Women in Science

John Snyder
AP European
Mr. Black
Mid-Term Exam DBQ Essay

      Women were rarely acknowledged if they chose to participate in scientific research during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Science had been a predominantly male field of study over the centuries and there was a certain stigma present for those women who chose to make entrance into this field. Women were thought to be incapable and stepping out of their place, beauty and housework only. Reactions and attitudes to women working in the sciences varied, but most were negative. Men frequently oppressed women due to their belief that women were inferior, and women frequently oppressed other women because they believed that to study the sciences was to act out of place for their gender. However, there was some acceptance and acknowledgement of women working in the higher sciences.
      Women frequently were excluded by men from the higher circles of scientific study in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries because the attitude of the time was that women had only certain faculties they could possess skill in, such as housework and beauty, and that they lacked the intelligence to learn science. Samuel Pepys, an English diarist, wrote in 1667 that the Duchess of Newcastle, an author who wrote a book entitled A World Made by Atomes, wished to be invited to the meeting of the Royal Society of Scientists. She was allowed to attend after a great deal of debate, many arguing against her coming. He ends his entry by saying that “The Duchess hath been a good, comely woman, but…” and proceeds to describe his negative opinion of her appearance. He clearly misses the point of her presence. She was not there to look pretty, but to learn. Pepys was likely to be more honest because he is writing in a diary entry that isn’t meant for others to read. Similarly, a Gottingen newspaper article reported that those women who learn the higher sciences will have “neglected” their clothing and their hair...