Challenging Science as Usual: Women's Participation in American Natural History Museum Work, 1870-1950


Creator: Madsen-Brooks, Leslie


Date: Summer 2009

Citation: Journal of Women's History Vol. 21, No. 2 (Journal)

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Discusses women scientists' attempts to challenge American science from within, to democratize it by making scientific knowledge accessible and its practice comprehensible to a broad audience. Author argues that natural history museums were important locations for understanding both the opportunities for and the barriers to women's professional engagement with the public understanding of natural science in the United States. From a feminist standpoint, explores the work of Martha Maxwell, taxidermist whose work was displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition; Mary Jane Rathbun, carcinologist or crab specialist at the U.S. National Museum; Agnes Chase, botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture stationed at the Smithsonian's U.S. National Herbarium; and botanist Alice Eastwood, who worked at the Academy of


  • Rathbun, Mary Jane 1860-1943
  • Eastwood, Alice
  • Chase, Agnes 1869-1963
  • Maxwell, Martha
  • United States National Museum
  • United States National Museum Dept. of Marine Invertebrates
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • United States Dept. of Agriculture Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Contained within

Journal of Women's History Vol. 21, No. 2 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


Summer 2009


  • Women
  • Personnel management
  • Employees
  • Museums
  • Women Scientists
  • History
  • Carcinology
  • Women--Employees
  • Women--History
  • Museums--History


United States

Physical description

Number of pages: 29; Page numbers: 11-38

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