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Gender Issues, Feminism and Economics in the History of Economic Thought

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (CST)

Grand Hyatt, Independence
Hosted By: History of Economics Society
  • Chair: Manuela Mosca, University of Salento

Towards Feminist Histography of Economics

Edith Kuiper
SUNY-New Paltz


Over the past decades, research on neglected and under-researched women economic writers and
women economists has taken off in the history of economics. The focus in this work has
predominantly been on the work and life of these women and the contextualization of their work,
bringing together an important body of work that has enriched the history of economic thought.
This paper proposes to move from here towards an approach to writing the history of economics
that integrates and moves beyond what feminist scholars would refer to as 'add and stir;' add
women and leave it to that. The paper explores the impacts of taking the gathered insights into
account rethinking the histography of the economics taking the work and lives of women
economic writers and economists into account. One of the arguments will be that to understand
the neglect of women economists and their exclusion from the narrative of the history of
economics, notions of gender and race also need to be taken into account.

Anna Doyle Wheeler on the Conditions and Consequences of Gender Equality

Kirsten Madden
Millersville University
Joseph Persky
University of Illinois-Chicago


At the vortex of British radical social thought in the early 19th century, the utilitarian feminist,
Anna Doyle Wheeler generates still relevant analysis of the political economy of gender. Wheeler
and her coauthor William Thompson are credited in the feminist literature with being the first to
appreciate that reproductive labor, however exploited, plays a central role in the capitalist
economy. Wheeler convincingly presents an argument why piecemeal reform within capitalism
cannot generate meaningful equality. The answer, according to Wheeler, must be a cooperative
economy. This paper formalizes what we call the fundamental theorem of Anna Doyle Wheeler: (I)
high levels of social welfare require gender equality; and (II) gender equality requires a
cooperative economic system. In supporting Part I of the theorem, Wheeler makes a non-trivial
utilitarian argument. We offer a formal model reconstructing her logic. Conditional on
interdependence and perceptions of happiness, there is a fundamental coherence underlying Part
I of her theorem. Part II of the theorem is explicated using Wheeler’s insights into social
psychology and her understanding of the institutions of cooperation. Throughout Wheeler
anticipates modern feminist thought on power and resistance.

Gender, the 'Old Boy Network' and the American Economic Review in the Early Years

Ann Mari May
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The economics profession is awakening to a long-held secret -- the gender problem in the dismal
science is profound and in need to attention. To better understand the origins of current
challenges facing women in the profession, this research focuses on publishing in the American
Economic Review (AER) in the early years from 1911 to 1948. Utilizing material from the archives
of the American Economic Association (AEA) along with novel data sets, I examine the emergence
of an 'old boy network' in the publishing of scholarly journal articles and the ways in which the
relationships between mostly male editors, and mostly male authors may have enhanced the
likelihood of publishing more than one article in the AER. In this analysis, we see the role that
having a doctoral degree from the same institution as an editor occasionally played in improving
the odds of publishing and we also see the role that having a doctorate from the same institution
where an editor is currently employed worked against these odds. In other words, the empirical
analysis presented here sheds light on the 'old boy network' in the increasingly important sphere
of publishing. This examination may allow us to see more clearly, not just the history of women in
the profession, but the current dilemma's facing women in the dismal science.

Rethinking the History of Economics from a Gender Perspective: The Italian Case

Giandomenica Becchio
University of Torino
Manuela Mosca
University of Salento


In the history of women's thought, the specificities of the female condition call for
alternative methods to identify their contributions, especially in the more distant past. In fact, the
methodological tools used in the traditional history of economic thought made up predominantly
of men prove ineffective in the case of women: one can study the treaties and theoretical articles
written by men for reasons related to the roles they held, while women lived in a world with no
incentives to behave in the same way and without the possibility of accessing the same roles.
Research using traditional methodological tools would therefore reveal only the absence of women,
and the reality would be distorted. Hence, it is necessary to seek other sources that even indirectly
indicate the presence of women thinking about economic issues, such as archives, activities,
After a methodological introduction, this paper will present a reconstruction of the thought and
impact of a large number of overlooked or forgotten Italian female “economists” between 1750 and
1950. The reconstruction of the biographies of this sample of women and of the cultural, social,
economic and political context in which they lived, enables us to identify various important
contributions to economic thought. Furthermore, a study with such a long time-span as this (1750-
1950) enables us to attempt a further step, notoriously difficult in women’s intellectual history, that
of tracing their influence on subsequent economic thought. This study will contribute to the
rethinking of the history of economic thought from a gender perspective.
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches
  • J7 - Labor Discrimination