Women at the Roots of Sociology.

Contributions to Empirical Research in the USA, Europe, and Italy


  • Marigrazia Santagati University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Chiara Ferrari University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Eleonora Noia University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Cecilia Cornaggia University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Letizia Medina University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy




Different generations of sociologists have learnt, during their studies, that The Suicide by Émile Durkheim (1897) is the first sociological research. However, since the ‘90s American feminist scholars have highlighted the existence of previous empirical work carried out also by women, starting from Martineau’s books (1837). Bio-biographical studies have identified the fundamental contribution of Women Founders to the origins and developments of social sciences: women found in the empiricism an important instrument for the cause of equal rights, collecting in rigorous ways data for their empowerment against the patriarchal order. Approaching to a such broad and unexplored field, the article presents and summarizes the studies of women belonging to different geographical Western areas, who distinguished for their pioneering experience in empirical research. These women were authors of sociological articles and volumes, experts in qualitative or/and quantitative method and techniques. Their works offer an insight into the production of sociological knowledge at the dawn of the discipline, adding crucial details on the researchers’ standpoint and their need to understand and improve an ever-changing social world. Finally, the paper reconstructs a chronology of 23 empirical studies quoted and discussed in the article, conducted by women between 1837 and 1929: it could be an embryonic tool that can open up new and unexpected perspectives in sociological research, analysis, and training.

Keywords: Women Founders, empiricism, social research, USA, Europe.


2023-06-07 — Updated on 2023-06-07