Gender, Digital Publishing, and “Lady Science”

downloadIn this second post of the summer we’re highlighted the work of the digital magazine Lady Science. In the interview below I spoke with co-editors and creators of Lady Science Anna Reser and Leila McNeill. Leila is currently an independent researcher and freelance writer. She studied History of Science at the University of Oklahoma and Literary Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. Anna is a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma in History of Science, and previously studied art at the University of New Mexico.

Sarah Naramore: Where did the idea for Lady Science come from? Also, what were the steps you needed to take to go from idea for full-fledged digital magazine?

Leila McNeill: I don’t think we had that idea in mind when we started. It was the year after I had left OU [University of Oklahoma]. Anna was a year behind me and we wanted to keep working together so we started a women in science newsletter. It started as a TinyLetter, just us writing some essays, and it got popular quickly. It became clear that it couldn’t just be a newsletter anymore. There was more potential to it than just us writing a newsletter every month.

Anna Reser: Yeah, once we realized that there was a potential audience, I think that was motivating to try to figure out ways to grow the project and kind of knuckle down and be like, “Well, people are going to read this. We should be serious about it.” Think about the future of what we want to do and start making some plans. We just kind of jumped into it. Once we got a little bit of a readership, that was sort of all the push that I think we needed.

SN: What is the readership at this point like?

LM: It’s a lot of different people. It started out, with the H-Net post and most of the people signed up in that initial launch were historians and academics. Then, over that first year, it steadily grew beyond just academics. Then we got covered in Slate on the “Bad Astronomy” blog, and that brought in a lot of more science-y people, not just history people. And we’ve gotten a couple surprising plugs as well. One was from a fashion and makeup magazine that featured us in a Snapchat thing. So it’s really cool that we’ve been able to see how this content appeals to so many different people.

AR: I don’t know what our numbers are right now. We’re a little bit spread out over different platforms. We still have the TinyLetter. We’re syndicating with the The New Inquiry, and then we have our own website. We have about 580 TinyLetter subscribers.

SN: On that note, would you describe your content a bit? Is there anything that’s been recently published that you’re excited about?

AR: We don’t focus just on women as practitioners in science. We look at women as having been objects of scientific inquiry, like the gendered understandings of nature and science and we’ve had several issues unpacking that, and we also look more, at the structural things going on there. So not only do I think we tell different stories about women in the history of science, I think we also tell stories about science.

LM: What makes us different than others writing about women in history of science is that we don’t do profiles. And we don’t like to that whole unsung women in the history of science type of stuff. We like to do more critical theorizing about things. Right now we’ve got our special series on “Fascism, Gender, and Science”. Part of that was because we wanted to address things that people were thinking about with what’s going on right now, and give people a historical context for where we’re at. I think historians always have a lot to offer when it comes to that, and I think that a lot of academics don’t know how to do that or don’t know what platforms are out there.

SN: Speaking of practice, that leads into something else that I wanted to talk about, your collaborative editorial process. Why is that something important that you and how does it affect the magazine?

AR: When we first decided to have outside contributors, one of the things that we were really adamant about was that there wasn’t going to be any revise and resubmit kind of journal-type format. We wanted it to be more like a traditional magazine in that you would submit a pitch instead of a finished piece, and that the process would be a collaborative one between writer and editor. As an editor, one of the most surprising things that I found about working on this project after we started having other people write for us is how rewarding I find that process and how useful it is for me as a writer to have editing experience. I have found it really rewarding and really a rich experience to work with all these different types of writers and to get to know their style, and it’s nice to hear that the work that you did with someone is something they’re proud of.

LM: Yeah, I like that we personally respond to all of the pitches. We are the ones who edit them. We use Google Docs on purpose because it is collaborative and you can see who is doing what. We do have a certain style and word count that we have to stick to so that there is some consistency that our readers come to expect from us. But we’re also really careful to try not to change someone’s voice and tone and that they get to write the way that they want to, or the way that feels good for them or natural for them. We want them to feel that at the end of it that it wasn’t just a chop job that we did because it was what we wanted. We want it to be something that they’re also happy with and proud of.

I’ve been freelancing a little bit, and there is just so much variation in the way that editors work and the things that they expect from their writers and that they expect from cold calls or prior relationship pitches or whatever. I wish it was the way that we did it everywhere because it’s meant to be welcoming to people who don’t have experience, sort of writing out there in digital media. And I think that sets the tone for a less adversarial kind of interaction. You know what we want and you show us what you want and we will work together on it.

SN: If people are interested in writing, what would you be interested in hearing about?

AR: We are always accepting pitches on our website. Fill out the form, it will send us an email, and we’ll get back to you usually within a week. If we decide to go ahead and assign it, we will send you a writing guideline, and ask that, if you haven’t already, look through some old issues to get a feel for the essays that we publish. Then we’ll assign you a month to write in, set some deadlines up, and then you can get started. Right now, we’re particularly interested in more non-western history of science as well as pre-modern. Can we add one thing about our crowdfunding? Right now we are crowdfunding using Patreon in order to expand how much content we can offer and also to be able to host all of our content ourselves.

