Carl Sagan, Women Explorers, and OT

In honor what would have been  Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday, @Lettersof Note posted a letter from Carl Sagan sent to members of the Explorers Club. Written in 1981, Dr. Sagan implores the club members to admit women into its membership, providing numerous examples of women who had made significant contributions to exploration and discovery including Sacagawea, Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall, and others.

The Explorers Club did admit women later that year, but reading Dr. Sagan’s letter made me consider how different many male-dominated fields are than ones like OT, which are primarily female-dominated. Whereas men such as Adolf Meyer, William Rush Dunton, and Herbert Hall were certainly integral to the inception of our profession, Eleanor Clark Slagle has always been attributed as the “mother” of OT.

It would be nearly impossible for us to imagine having limited access to professional or interest organizations related to our profession, but Dr. Sagan’s letter surely illustrates that as recently as the 1980s, this was a situation encountered by women scientists and explorers.

But are there separate issues when your field is largely female-dominated? Surely this shaped the development of the profession, but in what ways? Some authors, such as Gainer, Miller, and Hamlin have separately examined the relationship between feminism and OT, as it has been considered in other “helping professions.” In an ever-changing era of health service delivery, how does it continue to impact our profession? I think these are ideas worth “exploring,” as an ode to Dr. Sagan.

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