Reviewing Uncle Charles’s new book

Charles Darwin’s readership largely consisted of other well-educated Victorian men, nonetheless, there were a few women who did read, review, and respond to Darwin’s work. One of these women was Darwin’s own niece, Julia Wedgwood, known in the family as “Snow”. In July 1861 Wedgwood published a review of Origin entitled “The Boundaries of Science” in Macmillan’s Magazine. As a family member and one of the few female reviewers of Darwin’s work, Wedgwood’s review merits further exploration.

 

Julia Wedgwood was said to be one of the smartest of her generation in the impressively intellectual Wedgwood and Darwin families. Through her family, Julia Wedgwood gained connections to many academic and literary luminaries of the day including Charles Darwin, Robert Browning, Thomas H. Huxley, Elizabeth Gaskell, John Ruskin, James Martineau, and Thomas Erskine. At her zenith, Wedgwood was considered one of the great female intellectuals. Deeply interested in reconciling intellectual Christianity and Darwinism, Wedgwood worked for 22 years on a volume entitled Moral Ideal: a Historic Study.  Her book is a history of the evolution of ethics in the great world civilizations, from antiquity through Victorian scientific positivism and theological modernism.

 

Given her interest in reconciling Darwinism and Christianity, it is unsurprising that Wedgwood structured her review of Origin as a dialogue between the religiously orthodox “Philocalos” (lover of beauty) and the defender of Darwinism “Philalethes” (lover of truth). Importantly, Wedgwood’s review suggests that natural selection is not inherently at odds with Creation. The crux of Wedgwood’s argument is that natural selection provides an explanation of the origin of species but says nothing of the origin of life. Therefore, Creation is upheld as the means by which life came to be and natural selection is upheld as the means by which God’s creatures reach His ultimate goal. As Wedgwood wrote:

 

“The principle of natural selection is the answer to the question, How were these forms perfected? It throws no light on the question, Whence do they  originally spring?

 Wedgwood’s review was well-received by Charles Darwin. Indeed, Darwin wrote to Wedgwood about her review, saying:

 

“Some one has sent us ‘Macmillan’; and I must tell you how much I admire  your Article; though at the same time I must confess that I could not clearly   follow you in some parts, which is in main part due to my not being at all  accustomed to metaphysical trains of thought. I think that you understand  my book perfectly, and that I find a very rare event with my critics.” [Letter  July 11, [1861] from Darwin, C.D. to Wedgwood, F.J.]

 

Although Wedgwood was an accomplished thinker and writer, her scholarly career was impeded by the societal expectations placed on her as a maiden aunt in a large family circle. As a result of her familial position, Wedgwood spent much of her adult life caring for relatives’ children and ailing elderly relatives.

 

Toward the end of her life Wedgwood regretted that she had not had the opportunity to attend university as many of the younger generation, and lamented that she might have made so much more of her life.   On 8 March 2013, International Women’s Day, when the Darwin Correspondence Project hosted an event to augment wikipedia entries on some of the women encountered in Charles Darwin’s letters, Snow Wedgwood was one of our priority figures and her entry was largely re-written. It can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Julia_Wedgwood

 

Posted by Myrna Perez

and Katie Ericksen Baca

 

Sources:

Jose Harris, ‘Wedgwood, (Frances) Julia (1833–1913)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/52808, accessed 14 Sept 2010]

 

[Wedgwood, Frances Julia]. 1860–1. The boundaries of science, a dialogue. Macmillan’s Magazine 2 (1860): 134–8; 4 (1861): 237-47.

 

Wedgwood Barbara and Hensleigh Wedgwood. 1980. The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897. Studio vista. London.

‘Darwin & Gender’ resources released!

New ‘Darwin & Gender’ resources

The Darwin Correspondence Project is proud to announce the release of a major set of online resources aimed at students and researchers of the History of Science, Gender History and Gender Studies. The Darwin & Gender resources are the culmination of a two-year research initiative funded by the Bonita Trust and led by Dr. Philippa Hardman.

