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Where are the women in the history of (Dutch) physics?

It is fair to acknowledge that literature discussing history of women in Dutch physics is rather scarce. The large volume on history of science edited by van Berkel, Helden and Palm (3) avoids this question with the same reasoning. Nevertheless, English-language sources still give a glimpse into the situation of women there, and also on the international field.

By now we are well aware why women are mostly missing in the history of physics (and science) and why their role has been supportive rather than leading. It is fair to note that in 17th and 18th century, women were not seen as unsuited for science. Teaching science to girls was deemed important, and certainly in the Netherlands (1). However, in the course of the time (2nd half of 19th century and onwards), their role in science, in accordance with culture that strictly distinguished between genders and assigned females a supportive and family role, having to choose between family and work, lack of social security in society has become more and more sidelined, and gave men the role that we so clearly see until today.

Interested in women in physics in the past? Some suggestions where to start:

  1. Annemarie de Knecht-van Eekelen and Ida Stamhuis (eds.), ‘Zy is toch wel zeer begaafd’ Historische bijdrage over vrouwen in bètawetenschappen. In: Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek. 1997 ; Vol. 20.
  2. Paula A. Gould, “Making Space for women in the history of physics”. Endeavour, vol. 22(1), Elsevier Science 1998.
  3. Klaas van Berkel, Albert van Helden and Lodewijk Palm (eds.), A History of Science in the Netherlands. Survey, Themes and Reference. Brill: Leiden, Boston, Köln, 1999.
  4. Amy Fisher and Katie Henningsen, “Women in Science through Archival Lens”. Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, vol. 27, no. 2, Penn State University Press 2017.
  5. Martinez, Nicole E. “Contributions from Women to the Radiation Sciences”, Health Physics, April 2017  Volume 112 - Issue 4 - p 376-383.