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Women in Economics Discipline

Women’s participation in the ASSA meetings

La participation des femmes aux meetings de l’ASSA.
Robert W. Dimand, Geoffrey Black et Evelyn L. Forget
p. 33-49

Résumés

Cet article examine comment la participation des femmes aux meetings annuels de l’Allied Social Science Associations a changée à partir du moment où l’American Economic Association a décidé de faire de ses rencontres annuelles des conférences jointes – initialement avec sept associations, puis plus tard avec de nombreuses autres associations dédiées directement ou indirectement à l’économie. Une attention particulière est accordée à la manière dont cette expansion des meetings de l’AEA a affecté la participation des femmes. Notre perspective historique permet de comparer la participation des femmes aux rencontres de l’ASSA au xxe siècle et début du xxie siècle à leur participation à la « première » ASSA, l’American Social Science Association, durant les décennies comprises entre la fin de la Guerre civile et la création en 1885 de l’AEA.

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1Early meetings of the American Social Science Association (founded in 1869) and the American Economics Association (founded in 1885) were small, and while women were visible from the outset, presenting and discussing papers, chairing sessions, winning prizes and even holding office, their participation was sporadic. Women occasionally constituted a significant proportion of participants, 6 out of 26 in 1882 (23%), 5 out of 22 in 1884 (22.7%), but these years were more than balanced by years when there were no female participants at all. When the AEA was founded in 1885, the participation of women at first changed little, with few women on the programmes before WWII. If anything, participation declined. After WWII, women’s participation increased slowly until 1970 when it began to expand steadily. This pattern contrasts with the proportion of women in economics doctoral programmes over that same period, which increased until 1940 and then began to decline steadily until 1970 when it began to grow significantly.

2One surprise is the relative representation of women in the AEA and the ASSA. When the American Social Science Association began to fracture into disciplinary groupings 1884, the relative participation of women was, at first, little affected. This suggests that women were as active, or as inactive, in economics as in the rest of the social sciences. One or two exceptional women participated in some years, but many years saw no participation by women. But these meetings were small and it is difficult to talk in a meaningful way about trends. Contrast this with the observation that since 1984, women have made up a larger proportion of participants at the AEA meetings than at the ASSA meetings as a whole in all years but 2002, notwithstanding the fact that women are under-represented in doctoral programmes in economics relative to the other social sciences. Before we take too much pride in our success, however, we should note that the participation of women in the AEA meetings and the ASSA meetings lag well behind the representation of women in the profession, and well behind their proportionate share of published articles.

3Our analysis has shown that the general trend in the participation of women in the AEA meetings and the ASSA meetings is as one might have expected –slow growth from modest beginnings, with a significant expansion in the last quarter century. That story alone, however, is far too simple.

1. The first ASSA and the AEA up to 1918

4The American Economic Association was founded in 1885, as individual disciplinary societies (starting with the American Historical Association in 1884) began to follow Adam Smith’s dictum on the gains from the division of labour by separating from the American Social Science Association, the original ASSA which attempted from 1865 to 1909 to span the entire range of social sciences. The American Social Science Association was inspired by the example of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, founded in Britain in 1857 (see Bernard and Bernard 1943, Furner 1975, and Haskell 1977 on the ASSA, Rogers 1952 and McGregor 1981 on its British counterpart). Cobbe (1861), Biggs (1869) and Martel (1986) have drawn attention to the active role of women in the British association and its annual Social Science Congresses, alongside such established male figures as Lord Brougham, the former Lord Chancellor, and Nassau Senior, Oxford’s first professor of political economy. Emily Davies addressed the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science about women’s education in 1862, 1864, 1865, and 1868, Bessie Rayner Parkes addressed it about women’s employment in 1859, 1860, 1861, and 1862, Frances Power Cobbe on the Bristol Female Mission in 1861 and university examinations for women in 1862, and Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon gave papers on women’s education in 1860 and the enfranchisement of women in 1866 (see Bodichon 1857, Cobbe 1863, Parkes 1865, and papers by Bodichon, Cobbe, Davies, and Parkes reprinted in Lacey 1987). According to a biographical sketch in the 1914 reprint of Dall (1867), Carolyn Healey Dall “was the original mover for the [American] Social Science Association with Governor Emery Washburn and Dr. Samuel Elliot as helpers, and read many papers before that body.” Dall had previously consulted the secretary and assistant secretary of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science on “the noble usefulness for women” of that “out-of-door parliament.” An abolitionist and public lecturer on women’s property rights and economic and social position (Dall 1860, 1867, 1868), Dall served on the executive committee of the ASSA from its foundation in 1865 until 1905 (seven years before her death at the age of 90, and four years before the dissolution of the association), initially as a director and then from 1880 as a vice-president. Dall noted that the ASSA was organized with two women on its board of directors, and that the Boston Association for the Promotion of Social Science was subsequently organized with seven departments and seven women of its board of directors, one assigned to each department. Emily Talbot, also of Boston, served for many years as secretary of the ASSA’s education department, presenting and publishing papers on the teaching of social science (Talbot 1886, 1887).

