The hit film Hidden Figures re-acquainted the zeitgeist with the idea that women in general, and African American women in particular, have long participated in scientific endeavor. Science on the Home Front tells women’s story during the critical years of World War II, when Leona Marshall and Katharine Way worked on the Manhattan Project while Lydia J. Roberts developed the Recommended Dietary Allowances.
Jordynn Jack lays out the obstacles faced by women scientists even as they answered the urgent call for their participation in the war effort. Even though newspapers, magazines, books, and films forecasted tremendous growth in scientific and technical jobs for women, the war produced few long-term gains in the percentage of women in the sciences or in their overall professional standing.
Jack shows how the very language of science—the discourses and genres of scientific communication—that helped to limit women’s progress in science even as it provided opportunities for a small group of prominent female scientists to advance during the war. The book uses the experiences of individual women to illuminate the broader limitations of masculine scientific culture and its discourses of expertise, gender neutrality, technical expediency, and objectivity. Focusing on genres of women scientists’ writing in the disciplines of psychology, anthropology, physics, and nutrition, Jack identifies key characteristics of scientific culture and rhetoric that continue to limit women’s advancement in science and to stifle their unique perspectives.