Elevate Difference

Science on the Home Front: American Women Scientists in World War II

Science on the Home Front is an introduction to the lives and tasks of specific women scientists involved in the war effort, from Marie Curie to Margaret Mead. These women come from a variety of backgrounds and pursuits in science. A professor, Jack focuses on the fields of psychology, anthropology, physics and nutrition to elaborate on the women involved who played a specific role in the war. By delineating aspects of these scientists, the author demonstrates the subordination of the women who performed important roles in the war. The range of responsibility spans years and experiences. Jack's main objective in developing this book holds true to be a study of the rhetoric involved regarding feminist rhetoric as well as scientific rhetoric, and she argues that the culture of science is what held women back in their roles played in the war.

To appreciate this book, one must be willing to make time to read it; its academic sense assumes the reader is both interested in science and in the concept of rhetoric as it pertains to both the science field and the feminist field. As a book, Science on the Home Front requires a decent amount of science; however, the author takes the time to elaborate on definition and overall goal of her book. In her introduction, she clarifies each chapter for the reader; each chapter focuses on one or two female scientists in that specific field. To create an overall sense of that specific scientist in several ways, Jack examines studies of that scientist, tracks certain exchanges with superiors, details journal entries, and surmises what that scientist brought to the public through writings and other research. In presenting this information, Jack demonstrates an overall image of each scientist. Taking her research another step further, Jack discusses the rhetoric of each field, and places this into each chapter to prove her point that the regendering of science is clearly necessary for women in all fields of science.

Utterly straightforward, Science on the Home Front explores the rhetorical factors of subordination with a smattering of women who made a difference in the science world, specifically during WWII. Language remains a very large obstacle to women "getting ahead" in the sciences. Ongoing questions exist: How do we reorganize and strategize around the feminism in the sciences as well as the gender of scientific language? By investigating the rhetoric about women in science, we come up with some answers; in conclusion, Jack makes steps toward "'regendering' scientific institutions" to make these scientific institutions more acceptable toward women, and overall, in any scientific field. Including notes on each chapter and over ten pages of bibliography, Jack gives a nice amount of substance to further research. Present and future studies must continue in order to make a concrete step toward the integration of women into the sciences at a more equal pace.

With this book in hand, further research may be done to pursue individual female scientists' work; however, this volume offers a great starting point to introduce the many women who impacted World War II in the scientific field.

Written by: Carolyn Espe, January 28th 2010

I find this concept of "regendering" science offensive. As a female scientist, I have never had any problem understanding the science, my peers, or my superiors. I haven't read the book, but I don't find myself interested in doing so if it's going to patronize my ability to understand my chosen field.