5In the first years of the American Economic Association, two women, Mary Clare de Graffenreid (1890b) and Helen Stuart Campbell (1891) won prizes from the American Economic Association for their work (see Richard T. Ely’s preface to Campbell 1893, and see also Campbell 1887, 1889, 1896, Graffenreid 1890a). A $100 prize was divided between Clare de Graffenreid, an investigator for the Department of Labor, and W. F. Willoughby, also of the Department of Labor, while $500 offered for the best essays on “Women Wage Earners” was divided $300 to Clare de Graffenreid and $200 to Helen Stuart Campbell.

6Helen Campbell was active in the early Home Economics movement and helped draw the attention of middle class Americans to the plight of poor working women. Her prize-winning monograph, Women Wage-Earners (1891), surveyed conditions for working women in North America and Europe. It was subsequently published in an expanded version with a preface by Richard T. Ely who had founded the AEA in 1885. In 1893, Campbell studied with Ely at Wisconsin and in 1885 Ely arranged for Campbell to deliver two courses of lectures at Wisconsin, one on social science and the other on household science. She made a number of academic and popular contributions to social policy, writing home economics textbooks, newspaper columns and popular novels in addition to her academic contributions. She was also a mentor to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, whose Women and Economics (1898) was a classic feminist contribution to Progressive Era social science.

2. Between the wars: declining visibility

7The number and proportion of women among those earning PhDs in economics at American universities before World War II, as documented by Barbara Libby (1984, 1987, 1990), Evelyn Forget (1995), and Kirsten Madden (2002), far exceeded the participation of women among the paper presenters and discussants at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association. From 1912 to 1932, 57 women completed doctorates in economics at Columbia University, 26 at the University of Chicago, 15 at each of Bryn Mawr and the University of Pennsylvania, 14 at the University of Wisconsin, 10 at Radcliffe, and smaller numbers at nine other America universities. The proportion of PhD dissertations in economics at American universities that were written by women was 6.15% in 1912 and 6.77% in 1913, and then exceeded 10% every year from 1914 to 1937 inclusive (except for dipping to 9.94% in 1933 and 9.15% in 1936). The proportion of economics PhDs granted to women in the United States peaked at 19.29% in 1920, and was above 12% as late as 1937. After 1937, the proportion declined to 6.94% in 1940, roughly as low as it had been in 1913. This pattern differed from that of other disciplines, peaking higher and a decade earlier: of PhDs in all fields granted in the United States, “by 1920 some 10 per cent were earned by women. By 1930, that figure had reached its peak at approximately 15 per cent, and persisted as that level until 1940, before beginning a 30-year decline” (Forget 1995, p. 27). Nancy Folbre (1998, p. 41) finds that up to 1900, American universities accepted eighty-four doctoral dissertations in political economy written by men and five by women (about six per cent). Helene Silverberg (1998, p. 11) calculates that of the 252 people who completed at least one year of graduate work in the Department of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University between 1876 and 1926, 77 were women (almost 35 per cent). These women had publishable things to say about economics in those years: A Bibliography of Female Economic Thought to 1940 (Madden, Seiz and Pujol) is 528 pages long, not counting the introductory material.

