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)

Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 284-2017

Posted: 18 Apr 2017  

Kara W. Swanson

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Swanson, Kara W., Rubbing Elbows and Blowing Smoke: Gender, Class, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Patent Office (2017). Isis: A Journal of the History of Science, Vol. 108, No. 1, pp. 1-22 (2017) ; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 284-2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2933841

Kara W. Swanson (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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