Ap European History DBQ: Women in the scientific revolution
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During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Scientific Revolution, which was the development of new sciences and technology, and The Age of Enlightenment, which was the so called “age of reason”, had sparked women’s participation in sciences. Ever since Europe was moving towards the modern world, women had been trying to change their social status from regular housework and staying at home to getting better jobs such as teaching and learning science. Although this was a great change for women, there were changing attitudes and views toward them when they had participated in science. Dorothea Erxleben, a German M.D. had appreciated that she learned science, but other people, such as men felt that they she and along with other women are taking away man’s superiority role in society. There were defiantly both pros and cons towards women’s participation in science. (Document 9)
The Scientific Revolution and The Age of Enlightenment paved the brink of women’s success in science. Technologies such as the sextant, which was a tool used for calculating the altitude of objects and the telescope gave women the chance to study astronomy, which was the most popular subject during that time. Women would work rigorously not on housework, but on astronomy. They would advance their knowledge further with the studies of insects and the art of drawing. This would help them understand why the sun changes during the day and the different types of changes insects go through in life. Gottfried Kirch, who was a German astronomer and was the husband of Maria Winkelmann, had agreed with what women have done in the research of science.
His wife discovered a comet and he was surprised because she stayed up all night and had the courage to search the skies for stars and comets. The “age of reason” helped women progress their studies because philosophers such as Rene Descartes helped them conduct experiments in an efficient way for studying by providing the Discourse on Method (1637). It gave women the ability to conduct experiments to prove difficult ideas and give them a broader knowledge of science. This was positive for women, but with there lack of family time and basic housework led to a lot of tension. (Documents 4, 5, 6)
When women have spent most of the time on science, men would be unhappy with their actions. Men would criticized them by saying how they have concentrated more on stars in the night instead of household work or how women have a weak mind and they should not study science because they would not understand it easily. They had felt that women, when first born were giving specific rules in society, which were to be inferior to men, stay home, clean the house and to take care of the children. When women had started to acquire professions such as Duchess of Newcastle, who became an author, and had wrote a scientific book called A World Made by Atomes or the construction of calendars based on astronomical observations created animosity towards men.
Society would then become revolved around women because they would stand out from men. They would produce books that would teach lessons to educated people. Women would look up to educated women as role models stating how they have the ability to become equal to men. Male figures would dislike this because women would take away the pride and royalty of men by using reason, science and arts to advance their minds further than them. Even though men were the dominate species in society, they also had points of views that showed bias towards women’s participation in science. (Documents 1, 3, 8, 12)
Bias, which means a given statement that has two different point of views had gave women the uncertainty of whether people were for or against their actions for studying science. Based on some men and women, they had felt that women should stay silent in society and limit their learning of arts, science and literature, but when those women become a major part of the society by publishing books and teaching other women subjects, they feel that women can support men’s hard work and increase education in society. According to Johann Junker, who is the head figure of the University of Halle, he felt that women have the ability to learn science and arts, but need to limit it to a point where attention does not create a lot of attraction for other women and men.
This means their education is average, but is not allowed to bring more attention on themselves along with their looks and appeals. Men had allowed women to participate in science for women’s own benefit because they wanted them to learn what was going on in the world and to develop better ways to support the household. Women were given some freedom of studying, but it was limited to a point where their statuses can never become equal to men. (Documents 2, 9, 10)
Although women has the ability to use reason and science to expand their knowledge and the ability to work hard night and day, such as Marquise Emilie du Chatelet, a French aristocrat and scientist, who has stated “I must do this or lose the fruit of my labors if I should die in childbirth.” This had mean that women had gone through tough times trying to enhance their social status and if they had put time into using reason and science to expand their knowledge, the sweet taste of equality (fruit) can be achieved and acknowledged. Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, argued why women could not receive the same education as men and why men are very offensive when they to equal their status between them.
Women of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were criticized on their participation of science and it was shown in a Gottingen Newspaper describing various women. It has stated women should were subjected to lower education and never should go into higher sciences, but when people study the behaviors of women and learn that they are somewhat the same as men, they can take in consideration the possible equality of the participation in science. This truly showed the pros and cons for women and science. (Documents 11, 13)