8Nonetheless, even before the proportion of women among new economics PhDs and in academic positions began its long decline, very few women appeared in the program of the American Economic Association. At twenty six of the thirty six annual AEA annual meetings from 1899 to 1934 inclusive, the number of women among the speakers and discussants was zero, as was also the case for five of the six AEA meetings held from 1887 to 1894 (we have not yet been able to check the programs for 1895 through 1898, so it is possible that after 1890 there were no women on the program of an AEA annual meeting until 1911, apart from a brief discussant’s comment by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1907). Some of these meetings had small programs (only 14 participants in 1907 and 18 in 1908), but women accounted for zero out of 49 speakers and discussants in each of 1904, 1906, 1917, and 1940, zero out of 64 in 1934, zero out of 67 in 1910 and 1931, zero out of 69 in 1925 – and zero out of 44 in 1928 and 1958, zero out of 46 in 1916, 1933 and 1951, zero out of 47 in 1953 and 1963, zero out of 50 in 1962. Before World War II, the highpoints of women’s participation in the AEA meetings were in 1890, with 2 out of 24, and in 1922, with three women among 37 presenters and discussants (a proportion exceeded, until 1970, only in 1955, with 6 out of 67, and in 1957, when there were 4 women out of 49 on the AEA program), and in 1930, with 4 women (all discussants) among 58 presenters and discussants. The largest AEA annual meeting before 1970, the meeting of 1941, had 109 speakers and discussants, among them one woman. The six women among 67 participants on the AEA program in 1955 (8.96%) was a proportion not exceeded until 1970, when there were ten women among 111 presenters and discussants on the AEA program (9%), up from four out of 102 in 1969 –and from one out of 71 in 1967. However, the 1967 program for the Allied Social Science Associations as a whole had 26 women among 783 participants (3.3%).

9Neither the American Economic Association nor the Allied Social Science Associations have ever in any year matched the proportion of women on the program of the American Social Science Association in two years: 6 out of 26 in 1882 (23%), 5 out of 22 in 1882 (22.7%). However, the American Social Science Association also had several annual conferences without any women on the program: there were no women among 14 participants listed on the program in 1870, zero out of 9 in 1873, zero out of 13 in 1874, zero out of 12 in 1876 and 1877, and zero out of 21 in 1883, between the two years of peak female participation.

3. The pioneers: Women who participated in early AEA meetings

10Even the handful of eminent female economists who served on the executive committee of the AEA in its first half-century barely figured in the programs of its annual meetings. Edith Abbott of the University of Chicago was a vice-president of the AEA in 1911 but her only appearance on a program of an AEA annual meeting was as chair of a round-table on “Immigration Restriction: Economic Results and Perspectives” in 1926, by which time she had published nineteen times in the Journal of Political Economy (starting in 1904) and twice (plus seven book reviews) in the American Economic Review. Susan Kingsbury of Bryn Mawr College was a vice-president of the AEA in 1919, but participated in the annual program only as a discussant of “The Russian Economic Situation” at the 1930 meeting. Jessica Blanche Peixotto of the University of California, Berkeley, an AEA vice-president in 1928, chaired a round-table on “Family Budgets” in 1926 (and published an AER article on that topic the following year).

11In a commissioned article marking the centenary of the founding of the AEA, William J. Baumol (1985) digressed from his study of economic methodology in late 19th century American economics to report his discovery that a few American women had contributed to economics before World War I, and listed seven articles by four women, not all of them from World War I or before. He missed the pioneer women economists in the AEA, overlooking even Katharine Coman’s lead article in the first issue of the first volume of the American Economic Review in March 1911 on “Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation” (Coman 1911a) and her paper the next month in the conference issue of the AER (Coman 1911b), which she had presented at the AEA annual meeting. Coman was self-taught in economics, having taken a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Michigan in 1880 at a time when women could degrees only in teaching or health-related fields. Initially an instructor in rhetoric at the newly-founded Wellesley College, Coman became Professor of Political Economy at Wellesley in 1883 at the age of thirty, and headed Wellesley’s Department of Economics and Sociology from its creation in 1900 until her death in 1915. One of the six women among the 185 founding members of the AEA, Coman spoke at the AEA’s fourth meeting in 1890 about sweatshops in the tailoring trade (published in the Publications of the American Economic Association as Coman 1891) and published in the second volume of the Journal of Political Economy English wages and prices from 1261 to 1701 (Coman 1893). She also published in the Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association. Her monograph on “History of Contract Labor in the Hawaiian Islands” in the Publications of the American Economic Association in 1903 was reprinted in 1975 by Arno Press, and her two volumes on Economic Beginnings of the Far West (Coman 1912) were reprinted by Augustus M. Kelley in the Reprints of Economics Classics series in 1969. Coman’s paper on “The Tailoring Trade and Sweating System” was one of two papers presented by a woman at the 1890 AEA meeting, the other being Marieta Kies on “The Ethical Principle in Industrial relations” by Marieta Kies, author of Institutional Ethics (1894). The AEA did not meet in 1889 or 1891.