LM: Yeah and did we mention that we do pay you for the essays? If you pitch and we assign you a piece, it’s $50 per piece. Because of that, we’re locked into only two essays per issue, but it would be really nice if we could do more than two essays.

SN: Is there anything, looking over your experience with you found important or surprising, just either from the experience of putting this together or the feedback you’ve gotten from people?

LM: Any of it! That we’re still sitting here talking about it at all!

AR: I think part of the reason for that is that there are a lot of things that we didn’t know that we would be able to do until we did them, and for me, that was the big lesson of this project. We would talk about doing something, and we would be like, “Do you have any idea how to do that?” “No, do you?” “Well, I will just figure it out.” So everything was like that. It’s also much less scary, I think, to say “I have no idea how to do that; I will just figure it out,” if you’re not doing it alone. So forming and growing our partnership has been really rewarding, both for us as friends but also all of the things that I’ve learned how to do because I have Leila’s support. If we’re just going to jump into something, I know that if I screw it up, she’s there to back me up or fix it. It becomes a lot easier to try new things and learn new skills. That’s something that is a really important part of the project to me personally that was also surprising.

LM: I feel the same. I never would have done any of this on my own for sure, and something that was surprising—the full-time thing that I did outside of the thing that I got paid for, I turned out to be okay at it, and something that I want to be doing as a full-time thing eventually. That part of it, the personal trajectory is a thing that I would probably never have done without being partners with Anna. So it’s been really rewarding. We do try to have, to make it feel like a team. Academia can be so isolating. Even if you’re in a cohort together, at the end of the day you still go back to your thing, to your books, alone, sad, crying in fear. Whatever your method is.

Read, Pitch, and Support Lady Science:


Three Societies Meeting – Edmonton, Alberta


Final CFP and Extended Submission Deadline – 10 December 2015

Eighth Joint Meeting of the BSHS, CSHPS, and HSS
22-25 June 2016, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The eighth joint meeting of the British Society for the History of Science, the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science Society will take place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Previous successful meetings were in Philadelphia (2012), Oxford (2008), Halifax, Nova Scotia (2004), St Louis (2000), Edinburgh (1996), Toronto (1992), and Manchester (1988).

The theme of the meeting will be “Transitions.”  Although presenters are not confined to this theme, the Program Committee is seeking papers or sessions that reflect this theme and encourages participants to consider the broader scientific, scholarly and social implications associated with moments of scientific transition.

The conference will take place at the University of Alberta. Founded in 1905, U of A is located in Edmonton, Canada’s most northern major city. U of A has 37,000 students and more than 3,000 faculty and academic staff. Accommodation will be available on campus and near campus.

The program will include parallel themed sessions, plenary lectures, education and outreach activities, a reception at the Art Gallery of Alberta and a Conference Dinner (TBA).  Delegates can explore the vibrant arts scene, and there are many festivals in June, including the Edmonton International Jazz Festival.

The Program Committee welcomes proposals for sessions or individual papers based around the conference theme from researchers at all stages of their careers. Participation is in no way limited to members of the three organizing societies, but there will be a discount for members.  Intending participants should also note that the usual HSS rules concerning presenting at successive conferences do not apply to this meeting.

The EXTENDED DEADLINE for submitting a session or paper proposal is 10 December 2015.

Full details of how to submit your session or abstract can be found at:

Inquiries concerning the program should be directed to:

Inquiries concerning the conference should be directed to:

HSS San Fran 2015: Everything You Need to Know

It’s that time of year again! By now you know if you’ve made it into the 2015 HSS Annual Meeting program, and you’ve started searching anxiously for funding, scrolling Orbitz for the best flights and counting frequent flyer miles. The GECC blog will do its best to keep you up-to-date on all of the pertinent info about deadlines for networking activities, events (and whether there will be alcohol present), and give you easy access to the HSS webpage.

A few reminders…

Scholar profiles: HSS GECC wants to feature HSS early careerist and graduate student scholars here on this blog! It’s a great way to stir up some interest in your panel or talk and get people excited! Plus, we love to hear from you. Check out our previous scholar profiles. If interested, email

Volunteering: HSS is still looking for volunteers to help run the show during the annual meeting in San Fran. Email if interested or see our link. This is a great way to meet people, and you will have your registration fee waived or reimbursed (if you’ve already paid it). It’s an easy way to save a few bucks!

Accommodations: If you are a graduate student with or without membership in HSS, there may still be available rooms in the conference hotel at the reduced graduate student nightly rate! Get in touch with HSS by emailing ASAP to make your reservations at the Westin St. Francis.

Mentorship: Keep in mind that the sign-up for the Graduate and Early Career Caucus Mentorship program is now available. Sign-up is easy, quick, and will ultimately connect you to a more senior scholar at the upcoming meeting in November.