 

Darwin praises the editorial work of his daughter, Henrietta. DAR 185:58. Copyright © Cambridge University Library

Perhaps most notably, our research has shown that Darwin and his contemporaries’ views on gender were remarkably complex, especially in the private context. Thus, while Darwin’s ostensibly-objective publications generally reflected (and, indeed, reinforced) Victorian middle class gender ideology, in his correspondence we encounter a world of private thoughts and actions which often defied the dictates of Victorian gender ideals.

 

By examining Darwin’s published works alongside his private correspondence, the Darwin & Gender resources offer insight into the complexities of Victorian gender in public and private and in theory and practice. The resources raise interesting questions about the participation of men and women in the world of nineteenth-century science. More generally, they encourage us to reconsider our assumptions about the construction, content and impact of gender ideology in Victorian Britain.

 

Lucy Wedgwood. By kind permission of JJ Heath-Caldwell

One of the key findings of the Darwin & Gender research project relates to women’s involvement in the world of Victorian science. In Darwin’s correspondence we find not only groundbreaking Victorian ‘heroines’ of science such as Mary Somerville and Lydia Becker but also a large number of women who, often routinely, made little-known contributions to Darwin’s work.

 

The first theme, ‘Women and Science‘, focuses on those women who contributed to Darwin’s work: who were Darwin’s ‘scientific’ women correspondents? What motivated and enabled them to engage with Darwin’s publications? What sorts of contributions did women make to Darwin’s work? And did Darwin value their efforts? This theme includes a special exercise on scientists’ wives who, contrary to expectations, typically made significant contributions to their husbands’ scientific work.

 

Lucy Wedgwood’s work for “Uncle Ch.” (May, 1865). DAR 108:74. Copyright © Cambridge University Library

In the second theme, ‘Sex and Scientific Participation‘, we consider scientific participation in a comparative context: did Darwin’s men and women correspondents do the same sorts of scientific work? Did Darwin respond to men and women in the same way? And how did one’s sex influence where, when and how one encountered Darwin’s works? This theme also contains an exercise on the referencing of Darwin’s correspondents’ contributions: men and women alike contributed to Darwin’s major works, but were their efforts referenced equally and consistently throughout Darwin’s publications?

 

 

The Entomologist (G. Spratt, 1830), reproduced with the permission of the owner.

The final theme – the ‘Gendered Status of Science‘ – considers the unstable gendered status of natural science during the nineteenth century. Drawing on Darwin’s correspondence, we highlight how nineteenth-century gender ideology made scientific participation problematic for men and women alike. Was science a man’s world in nineteenth-century Britain? Why did Victorian men of science describe their work as ‘labour‘? And what can we learn from Victorian caricatures about the relationship between science and gender in nineteenth-century Britain?

 

 

Lady Florence Dixie (1880)

Lady Florence Dixie (1880)

To celebrate the launch of the resources, we will be working with Andrew Gray – the Wikipedian in residence at the British Library  - on a ‘Women in Science’ Wikipedia event at Cambridge University Library. At the event a team of volunteers will join project members in drawing on Darwin’s correspondence to create and/or expand the Wikipedia profiles of a selection of Darwin’s scientific women correspondents.

 

Among the correspondents in focus will be botanist, meteorologist and keen photographer Thereza Story-Maskelyne, populariser of science Anne Jane Cupples, American feminist Emily Talbot and Victorian explorer and early promotor of women’s football, Lady Florence Dixie.

 

The gender resources were developed with funding provided by the Bonita Trust and with significant input and assistance from a number of project colleagues, especially Katie Ericksen Baca.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

Gender ‘Behind the Scenes’

Darwin praises Henrietta’s corrections of ‘Descent’, CUL DAR 185:58 (1870)

The Darwin Correspondence Project recently launched an online exhibit - ’Darwin Behind the Scenes.’ The exhibit uses Charles Darwin’s personal correspondence as a means of gleaning information about the relationship between his life, Victorian culture and the writing and content of his major works. Among other things, this exhibit brings to light the multifaceted influences that women had on Darwin’s work, revealing how Darwin’s work engaged with Victorian notions of women, gender and sexuality.

 

‘Darwin Behind the Scenes’
online exhibition

The online exhibit provides insight into Darwin’s role not only as a creator of scientific theories but also as a father, husband, friend and researcher who relied upon a diverse array of people’s observations and specimen-gathering. The contributions of various women, including Henrietta Darwin, Lady Dorothy Nevill, and Mary Treat, to Darwin’s scientific work are highlighted. Additionally, this resource showcases Darwin and his publisher’s cautious handling of sexuality in The Descent of Man (1872), highlighting the ways in which concerns for respectability shaped the content and the audience of Darwin’s work.

 

Visit the online exhibit here to learn more about how Charles Darwin contended with and was influenced by issues surrounding women, gender and sexuality in Victorian Britain.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

 

This exhibit was supported by the Bonita Trust, John Templeton Foundation, National Science Foundation, and Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Charles & Emma Darwin: a typical Victorian marriage?


Kirstie Hampson recently completed a Graduate Certificate in History at Birkbeck, University of London, and used the Darwin Correspondence Project online archives while researching her dissertation; “Having access to such an amazing archive online made the research aspect much easier!”, Kirstie said.

 

Kirstie’s dissertation focused on Emma Darwin and Ellen Lubbock (the wife of Sir John Lubbock, a contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin), and their relationships with their respective husbands. Here, she gives us an glimpse into Charles and Emma Darwin’s marriage through a reading of their correspondence. 

___________________________________________________________

 

“My dear Mammy, I had two wretched days on Friday & Saturday, but the second & largest boil has just broken…” Not the most romantic opening to a letter from husband to wife, but Charles Darwin perhaps redeems himself later on: “I do love & adore you“.

 

Emma Darwin, 1840, by George Richmond, ©English Heritage. Credit: Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

Emma Darwin, 1840, by George Richmond, ©English Heritage. Credit: Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

Early in their relationship, he expressed his hope that Emma would “humanise“ him. The idea of a ‘companionate marriage’ – marrying someone not just for socio-economic reasons but also for their personal qualities – was a common goal for many during the Victorian era. [1] Emma was trusted by Charles to edit his scientific writings and correspond with other scientists during his periods of illness. [2] She was bold enough to criticise his theories on occasion, particularly when they conflicted with her faith; “May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension.”

 

Faith could have been a contentious issue within their marriage, but Charles never attempted to change Emma’s views or impose his own on their children, allowing his wife to bring them up in her own faith. [3] He may have seen her religious views as integral to her role as “a good strict wife“ and mother – the moral and spiritual guardian of his home. Victorians viewed women as an important moral influence on men[4] and Darwin himself wrote about this in The Descent of Man[5]

 

Charles Darwin, 1840, by George Richmond, ©English Heritage. Credit: Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

Charles Darwin, 1840, by George Richmond, ©English Heritage. Credit: Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

My own poor dear unhappy wife…You must remember that you are my prime treasure (& always have been)”: Charles and Emma’s efforts to comfort one another during their daughter Annie’s fatal illness are touching to read. In a time when many died in childhood, some historians have argued that parents invested less emotionally in their children [6] (although others strongly disagree). [7] As the correspondence shows very clearly, this was emphatically not the case for the Darwins, who mourned Annie’s loss for the rest of their lives. They derived solace from each other and Emma admitted to Charles that, “My only hope of consolation is to have you safe home to weep together.”

 

The ideal Victorian marriage envisaged a strong, patriarchal husband protecting a loving, submissive wife. [8] Charles and Emma do not fit this picture: in many ways she was stronger than him emotionally and he relied on his “dear Mammy” enormously. Mutual respect and great affection enabled them to stay close, despite their different beliefs and through personal tragedy. They can truly be said to have had what Lawrence Stone would refer to as a “companionate marriage”.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

 

[1],[6],[8] Stone, L. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (1977) p. 343

[2] Browne, J. Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2003) p. 240

[3] Keynes, R. Creation: the true story of Charles Darwin (2009) p. 54

[4] Morgan, S. A Victorian Woman’s Place: Public Culture in the Nineteenth Century (International Library of Historical Studies 40, 2007) p. 39

[5] Darwin, C. The Descent of Man, Vol. 2 (Second Edition, 1879) p. 326: “Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness…”

[7] Jalland, P. Death in the Victorian Family (1996) p. 121

 

‘The Evolution of Woman’ versus ‘The Descent of Man’

