Rubbing Elbows and Blowing Smoke: Gender, Class, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Patent Office
Isis: A Journal of the History of Science, Vol. 108, No. 1, pp. 1-22 (2017)
Posted: 18 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2017
The United States Patent Office of the 1850s offers a rare opportunity to analyze the early gendering of science. In its crowded rooms, would-be scientists shared a workplace with women earning equal pay for equal work. Scientific men worked as patent examiners, claiming this new occupation as scientific in opposition to those seeking to separate science and technology. At the same time, in an unprecedented and ultimately unsuccessful experiment, female clerks were hired to work alongside male clerks. This article examines the controversies surrounding these workers through the lens of manners and deportment. In the unique context of a workplace combining scientific men and working ladies, office behavior revealed the deep assumption that the emerging American scientist was male and middle class.
Keywords: USPTO, patent office, gender
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