Science is sometimes defined as a way of seeing things. Women still
far too often constitute a "blind spot" in the vision of the scientific
in Women in Science - Token Women or Gender Equality (1991).
RESEARCH WORK IN 'A FAMILY BUSINESS'
The entomologist John Sahlberg wrote to his friend in 1873: "Soon after
the wedding I will leave with Mimmi, who also is greatly interested in
natural phenomena and has done some studying in botany, for Kuusamo to
spend the summer in that fascinating area." On this combined honeymoon
and field trip, as on numerous trips later on, Mimmi Sahlberg
participated in the collection and cataloguing of plants. She also made
donations of her own to the collections of the Societas pro Fauna et
Flora Fennica. Mimmi Sahlberg was the first woman to be invited to join
this learned society, the oldest in the country. Having received the
invitation, she wrote to her friend in horror: "I'm so ashamed. I
wouldn't dare to attend the meetings..."
Mimmi Sahlberg was not the only
wife to support her husband's work without making a fuss about her own
contribution. Wives followed their husbands on field trips to the most
remote areas to collect plants, dialects and folk heritage. They took
roles from typists to proof readers and editors. Sometimes the role of
"assistant" or "associate" led to independent research work, but in most
cases the famous husband overshadowed the wife's achievements;
supporting the husband and running the family's household forced the
wife to give up her own career.
1 Mimmi Sahlberg and her husband, entomologist John Sahlberg
leaving for a honeymoon field trip to Kuusamo 1873. Photo:
2 Mimmi Sahlberg. Photo: Antero Saalas.
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