Sex and the Scientific Author: M. Vaerting and the Matilda Effect in Early 20th Century Germany
HPSC and Gender Studies Spring Joint Colloquium
Feburary 22 @ 4pm
WY Hall 005
by Professor Sander Gliboff
Abstract: The life and works of the German pedagogue, sociologist, and sexologist Mathilde Vaerting (1884–1977) are surveyed and analyzed, with special attention to her use of gendered pseudonyms in her early writings on heredity, reproduction, and demography. Writing as Mathilde, Mathias, Mathilde and Mathias, or just M., Vaerting experimented with different voices and rhetorical strategies for promoting women’s issues in male- dominated medical and sexology journals. In so doing, she encountered what were later (coincidentally) named the Matthew- and Matilda effects on the attribution of credit for work in science. Upon becoming the first female professor at the University of Jena, she faced harsh questioning about the true authorship of her publications and the credibility of a woman writing about sex and male bias. In addition to issues of authorship, the Vaerting story sheds light on the entry of women into the German university system, early twentieth century research on the biology and sociology of sex, and the uses of biology in the case for women’s rights and interests in late Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany.