A Transnational Project? Women and gender in the aocial sciences in Australia, 1890–1945



Publication Details

Carey, J. L. (2009). A Transnational Project? Women and gender in the aocial sciences in Australia, 1890–1945. Women's History Review, 18 (1), 45-69.


This article presents a broad overview of the gendered regimes which shaped the development of social scientific knowledge in Australia, and the position of women within the field, from 1890 to 1945. It particularly explores the local desire to emulate developments in Europe and the United States. Australian women were prominent in early ‘amateur’ social science, which was strongly linked to social reforming activities. However, the social sciences developed exceedingly slowly within the Australian academy and rather continued to be sustained largely by the social reform movement. The continuing lack of formal institutionalisation, well into the twentieth century, provided considerable scope for some (privileged) women to create themselves as social scientific experts. Indeed, it was largely the interests of women social reformers who eventually drove professionalisation of the social sciences from the 1930s. Nevertheless, when professionalisation and institutionalisation did finally come in the 1940s, Australia followed remarkably similar patterns to those seen in the United States and United Kingdom nearly 50 years earlier. Women were largely regulated to the lower-status, applied, feminine field of social work while men took over the new and more prestigious academic arena.

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