Kara Swanson

Winner of the 2018 Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize for best article on the role of women in science

Kara Swanson (Northeastern University)

The Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize is awarded in recognition of an outstanding book (or, in even-numbered years, article) on the history of women in science The book or article may take a biographical, institutional, theoretical, or other approach to the topic, which may include discussions of women’s activities in science, analyses of past scientific practices that deal explicitly with gender, and investigations regarding women as viewed by scientists. The 2018 Rossiter Prize is awarded to Kara W. Swanson (Northeastern University School of Law) for her article “Rubbing Elbows and Blowing Smoke: Gender, Class, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Patent Office,” published in Isis, 2017, 108: 40-60.

Kara Swanson’s outstanding article opens up a moment in the history of women in mid-19th century American science when women were employed in the US Patent Office as clerks, working and receiving equal pay alongside “scientific men” who were fighting for professional identity. Ambitious, theoretically sound, and fluently written, her article expands our understanding of the place women occupied in 19th-century science, including within the federal bureaucracy. Swanson deftly gets at the question of how scientific spaces were made hostile to women, and calls upon analytic tools of gender, class, space, and  embodiment to disentangle complexities. In particular, her attention to the “social skin” of the workplace highlights practices of deportment and honor in mid-19th century American culture that shaped who fit in and who was edged out.

Kathryn Davis, Theresa Levitt, Ann (Rusty) Shteir (Chair)


View Swanson’s other works:

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See Swanson’s profile at Northeastern University.

Follow Kara on Twitter: @KaraWSwanson