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History of Women's Economic Thought

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Hilton Atlanta, 405
Hosted By: History of Economics Society
  • Chair: Kirsten K. Madden, Millersville University

The Point is to Change It: Three Lives of Applied Marxism

Zoe Sherman
Merrimack College


Eleanor Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and Raya Dunayevskaya all found in Marxism a theory of the process of change, so considered Marxist theory a tool for participating in the practice of change making. In this paper I highlight two areas in which their practice was a clear expression of the theoretical understanding they derived from Marx—and in which their choice and interpretation of theory was shaped by their practical experience. The first important theme that weaves through the work of all three is the complex entanglement of revolutionary consciousness, human agency, and institutional structures. Marx and Engels reached the conclusion that thought alone cannot change the world if the material basis of society remains unchanged but also that thought is part of the revolutionary process that can change the material basis. Eleanor Marx, Luxemburg, and Dunayevskaya all embraced this conclusion and promoted the process of change with tireless work to communicate and educate. Revolutionary consciousness, they believed, can inspire and inform the exercise of agency; the exercise of agency, in turn, can change a society’s institutions. And they were institution-builders themselves. Through their experimentation with forms of collective action, they explored the interplay between the way the social structure shapes the individual and the way individual actions combine to form a social structure. The third area is what we would now call intersectionality; all three were deeply enmeshed in navigating and reshaping the interrelations of class identity, gender identity, and national, ethnic, or racial identities. Marxism’s emphasis on class was no hindrance to their use of Marx’s theory of revolution for working simultaneously toward a revolution in gender relations and international cooperation.

Chinese Economic Development and Chinese Women Economists: A Study of Overseas Doctoral Dissertations

Yue Xiao
Zhongnan University of Economics and Law-China & Duke University


This paper is a study of the economic thought of Chinese women economists who received their doctorates of economics in America in the period of modern China (1840-1949). This paper provides a historical background of women’s education and women’s part in the studying abroad trend out of modern China. The main section of this paper focuses on the dissertations of three women economists who were part of first group of formally trained Chinese Ph.D. students: Mabel Ping-hua Lee, Chung-ying Kuo and Yu-pu Pan. Their economic thought is significant as part of the modern period, marked by the introduction of western economic thought into China. Their studies of Chinese economic development in a historical perspective were especially attentive to the changes of Chinese social and economic reality. As overseas students, their economic thought showed different degrees of their Chinese heritage and western influence. These women economists contributed usefully to the field of economic development in agricultural policy, Sino-British trade and international capital mobility.

Austrian School Women Economists

Giandomenica Becchio
University of Torino


Economists of the Austrian School, from Menger to Hayek, had a great influence on Viennese students of political economy in the early twentieth century. Among them, many women economists had a significant role: four generations of Austrian School women economists arose. The first generation (early XX century - 1919) was formed by students of Bohm-Bawerk and Mises. The second generation (interwar period) was formally formed by students of Mayer’s, but they were massively influenced by Mises. Both groups of Austrian School women economists strongly supported classical liberalism as the non-negotiable vision for their economic analysis; and they were very active in fighting for women’s emancipation, especially for their participation in the public sphere. In some cases, they were able to make original contributions to some typical Austrian themes: e.g., the micro-foundation of monetary economics (Braun), studies on international economic relations (Sommer), business cycles (Mintz), and inflation on international trade (Lovasy). The third generation of Austrian School women economists was formed by Hayek’s students at LSE (1930s-1970s) and by Mises’ students at NYU (1938-1960s). A fourth more recent generation began after the so called Austrian revival in the 1970s with the work of Sudha Shenoy. The third and fourth generations also enriched the Austrian tradition with some original ideas, such as Smith Lutz’s theory of wage dualism, Shenoy’s application of Austrian economic categories to the analysis of growth and development in developing countries. Also, they applied commonly accepted Austrian paradigm into new contexts (historical studies, specific histories of economic thought, as in Cronbach, Sommer, Spiro, Grice-Hutchinson, Bien Greaves). Finally, they disseminated Austrian economics, especially in their battle against Keynesian economics and in their works on monetary policy (Stolper, Braun, Herzfeld, Lieser, Lovasy, Smith Lutz, Shenoy).

Placing Women’s Economics within the Soviet Economic Discourse: 1920s-1991

Anna Klimina
University of Saskatchewan


This chapter provides a concise history of women’s economic thought in the Soviet Union. It argues that the involvement of Soviet women in economic science cannot be readily compared to the experience of women economists in Western cultures; very different socio-political forces were at work under Soviet authoritarianism. The main point is that, since education was equally granted to men and women in USSR, the ability of women to contribute was determined, not by gender, but by their ideological conformity. Those who chose to differ from the official Party line were completely marginalized, mostly through exile or imprisonment. The study demonstrates that women-economists who accepted Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy were quite influential in shaping Soviet official economics. Only in Soviet mathematical economics, which had no ideological restrictions, was possible to produce research on par with Western economic scholarship.

The First 100 Years of Female Economists in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lola Fowler
Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
Robert W. Dimand
Brock University


Despite underrepresentation at many African universities, women economists are now active in Sub-Saharan Africa, with some nine hundred African women economists belonging to the Association for the Advancement of African Women Economists, and several have achieved prominence, notably in such public-sector positions as finance minister or central banker. We examine the first generations of female economists in Sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the careers, contributions and writings of notable female economists in each of Southern Africa, East Africa and West Africa.

The Invisible Authors: Women at CEPAL (1948-2017)

Rebeca Gomez Betancourt
University of Lyon 2
Camila Orozco Espinel
School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences


Why are women less visible than men in our profession? How is the visibility of women in Latin America at the main economic institution, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (the CEPAL)? Here, we take the first step towards identifying the women associated directly or indirectly with the CEPAL. The idea is to contribute to rendering their names and work visible beyond their location and fields of work. To the best of our knowledge, there is no register or list of the women who have been professionally or academically connected to the Commission. Our purpose is therefore to highlight the importance of their contribution to the CEPAL’s research and operational activities and hence to Latin American intellectual, social, and economic life. Our aim is twofold. First, by using the CEPAL’s Digital Repository, we present the academic and professional background of the ten most prolific women between 1948-2017 who have published via any of the Commission’s media (journals, books, reports, etc.), including their fields, subfields, and focus areas. The idea is to go beyond the individual evaluation of these ten women’s trajectories and contributions, and look for the general trends that connect them as a group. We find that the top ten most published CEPAL women publish less than the ten most prolific CEPAL men. Our findings include that these ten most prolific women cluster in the 1990-2010 period, have interdisciplinary training, and tend to research on social issues of an applied nature. Secondly, we measure online visibility (personal website, Academia profile, etc.) as the mechanism of self-promotion that these women use to make their work visible outside of the Commission. Our evidence suggests an imbalance in terms of visibility between the most published 10 female and 10 male authors associated with CEPAL publications.
JEL Classifications
  • B1 - History of Economic Thought through 1925
  • B2 - History of Economic Thought since 1925