Behind every great man is a woman doing his transcriptions and data analysis

"Read a piece of scholarship from the mid-twentieth century, and you are likely reading the work of a male scholar and his wife," writes Ronit Y. Stahl at the Nursing Clio blog. More importantly, the contributions of those wives are seldom mentioned, despite the fact that they often ran the lab and the statistical analyses that produced the great works of research credited to their husbands. Stahl offers an interesting look at history — and how women are still going uncredited for their contributions to men's work, today.


  1. Got a boss?  Does he or she want to look good to the public or their boss?  You’re probably going uncredited for your contribution.

    Monkeys … mutter … tree … looking up all you see are … mutter.

  2. Because of the horrendous job market this is actually making a big comeback, especially the scenarios where the male scientist has become powerful enough to avoid any blowback because he dumped his first wife for the graduate student that looks like Jennifer Love Hewitt and she avoids any blowback from sleeping with the boss.

  3. I was wondering about this earlier today when I ran across the Aho-Corasick string matching algorithm. Aho is a relatively well-known researcher who has his own Wikipedia entry … but who is Margaret Corasick? And did she get fair recognition for her work? I mean, her name is part of the algorithm, which isn’t negligible, but I still wonder.

  4. The background on Hastings was interesting, and new to me, but It would be nice if the author had provided more examples of wives laboring to back up their husbands.  The Tolystoy example is compelling, but there are no specific examples mentioned for scientists or other scholars.

    Also, it’d be interesting to know more about the circumstances of these couples met.  As someone who has spent their time in academics, I know it’s not that uncommon for scholars/scientists to marry someone working as an administrator, or a colleague.  If this is the case with many of the couples that the author of the blog post alludes to, I’d expect to see more of the “wife in the background providing support to the breadwinner” examples in the past, and more equal couples in the present as gender roles/norms shift more towards equality.

  5. See also Wendell Berry, who famously wrote out an essay about how bad word processors are in longhand and then had his wife type it up for him so that he could edit it.

  6. Happens in all walks of life; many of the tradesmen and farmers I know have their wives running the paperwork side of things. They’re the smallest of small businesses.

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