Female Networks: Gendered Ways of Producing Knowledge (1750-1830)


Elena Serrano (Max Planck institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
Simon Werrett (Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL)


It has been evident for some time that women were active participants in scientific culture
across Europe in the eighteenth century, and a number of individuals such as the Duchess of
Portland, Caroline Herschel, or Madame Lavoisier are well known. Women typically
operated outside scientific institutions, although some women associated together to read,
learn, consume and produce scientific knowledge, such as the Dutch merchants’ wives of
the Natuurkundig Genootschap der Dames (Women’s Society for Natural Knowledge), or the
botanizing women of late eighteenth-century England (Jakob and Sturkenboom, 2003;
Shteir, 1996).

This workshop will address women’s activities at the scale of the circle, network, or
community. It will explore how communities and networks of women were created and
maintained and seek to understand the contexts in which they operated, how they related
to existing scientific communities or how they generated new ones. It will ask what were the
acceptable topics, the ways of doing, and the preconditions for these communities to be
able to engage in science. In the case of women philosophers for instance, these included
writing on certain topics that concerned women directly (marriage, equality among sexes)
and giving a strong emphasis to moral and religious issues (Hutton, 2015). How did these
communities foster new femininities, and new roles for women in society? How did these
practices mirror, reinforce, and sometimes challenge contemporary ideas of gender, and
how did they demarcate masculine domains in science? What forces were at work to enable
such network-building and scientific activity? What forces acted to disaggregate these
communities, preventing their formation or disrupting their continuity?

We invite abstracts of no more than 250 words addressing any of these issues for a one-day
workshop to be held at UCL just ahead of the European Society for the History of Science
conference taking place on September 14-17 in London. Abstracts should be sent to Simon
Werrett at s.werrett@ucl.ac.uk and Elena Serrano at eserrano@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de

There is no registration fee for this meeting, but we regret that we are unable to offer funding towards accommodation or travel. Abstracts should please include name, affiliation, current academic status (PhD student, postdoc, lecturer, etc) and contact details.

Contact email


Deadline for paper submission