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Darwin Correspondence Project

Discussion questions

  • What sorts of scientific work did women do, and for whom?
  • What sort of assistance do men and women offer, and in what context?
  • Where did women carry out their work?
  • What motivated women to participate in the world of science?
  • What do Darwin's letters tell us about Victorian women’s perceived expertise?
  • What do these letters tell us about Victorian women’s lived experiences?
  • Were Darwin’s publications aimed at women?
  • What sort of women read Darwin’s work, and why?
  • What does the correspondence tell us about how women accessed Darwin’s publications?
  • What sorts of characteristics does Darwin identify as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in his published materials? 
  • In his published work, what does Darwin say about the nature of sexual difference?
  • Does Darwin communicate and work with women in the same way as he does with men?
  • What does the correspondence add to our understanding of Darwin and his contemporaries’ views on gender?
  • To what extent do Darwin’s published ideas about gender and sex differences differ from his more private, epistolary ideas?
  • Why might the correspondence offer a different set of ideas about gender from the views included in his published works like Origin and Descent?