by Paulette I. Olson and Zohreh Emami. London and New York: Routledge. 2002. Paper, ISBN: 0415205565, $31.95. 267 pages.
In their book, Engendering Economics: Conversations with Women Economists in the United States, Paulette I. Olson and Zohreh Emami use feminist research through oral histories to provide insight into eleven remarkable women who completed PhDs in economics from prestigious schools between 1950 and 1975. This was a period when the percentage of women earning PhDs in economics was declining. "This cohort, [Olson and Emami] believe, constitutes a unique group of women because they represent the postwar pioneers who have charted the way for future generations of women economists" (p. 5). All the women have been very successful, even if it took a few years to get their careers really on track. The breadth of experience they have had ranges from former association presidents and distinguished professors to vice-chair of the Federal Reserve. Some have spent their lives in academia, others have spent their lives in public service, and still others have had a mix. For this endeavor, the authors interviewed Ingrid Hahne Rima, Marianne Abeles Ferber, Barbara Berman Bergmann, Alice Mitchell Rivlin, Suzanne Wiggins Helburn, Anne Mayhew, Myra Hoffenberg Strober, Barbara Ann Posey Jones, Lois Banfill Shaw, Margaret Constance Simms, and Lourdes Beneria.
The book is organized chronologically by the date each interviewee finished her PhD. Each chapter begins with a short biographical introduction of the woman. Photographs add to the material by making the reader feel as if she is involved with a conversation getting to know these women. The authors chose four main themes to discuss in their interviews: family history, educational experience, family and professional lives, and experience as a professional economist. They also allowed each interview to follow its own path. This allowed the interviewee some control over the direction of the interview and allows the reader to see differences in the personalities of the interviewees.
The family background of these women varies greatly. Jones's parents had little formal education; both Shaw and Simms had mothers and fathers who had a college education, while only Strober's and Mayhew's mothers had a college education. What was common among all the women is that they always knew they were going to college and they had their parents' support.
For almost half of these women mathematics was a key...