from professional science culture and society. This scientific subculture both accepted and promoted women involvement in collecting, and science in general. Collecting was a vein of science open to all participants, regardless of expertise, experience, education, age, or sex. Within this collecting subculture, members developed strategies for the existence of their culture and also felt a level of acceptance and camaraderie within their community.