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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. A. Kennard   26 December 1881

Mr. Darwin

Dear Sir.

I a paper recently read before a company of women in Boston, ground was taken of the inferiority of women; past, present and future; based upon scientific principles: as concisely reported in the newspaper extract enclosed.1

In reply to opposing arguments in the discussion following the paper, the Author stated her scientific Authority to be Mr. Darwin, in his “Origin of Species”.2

As a believer in continued scientific discoveries and revelations answering and modfying, ultimately, all material questions; and as an admirer of your cautious and candid methods of conveying great results of learning and investigations to the world, I take the liberty to inquire whether the Author of the paper rightly inferred her arguments from your work: or if so, whether you are of the same mind now, as to possibilities for women, judging from her organization &c

If a mistake has been made the great weight of your opinion and authority should be righted, to which, I take it for granted, you would not object.

Excuse the liberty I take of addressing you and the hope of a reply in enclosed envelope.

I am yours with expressions of great esteem | Caroline A. Kennard.

Brookline | Dec. 26. 1881.


The enclosure has not been found, but the paper Kennard referred to was ‘Intellectual inferiority of woman from physical conditions’, presented by Martha A. Hardaker at the New England Women’s Club, of which Kennard was a member (Baca 2019, p. 282). A report of Hardaker’s paper appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript, 20 December 1881, p. 2. Hardaker, who had graduated from St Lawrence University in 1872, had been appointed to the staff of the Boston Evening Transcript earlier in 1881, prompting the New Northwest (an Oregon newspaper) to comment, ‘Miss M. A. Hardaker brings scholarship and ability to her new post, and is herself a proof of the falsity of her pet theory of the inferiority of women’ (New Northwest, 1 September 1881, p. 4).
The Boston Transcript report did not mention CD or his work, but in the published version of the paper in Popular Science Monthly in March 1882, Hardaker referred to Descent 2: 313, where CD gave the reasons why he considered that men had ‘ultimately become superior’ to women (Hardaker 1882, p. 582).


Baca, Katie Ana. 2019. Beyond the university: elite Bostonian women’s organizations as sites of science learning, 1868–1910. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Descent US ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton. 1871.

Hardaker, Martha A. 1882. Science and the woman question. Popular Science Monthly 20 (1881–2): 577–84.


The author of a paper on the inferiority of women has cited CD’s Origin as her authority. CK wishes to know if she has satisfactorily represented CD’s views.

Letter details

Letter no.
Caroline Augusta Smith/Caroline Augusta Kennard
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Brookline, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 201: 17
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13579,” accessed on 22 April 2024,