12Coman was the leading female academic economist of her day. She wrote on topics that were not specifically gender focused. The outstanding writer of the time on the economic position of women outside academic employment, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of Women and Economics (1898), also took part in one AEA annual meeting. Gilman contributed to a discussion of “The Extent of Child Labor in the United States,” which appeared in the third series of Publications of the American Economic Association in February 1907. She also discussed three papers in the Papers and Proceedings of the American Sociological Society in December 1907 and published three comments in the American Journal of Sociology in 1908, followed by an article in each of those two publications in 1908, so Gilman’s one appearance at the AEA was part of a brief period of academic acceptance of her work, a body of work that was to have considerable influence on later feminists.

13Katharine Coman’s younger colleague Emily Greene Balch joined Wellesley’s faculty in 1896 and was a Professor of Economics and Sociology from 1900 to 1918. Balch’s substantial monograph on “Public Assistance of the Poor in France” (Balch 1893), written as a Bryn Mawr Fellow at the Sorbonne, was published by the American Economic Association, and Balch took part as a discussant in three AEA annual meetings, discussing “Restriction of Immigration” in 1911 (Balch et al. 1911), labor legislation in 1912, and “The Open Door and Colonial Policy” in 1918. Balch is worthy of note because she was the first economist to a win a Nobel Prize: she shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. She is also noteworthy because she lost her job in 1918 during World War I after eighteen years as a full professor for the same pacifist and social reform activism for which she shared the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of the next world war (see Balch 1972, Randall 1964). Although Balch accepted Wellesley’s eventual apology, she bequeathed her papers to Swartmore.

14At the 1914 AEA meeting, Elizabeth Glendower Evans (1915) spoke on “Social Aspects of the Public Regulation of Wages,” with Theresa Schmid McMahon (1915), author of Women and Economic Evolution (1912) as one of the discussants for the session. Dorothy Brown of Smith College was a discussant for “Teaching elementary economics” in 1920, Claire Griffin of the University of Michigan discussed a session on “Market Analysis as an Aide to Lowered Marketing Costs” in 1925 (and chaired a session in 1934), Mary Van Kleeck of the Russell Sage Foundation discussed a session on “International Competition and Labor Standards” in 1926, Elizabeth Waterman (later Gilboy) of the Harvard Economic Committee discussed a session on “Price Analysis and Price Forecasting” in 1929, and Elizabeth Faulkner Baker of Barnard College and Florence C. Thomas of the American Federation of Labor were discussants for “Industrial Changes and Unemployment” in 1930, but their comments were not published. Neither were the discussions by Mabel Walker of the Tax Policy League and Mary Gilson of the University of Chicago in 1934, Anne Bezanson of the University of Pennsylvania (a future president of the Economic History Association) in 1935, Mabel Newcomer of Vassar in 1936 and 1941, and Elizabeth Brandeis of the University of Wisconsin in 1941. And that’s it until the end of World War II. Although women published in the American Economic Review, Elizabeth Glendower Evans (1915) was the last woman to present a paper at an annual meeting of the American Economic Association until Maxine Yaple Sweezy of the American Association of University Women spoke about “German Government in the Postwar period” in 1945.

4. Concluding remarks

15Our investigation began as a simple attempt to look at the trends in the participation of women in the AEA meetings and the ASSA meetings over time. We expected to find slow growth until 1970 followed by a massive expansion. We did not expect to find that, over the past quarter century, women were more visible at the AEA meetings than at the ASSA meetings more generally. We expected the proportion of women participating in the AEA meetings to resemble the proportion of women in the profession and, perhaps, the proportion of articles written by women. We find, instead, that the participation of women at the AEA has been lower than their participation in the profession throughout most of the twentieth century.

