Author Archives: DarwinLetters

Lady Florence Dixie: a woman who had it all?

On October 29th 1880, Lady Florence Dixie wrote a letter to Charles Darwin from her home in the Scottish Borders; “Whilst reading the other day your very interesting account of A Naturalist’s Voyage round the world,” she said, “I came across a … Continue reading

Darwin and Feminism

As previous posts have shown, Darwinian evolution acted in some ways to shore-up established Victorian ideas about intellectual, breadwinning masculinity and reproductive, maternal femininity. In identifying patriarchal gender order in the natural world, Darwin might be charged with putting the ‘gender … Continue reading

Women, Fashion and Frivolity

If, as we saw in an earlier post, evolutionary theory could account for the peculiarities and embellishments of men’s dress, what about women’s fashion? In “Development in Dress,” George Darwin argued that the apparent fancy points of men’s coats, hats, and cloaks … Continue reading

What’s the difference between a peacock and a pocket flap?

Why do hats have hatbands? Why are there buttons on a cuff, or tails on a coat? What does a peacock have in common with a pocket flap? According to Charles Darwin’s son George, the answer to all these questions … Continue reading

The Public and Private Face of Mary Treat

Mary Treat was a Naturalist from New Jersey and a major contributor to botanical and entomological developments of the nineteenth century. Over the period 1871 – 1876 she exchanged fifteen letters with Darwin – more than any other woman Naturalist.   As … Continue reading

“One of the cleverest and oddest women in Europe”

Getting Origin translated into French was harder than Darwin had expected.  The first translator he approached, Madame Belloc, turned him down on the grounds that the content was ‘too scientific‘, and then in 1860 the French political exile  Pierre Talandier rescinded his … Continue reading

Darwin, Becker & Sexual Equality

Charles Darwin is not well known as a promoter of women’s rights. Indeed, much of his work explicitly opposed the arguments for sexual equality put forward by first wave feminists of the nineteenth century. In The Descent of Man, for example, Darwin makes … Continue reading

The Scent of Woman

In March 1872 Gaston de Saporta, a French paleobotanist, penned a letter to Darwin offering two pieces of evidence in support of Darwin’s theory on the common ancestry of man and ape.   The first point of similarity between the two … Continue reading

Darwin’s Invisible Workforce

Charles Darwin was not just a eminent Naturalist – he was also the head of a thriving family economy who drew on the help of his relatives at any (and, it seems, every!) opportunity. His eldest son, William, was regularly tasked with observing plants and … Continue reading

Harvard students create exceptional Darwin & Gender themed projects!

As part of a course on Gender, Sex and Evolution led by Professor Sarah Richardson, students at Harvard University have road-tested our resources and produced a series of projects on the theme of Darwin and Gender.   The students’ brief was 1) to … Continue reading