Eliza Burt Gamble

Women have interpreted and applied evolutionary theory in arguments about women’s nature for over a century. Eliza Burt Gamble (1841-1920) was a pioneer in this endeavor. Gamble was an advocate of the Woman Movement, a mother, a writer, and a teacher from Michigan. Over the course of her career, Gamble wrote three books: The Evolution of Woman (1894), The God-Idea of the Ancients (1897), and The Sexes in Science and History (1916). In these works, Gamble sought to challenge male patriarchy using arguments grounded in religion, science, and history. Although Gamble’s work was the ‘road not taken,’ Gamble was a trailblazer for her recognition of the significance of female choice in sexual selection, her use of evolutionary theory as a resource for arguments about women’s nature, and her criticism of androcentrism in science. By reinterpreting Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, Gamble even argued for the superiority of the female over the male.

 

Peacock. Photo by Kristine Deppe, CC Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0), http://www.flickr.com/photos/33414049@N08/7339653286/

Peacock. Photo by Kristine Deppe (CC BY-ND 2.0)

One portion of Darwin’s work that Gamble made particular use of in her argument for female superiority was the theory of sexual selection. Darwin defined sexual selection in his 1859 magnum opus On The Origin of Species. Darwin believed that sexual selection was critical to the development of secondary sexual characteristics, which he felt played an essential role in attracting mates but were not physically necessary for reproduction itself.[1] According to Darwin, secondary sexual characteristics resulted from male-male competition for mating privileges. As he explained, “it is the males that fight together and sedulously display their charms before the females; and those which are victorious transmit their superiority to their male offspring.”[2]

 

As a result of this process, those males with sexual characteristics that females considered attractive would “leave a greater number of offspring to inherit their superiority than the beaten and less attractive males.”[3]

 

American Bison in Rut. Photo by Dan Dzurisin, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndomer73/2950261775/

American Bison in Rut. Photo by Dan Dzurisin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

While Gamble and Darwin both worked with the principles of evolution and sexual selection, they disagreed on the ultimate effect these processes had on the relative intelligences and abilities of the sexes. In The Descent of Man (1871) Darwin explicitly noted that “man has ultimately become superior to woman” and “attain[s] to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than woman can attain.”[4] Gamble, on the other hand, suggested that through evolution and sexual selection the female sex had become more sophisticated and more intelligent than the male. Nonetheless, Gamble acknowledged a debt to Darwin. As she wrote in The Evolution of Woman:

 

“[i]t was not… until the year 1886, after a careful reading of The Descent of Man, by Mr. Darwin, that I first became impressed with the belief that the theory of evolution, as enunciated by scientists, furnishes much evidence going to show that the female among all the orders of life, man included, represents a higher stage of development than the male.”[5]

 

Although Gamble credited Darwin for providing the seeds of her theory, she believed that Darwin had a “remarkable” “ability to ignore certain facts which he himself adduced, and which all along the line of development tend to prove the superiority of the female organization.”[6] Unlike Darwin, Gamble felt that the “power of choice” exhibited by females in sexual selection implied “a degree of intelligence far in advance of that manifested by males.”[7] Gamble suggested that, as a result of female choice in sexual selection, men could not have evolved to become superior to women. As she explained, “[a]s a stream may not rise higher than its source, or as the creature may not surpass its creator in excellence, it is difficult to understand the processes by which man, through Sexual Selection, has become superior to woman.”[8]

 

Posted by Katie Ericksen Baca

 


[1]  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1871), p. 245, GoogleBooks, (accessed October 8, 2010).

[2]  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, p. 263.

[3]  Ibid., 252.

[4]  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1871), 328, 327, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/contents.html (accessed February 21, 2011).

[5]  Gamble, The Evolution of Woman, v.

[6]  Ibid., viii.

[7]  Ibid., 24.

[8]  Ibid., 29.

Harvard Project #4: Physical Science

Following the success of last year’s collaboration, the Darwin and Gender project is delighted to team up again with students at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University.

 

Students of Prof. Sarah Richardson’s Sex, Gender and Evolution course have used the correspondence to produce a series of projects on the theme of ‘Darwin and Gender’.  Three of the most thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining entries have appeared on the Darwin and Gender blog over few weeks.

