Marsha Richmond (Department of History, Wayne State University) is speaking at 3pm on Thursday March 17 in 340 Morrill Hall:
Women’s Work in Science: Women in the Genetics Department at Cold Spring Harbor
Women gained access to American universities after 1870, and by 1900 a second generation was graduating with degrees in biology and looking for meaningful employment. This was precisely the time that the new discipline of genetics emerged, spawned by the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of heredity, and researchers around the world began to explore Mendelian inheritance in plants and animals. Women formed a significant number of the early workforce in genetics, both within universities and especially in the newly founded genetics institutions. While of interest to historians of science as illustrating women’s contributions to the field that soon revolutionized our understanding of heredity, this episode can also be examined in the context of labor history. It illustrates another example of the ways that middle-class women in the Progressive era were able to expand the opportunity for work outside areas traditionally open to them by examining the women who worked at the Cold Springs Harbor Station for Experimental Evolution, founded in 1904 on Long Island and one of the leading genetics institutes in the world. This talk will not only explore the expansion of women’s work in science but also their organizational role within the emerging experimental laboratories of the early twentieth century.