Funding: Also, do not hesitate to apply for funding! The deadline is coming up quick. HSS allots travel grants to professional scholars and graduate students to assist them in getting to conference destinations every year. There are also Dependent Care Grants available. Deadline: September 30, 2015.

CV Review: Going on the job market? Need to polish up your CV, Cover Letter, or ask an expert tips on interviewing? The History of Science Society’s Graduate and Early Career Caucus invites you to have our CV review workshop. Have a professional in your field look over your job materials and give you instant feedback IN PERSON at HSS). Sign up now!


Stay tuned for more information about the GECC Business Meeting, mentorship events, networking receptions and mixers in the coming weeks.

Early Career Profile – Monique Dufour

In our newest Career Profile meet Monique Dufour, a recent PhD who will be presenting her paper “‘The Library as Laboratory’: Bibliotherapy and the Clinical Study of Literature as Medicine, 1940–1960,” at HSS 2014 on Saturday morning (9:00AM-11:45AM) as part of the panel “The Institution as Laboratory: Captive Bodies and the Production of Scientific Knowledge” (Michigan Ballroom I, Level 2).

What is your approach to the history of science?

I explore encounters between science, medicine, and the humanities, especially in the 20th- and 21st centuries. I am curious about how and why people have tried to connect these domains and how each may have been reconstituted and transformed in the process. For instance, my dissertation, Reading for Health: Bibliotherapy and the Medicalized Humanities in the US, 1930-1965, aims to recover and explore the midcentury processes by which therapeutic reading became at once natural, medical, and scientific. I tell the story of midcentury hospital librarians, psychologists, and language arts educators who believed that reading could and should promote health, and for whom science seemed to offer the most promising way to develop knowledge about the “embodied reader.” I’m driven by topics and questions that allow me to explore how science—as an epistemological project, a cultural resource, as an article of faith—circulated.

Monique Dufour

Monique Dufour, Virginia Tech

What was your experience like at your first HSS meeting?

I first presented at HSS in 2011, when I was just starting to think about my dissertation. I came to doctoral work in Science and Technology Studies from the fields of writing, literature, and book history. As I developed my project, my advisor Matthew Wisnioski encouraged me to focus on the questions about science raised by my historical actors. “This is a history of science project,” he often told me. Because I was still learning about the history of science, I was a bit nervous about conceiving of the project in that way. But the experience of submitting that paper, presenting it, and participating in the conference was tremendous. I appreciated the collegial and genuinely curious spirit among the panelists and attendees alike, and especially the constructive feedback I received at my panel. While I came to the conference certain that the history of science was relevant to my emerging research program, I came away equally sure that this was a community of which I wanted to be a part. Anyone who has the erroneous impression that the history of science is only a specialized field for focused experts should attend HSS to experience for themselves the astonishing scope of topics, and their essential connections to cultural and social issues.

What do you see on your professional horizon?
Having just completed my PhD, I will soon be, like many of us, “on the market.” (What a phrase!) To help me through this process, I try each day to remember powerful advice given to me by a Virginia Tech colleague, Brian Britt: “Take seriously the idea of making a contribution.”

If I can paint my own horizon, I see a post-doc in which I can participate in a community of scholars, think and write together, and continue to develop my projects and research program. I then see a tenure-track position where I may build a writing and teaching life among colleagues. We all know that these goals are elusive, but I remain committed to believing that they are possible.

But as Annie Dillard says, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” So I’m working toward these goals through how I spend my days teaching and writing. Currently, I’m finishing an article for the medical humanities community about how U.S. librarians and psychologists in the 1970s deliberated quite explicitly about how to define therapeutic reading either as science-based medicine or as a humanistic practice. I’m also writing an article for a history of science and medicine audience about how literacy educators in the midcentury U.S. came to believe that it was their job to promote health. I really enjoy thinking about how my research and writing can and should change for different audiences, such as students at a range of levels and scholars from different disciplinary contexts. It keeps my writing fresh and challenging, and helps me to feel connected to others even when I’m sitting at my desk among my books and ideas.

Monique Dufour is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech, where she is also directs the Medicine and Society minor. She holds a PhD and MS in STS, as well as an MA in English. Before her doctoral work, she directed the University Writing Program and was a faculty development consultant at VT’s Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Previously, she was a Writing Fellow at Duke University’s University Writing Program. Her paper at this year’s HSS meeting in Chicago is a part of the panel, “The Institution as Laboratory: Captive Bodies and the Production of Scientific Knowledge.”

CV Reviews at HSS 2014

Graduate Students: Does you CV need a little work? Are you attending the History of Science Society meeting this week?

The History of Science Society’s Graduate and Early Career Caucus is offering free CV reviews for graduate students and early careerists during the History of Science Society’s meeting.

Sign up here. Although it may be possible to sign up during the meeting, we ask that you sign up ASAP to ensure your session time.