A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War

Patricia Fara. Oxford Univ., $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-19-879498-1
Fara (Science: A Four Thousand Year History), a historian of science at the University of Cambridge, shares the captivating stories of the unheralded British women whose valuable scientific and medical work contributed to an Allied victory in WWI. These “scientific pioneers” were marginalized by their contemporaries and, until now, largely passed over by historians. Fara ranges over a broader time period than the four years that encompassed the war and offers “new ways of thinking about the early twentieth century by looking simultaneously at the involvement of science and of women.” The book’s first two parts comprise a crisp discussion of politics and society in Britain, highlighting suffragist activism. Fara lays out the historical connection between science—particularly its role in determining the status of women—and suffragists, who used science to argue for equality. The war takes center stage at the narrative’s midpoint, but without the familiar battle accounts. Fara vividly recounts the experiences of the educated, capable women who stepped into men’s jobs as chemists, cryptographers, statisticians, meteorologists, and doctors. She brings the book’s two halves together in the penultimate chapter, evaluating how these expanded roles for women in wartime affected the movement for gender equality. Fara tells this remarkable tale with intelligence and verve. Illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-19-879499-8
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