 

Project #4: Physical Science, by Andrew Lea

Our final entry was written by Andrew Lea. Andrew is a sophomore concentrating in History and Science with a focus in mind, brain, and behavioral sciences. He has particularly enjoyed taking Professor Richardson’s “Sex, Gender, and Evolution” as it has encouraged him to think about and approach common scientific, historical, and cultural episodes in new ways.

 

Andrew’s fascinating essay considers the way in which Darwin and some of his contemporaries imagined and described the work they did. Andrew places Darwin and his correspondents’ perception of scientific work in its broader cultural context and considers how ideas about the physically-laborious nature of the scientific process impacted on women’s participation in the world of science.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

Harvard Project #3: An address to the National Science Foundation

Following the success of last year’s collaboration, the Darwin and Gender project is delighted to team up again with students at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University.

 

Students of Prof. Sarah Richardson’s Sex, Gender and Evolution course have used the correspondence to produce a series of projects on the theme of ‘Darwin and Gender’ and four of the most thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining entries will appear here over the next few weeks.

 

Project #3: The value of the Darwin & Gender project, addressed to the National Science Foundation, by Cassidy Bommer.


Our third entry was written by Cassidy Bommer, a visiting undergraduate student at Harvard. Cassidy will graduate from Mount Holyoke College in 2013 with a degree in Biological Sciences and a certificate in Culture, Health, and Science. Her interest in the intersections between evolution, anthropology, and gender studies led her to take Professor Richardson’s course, and she hopes to apply some of what she has learned this semester to her senior honors thesis next year.
Addressed to the National Science Foundation, a U.S. government agency responsible for promoting research in science and engineering, Cassidy argues that the ‘Darwin & Gender’ project has the potential to increase our insight into the workings of gender in the present as much as in the past. Her engaging plea draws attention to the impact that social and cultural patterns – as well as ‘lived experiences’ – can have on the production and communication of science. Cassidy also highlights the specific value of private correspondence, showing its potential to complicate our understanding of Darwin’s core ideas, including his theory of sexual selection.

 

See entries number one and two.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

Harvard Project #2: “Man has Ultimately Become Superior to Woman” – or has he?

Following the success of last year’s collaboration, the Darwin and Gender project is delighted to team up again with students at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University.

 

Students of Prof. Sarah Richardson’s Sex, Gender and Evolution course have used the correspondence to produce a series of projects on the theme of ‘Darwin and Gender’ and four of the most  thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining entries will appear here over the next few weeks.

 

Project #2: “Man has Ultimately Become Superior to Woman” – Darwin’s public and private views on women’s intellect, by Camille Zumwalt Coppola.


Our second entry was created by Camille Zumwalt Coppola. Camille is a sophomore student in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, focussing on the field of Modern and Contemporary Art. Theories of sex and gender as well as epistemology are central to the discourse surrounding modern and contemporary art, and Camille’s drive to learn about the history of her field compelled her to take Professor Richardson’s course on Darwin, sex and gender.

 

Camille’s engaging essay investigates what we can learn about Darwin’s views on women from his private correspondence. To what extent, she asks, were the typically-Victorian statements that Darwin made about women in Descent shaped by the need to please his audience? As Camille demonstrates, his real-life reliance of the help of women – in particular his daughter Henrietta – suggests that his private views on women differed from his public statements. Was this a deliberate crowd-pleasing strategy? Or did the intelligent women with whom Darwin mixed force him to revise his scientific theories? Perhaps Darwin interpreted the help he recieved from women as more moral than rational in character?

 

That Darwin’s views on women’s intellect changed over time is supported by his complex attitude to women’s education. See, for example, a letter that he wrote to Elinor Mary Dicey in 1877 in which he expresses new-found support for educating women in physiology. Whether the apparent shift that we witness in Darwin’s attitude to women was the product of his lived experiences of women, of post-Descent debate and the passage of time or simply a reflection of the more private and less constrained context in which he wrote is something which is open to interpretation.


See the first project in this series, The Amazing Dar-Man, here.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

Harvard Project #1: The Amazing Dar-Man

Following the success of last year’s collaboration, the Darwin and Gender project is delighted to team up again with students at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University.