16Nor did we expect to find the more or less monotonic increase in the participation of women over the entire period we examined. We expected that participation in the AEA meetings would mirror the decline in the proportion of women registered in doctoral programmes between 1940 and 1970, but that was not the case. This raises interesting questions. Economists can become economists without doctorates, and a master’s degree has been adequate for government economists, business economists, policy analysts and even bank economists for much of the twentieth century. Women have always been more highly represented as applied economists working outside universities than as academic economists. Over much of the twentieth century, we suspect that many of the AEA participants were economists with master-level training working outside universities. What proportion of participants were non-academics and how has that changed over time? How and why have women disproportionately chosen these types of careers, and how has that pattern changed, if at all, since 1970? If we shift our focus from PhD-level training and academic careers, how does the history of women in the economics profession change?

APPENDIX 1: Recent Participation of Women in the ASSA and AEA Meetings

Annual Meeting

Number of Contributors ASSA

Female Contributors (ASSA)

% of Female Contributors (ASSA)

Number of Contributors (AEA)

Female Contributors (AEA)

% of Female Contributors AEA

2008

3300

443

13.4

1180

161

13.6

2007

3317

470

14.2

1008

164

16.3

2006

2879

466

16.2

748

153

20.5

2005

2853

357

12.5

765

136

17.8

2004

2701

345

12.8

752

127

16.9

2003

2609

451

17.3

707

133

18.8

2002

2659

372

14.0

738

97

13.1

2001

2796

345

12.3

678

119

17.6

2000

2602

381

14.6

662

104

16.7

1999

2517

376

14.9

639

99

15.5

1998

2942

426

14.5

740

126

17.0

1997

2725

411

15.1

549

101

18.4

1996

2734

421

15.4

513

95

18.5

1995

2488

417

16.8

497

88

17.7

1994

2579

370

14.3

565

116

20.5

1993

2263

368

16.3

509

93

18.3

1992

2536

371

14.6

469

80

17.1

1990

2158

247

11.4

429

67

15.6

1989

2016

235

11.7

290

41

14.1

1988

2001

204

10.2

334

43

12.9

1987

1720

159

9.2

428

47

11.0

1986

1471

152

10.3

207

29

14.0

1985

1497

143

9.6

248

40

16.1

1984

1542

155

10.1

247

41

16.6

APPENDIX 2: Female Participation in the Early Years of the AEA

Number of Contributors

Number of Female Contributors

% Female Participation

1899

12th meeting

22

0

0

1898

1897

1896

1895

1894

7th meeting

19

0

0

1893

6th meeting

10

0

0

1892

5th meeting

19

0

0

1891

no meeting

0

0

0

1890

4th meeting

24

2

8.3

1889

No meeting

0

0

0

1888

3rd meeting

27

0

0

1887

2nd meeting

29

0

0

1886

19

1

5.3

APPENDIX 3: Female Participation in Early Years of the ASSA (before the founding of the AEA)

Number of Contributors

Number of Female Contributors

% Female Participation

1885

19

2

10.5

1884

22

5

22.7

1883

21

0

0

1882

26

6

23.1

1881

27

3

11.1

1880

1879

33

2

6.1

1878

1877

12

0

0

1876

12

0

0

1875

20

1

5

1874

13

0

0

1873

9

0

0

1872

0

0

0

1871

23

1

4.3

1870

14

0

0

1869

A first version of this paper was presented to the Association for Social Economics/International Association for Feminist Economics joint session “Women at the ASSA meetings: Trends, causes and effects” at the ASSA, San Francisco, January 2009.

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Robert W. Dimand, Geoffrey Black et Evelyn L. Forget, « Women’s participation in the ASSA meetings », Œconomia, 1-1 | 2011, 33-49.

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Robert W. Dimand, Geoffrey Black et Evelyn L. Forget, « Women’s participation in the ASSA meetings », Œconomia [En ligne], 1-1 | 2011, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2011, consulté le 24 juillet 2017. URL : http://oeconomia.revues.org/1821 ; DOI : 10.4000/oeconomia.1821

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Auteurs

Robert W. Dimand

Department of Economics, Brock University, 500 Glenridge Avenue, St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1, Canada, dimand@brocku.ca

Geoffrey Black

Department of Political Science, Brock University, 500 Glenridge Avenue, St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1, Canada, geoffblack@hotmail.com

Evelyn L. Forget

Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, 750 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0W3, Canada, forget@cc.umanitoba.ca

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