Women, gender, and the histories of American geography

Janice Monk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Histories of American geography have tended to concentrate on geographic thought and on the men who have been seen as major figures in research. In contrast, I examine the careers of women geographers and of professional practices in American geography in the 20th century. My approach reflects thinking in feminist studies and the social studies of science, which acknowledge the existence of multiple histories and the importance of paying attention to contexts. Before 1950, values linking prestige and masculinity resulted in the exclusion of women geographers from university professorships though they found opportunities in teacher education and outside academia. In the post-World War II era, even as higher education expanded rapidly, women's representation in the profession declined substantially, influenced by the social climate that promoted women's domesticity and priorities for recruiting men. Academic practices and the consciousness of the few women graduate students reflected this gendered culture. Whether women geographers have valued particular aspects of their work and created distinctive knowledge pose questions for further exploration. A brief look at the practices and meanings of field education over the century suggests that such experience has been important to women, even when attempts have been made to exclude their participation. There are also indications that women geographers disproportionately bring social concerns to the discipline. The paper calls for reflection on the implications of our histories for the profession's future, especially for graduate education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • History
  • Professional geography
  • Women


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