A Chemical Passion
The Forgotten Story of Chemistry at British Independent Girls' Schools, 1820s–1930s

Paper: 978 1 78277 188 3 / $41.95
Published: March 2017  

Publisher: UCL IOE Press
276 pp., 6 1/8" x 9 1/5"

Chemistry is traditionally thought to have been a masculine subject in secondary schools – one at which boys excelled and girls had limited interest. In this groundbreaking work, Marelene and Geoff Rayner-Canham reveal that from the 1820s to the 1930s chemistry teaching flourished in girls’ independent schools in Britain. This tradition tailed off before the Second World War, and a proud history was forgotten even in the schools where it had once flourished. Here the authors present a rich and multifaceted account that reveals the hidden history of a landmark achievement in the education of women.

Table of Contents:
Preface and acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The revolution in girls’ education, 1850–1910; 2. The earliest chemistry education for girls; 3. Chemistry and the two role-model girls’ schools; 4. Chemistry as a girls’ subject; 5. The pioneering women chemistry teachers; 6. Practical chemistry at girls’ schools; 7. Chemistry and school science clubs; 8. In their own words: Chemistry poetry and short stories; 9. Chemistry at some Welsh girls’ schools; 10. Chemistry at some Scottish girls’ schools; 11. What will the chemistry students do?; 12. The 1930s: The end of an era; References; Index

Reviews & Endorsements:
"Already renowned as pioneers in the history of science education for women, the Rayner-Canhams have now produced a stimulating, in-depth account of chemistry teaching in girls’ schools between the middle of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Based on extraordinarily extensive archival research, this much-needed and informative analysis also offers a treasure-trove of lively, original quotations from students, teachers and school magazines."
- Dr Patricia Fara, Clare College, Cambridge
"The authors’ painstaking, but elegant, study of the archives of some 60 independent British girls’ schools reveals a forgotten world of dedicated women science teachers, enthusiastic pupils and well-equipped laboratories. With its profiles of large numbers of female teachers whose dedicated service made scientific careers for women possible, A Chemical Passion is a valuable work of reference as well as an absorbing narrative with captivating illustrations."
- William H. Brock, Emeritus Professor of History of Science, University of Leicester