 

Students of Prof. Sarah Richardson’s Sex, Gender and Evolution course have used the correspondence to produce a series of projects on the theme of ‘Darwin and Gender’ and four of the most  thought provoking, inspiring and entertaining entries will appear here over the next few weeks.

 

Project #1: The Amazing Dar-Man & The Mighty Atomic Girl in “Darwin and Gender”, by Taylor Freret

Our first entry was created by Taylor Freret, a senior Chemistry student from Los Altos, California. As a woman scientist, Taylor feels passionate about exploring the history of science through the lens of sex and gender in part to expose the origin of ideas which continue to pervade discussions about women in the world of science today.

 

The Amazing Dar-Man provides an entertaining and concise introduction to the aims and motivations of the Darwin and Gender research project. According to Taylor; “I have always viewed Darwin as a major force in modern science. Both his systematic observation of the natural world and his willingness to challenge established cultural and religious norms have made him somewhat of a hero to me, which is why I was rather taken aback by many of the things that Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man.

 

Although he was certainly ahead of his time in many ways, in gender ideas he was very much a Victorian scientist who believed women to be inherently intellectually inferior. In this comic strip, I wanted to chronicle my own investigation into Darwin’s ideas about women and see if I could reconcile them with the man who is in large part responsible for my passion for science.”

 

Read more about Taylor’s project or view the entire comic strip. To read full versions of the correspodence used in this project, follow the links below:

 

Charles Darwin to Caroline Wedgwood: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-542

Charles Darwin to Henrietta Darwin: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-7124

Charles Darwin to Mary Treat: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-8146

Florence Dixie to Charles Darwin: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12795

Charles Darwin to Caroline Kennard: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-13607

Caroline Kennard to Charles Darwin: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-13650

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman

 

 

 

Darwin Speaks Out!

We were very pleased recently to welcome Terry Molloy back to the Darwin Correspondence Project for a special recording session. Terry, known for his portrayal of Davros in Dr Who and as the voice of Mike Tucker in The Archers, helped bring to life a number of Darwin’s letters, including a selection of those he wrote to women.

 

Follow the links below to listen to a selection of the ‘conversations’ Darwin had with some of his women correspondents.

 

1) Women workers:

As discussed in past posts, Darwin’s workforce was more varied than we might expect. On August 2nd 1863, he penned a letter to Lydia Becker, thanking her for seed samples and plant observations that she had collected and noted in her home town, Manchester.

 

Darwin recruited the help of family members as often as he could. He relied in particular on his nieces who regularly provided observations, conducted experiments and read articles on his behalf. In September 1866 he wrote to ‘Lieutenant’  Lucy Wedgwood with a typically time-consuming but affectionate request. The following year, as Darwin continued to research what would eventually become The Expression of the Emotions, Lucy was tasked with observing her pet dog and bird. Meanwhile, Lucy’s sister Sophy was asked to use her skills of observation during her (formerly leisurely!) walks on the heath.

 

Darwin also relied heavily on the help his daughter, Henrietta. Here, in typical affectionate and self-deprecating tone, he asks her to help edit an early manuscript of Descent of Man.

 

2) Women Naturalists:

Even in the nineteenth century, Naturalists came in many different forms. On January 5th 1872, Darwin wrote to Mary Treat (New Jersey), to celebrate her experiments, encourage her to continue her work and publish the results “in some well-known scientific journal”.

 

 

 

3) Women critics:

Women as much as men were willing to probe Darwin about the meaning and implications of his work. On December 14th 1866, he responded to Mary Boole’s questions about the moral and spiritual implications of his theory of evolution.

 

In 1882, shortly before his death, Darwin responded to American feminist Caroline Kennard who queried arguments made in Descent about the relative abilities of the sexes.

 

To what extent did the sex of a correspondent shape the content, tone and language of Darwin’s communication? As a point of comparison, listen to a letter written by Darwin to his friend and colleague, Joseph Dalton Hooker, and one written to perhaps his most vehement critic, George Mivart.

 

By giving Darwin and his correspondents a voice we hope to bring the correspondence to life and to raise questions about the workings of gender not just in terms of content but also language, tone and expression.

 

Posted by Philippa Hardman