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Map Worlds

A History of Women in Cartography

Will C. van den Hoonaard

Hardcover 394 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-932-6

Release Date: August 2013


Hardcover edition is out of print.  

Paper 394 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-77112-126-2

Release Date: May 2014

Online discount: 25%

$32.99  $24.74


eBook availability

Map Worlds plots a journey of discovery through the world of women map-makers from the golden age of cartography in the sixteenth-century Low Countries to tactile maps in contemporary Brazil. Author Will C. van den Hoonaard examines the history of women in the profession, sets out the situation of women in technical fields and cartography-related organizations, and outlines the challenges they face in their careers. Map Worlds explores women as colourists in early times, describes the major houses of cartographic production, and delves into the economic function of intermarriages among cartographic houses and families. It relates how in later centuries, working from the margins, women produced maps to record painful tribal memories or sought to remedy social injustices. Much later, one woman so changed the way we think about continents that the shift has been likened to the Copernican revolution. Other women created order and wonder about the lunar landscape, and still others turned the art and science of making maps inside out, exposing the hidden, unconscious, and subliminal “text” of maps. Shared by all these map-makers are themes of social justice and making maps work for the betterment of humanity.

Will C. van den Hoonaard is a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of New Brunswick and the author or editor of eight books. Most recently, he authored a series on ethics in research, including the acclaimed The Seduction of Ethics. His current interests cover qualitative research, research ethics, Bahá’is, human rights, and the world of map-makers. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.


“This book offers a ‘rehabilitative history’ and is an important contribution to the field of gender studies.... Well-researched and written, and recommended for academic library collections.”

— Susan McKee, University of Calgary, Western Association of Map Libraries Information Bulletin

“An inspiring book that is fascinating and highly-researched.”

— Jennifer Carter, University of the Sunshine Coast, The Globe: Journal of The Australian and New Zealand Map Society Inc.

“The vignettes draw together perhaps the only source for personal biographies of female pioneers in heavily male-dominated professions.”

— Julie Sweetkind-Singer, The Portolan

Map Worlds provides a social and cultural analysis of the intersections between gender and cartographic practice. By focussing on maps themselves, Map Worlds fits within the new materialist turn within the social sciences, rejecting binaries between matter and discourse and attributing agency to things. There is also a focus on the epistemic uniqueness of women-made maps which is a real point of interest for readers (like myself) broadly concerned with gender and technology. The major strength of the book is built on interviews with 25 women occupied in cartography.... Attention to the structural and normative environment of cartography is a proper area of focus for a sociologist but one that has until now remained understudied.... The author is particularly interested in how the contours of this map world have circumscribed the lives of female cartographers.... Map Worlds seeks some redress for the exclusion and exploitation of female cartographers, both by providing detailed visibilty on the role of women in the production of cartographic knowledge from the 13th C on (29–168) and by telling the in-depth stories of particular women map-makers (169–204).... Van den Hoonaard makes the claim that theoretical shifts within cartography away from realist approaches has made some wiggle room for the simultaneous recognition of women cartographers because women make maps differently, more subjectively. This is a tricky argument to make without sliding toward essentialism. There is of course a wealth of good research demonstrating that female scientists set different sorts of research questions and may even bring a unique epistemological perspective on the same sets of questions or data (eg. Fox-Keller 1985). Map Worlds engages with such empirical research—specifically that coming out of feminist geography and cartography (269–284)—which helps to provide nuance to the claim about gendered cartographic practice.”

— Kelly Bronson, St. Thomas University, Canadian Journal of Sociology