Women in American Cartography

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Tyner, Judith. Women in American Cartography: An Invisible Social History. London: Lexington Books, 2020. 131 p. $85.00. ISBN: 978-1-4985-4829-8

Tyner’s goal in Women in American Cartography is simple. She wants to fill a very real gap in American cartographic history and knowledge—contributions by women. It is easy to argue why we need to fill this knowledge gap. In her opening paragraph, we learn that the most celebrated female cartographer in American history is Marie Tharp, yet the map most often associated with her in books is not hers! More systematically in history, much is lost to time because women were not able or inclined to sign their maps. As part of that narrative, Tyner details how she identified the women highlighted in this book and examines the difficulty in locating their work and their stories.

Chapters are filled with vignettes on the women Tyner meticulously cultivated, and they are great fun. Some read like mini travel journals—easy to imagine. Others read like truncated manifestos on the professional travails of women in this field—still, to this day, easy to understand and empathize with. Throughout, Tyner weaves these stories with a sharp focus on the cartographer’s contributions.

The vignettes and accompanying figures make Women in American Cartography an easy read. While primarily text, every other page includes maps or photos that support the narrative. It’s a physically small book so reproductions are in black and white and are necessarily smaller than might be ideal. One seemingly useful thing was missing from the book: a master list or timeline of women with supplemental data points like dates and area of contribution.
Women in American Cartography is a necessary contribution to our discipline and worth the inclusion in libraries, especially those with collections on the history and evolutions of cartography as a discipline.

Megan A. Gall, PhD
Leadership Conference Education Fund
Washington, DC

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