From Eve to Evolution

Darwin, Science, and Women's Rights in Gilded Age America

Kimberly A. Hamlin

Kimberly A. Hamlin

256 pages | 12 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226134611 Published May 2014
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226134758 Published May 2014
From Eve to Evolution provides the first full-length study of American women’s responses to evolutionary theory and illuminates the role science played in the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement. Kimberly A. Hamlin reveals how a number of nineteenth-century women, raised on the idea that Eve’s sin forever fixed women’s subordinate status, embraced Darwinian evolution—especially sexual selection theory as explained in The Descent of Man—as an alternative to the creation story in Genesis.
           
Hamlin chronicles the lives and writings of the women who combined their enthusiasm for evolutionary science with their commitment to women’s rights, including Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Eliza Burt Gamble, Helen Hamilton Gardener, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These Darwinian feminists believed evolutionary science proved that women were not inferior to men, that it was natural for mothers to work outside the home, and that women should control reproduction. The practical applications of this evolutionary feminism came to fruition, Hamlin shows, in the early thinking and writing of the American birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. 
           
Much scholarship has been dedicated to analyzing what Darwin and other male evolutionists had to say about women, but very little has been written regarding what women themselves had to say about evolution. From Eve to Evolution adds much-needed female voices to the vast literature on Darwin in America.
Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin–Madison
“The title of this book, From Eve to Evolution, neatly summarizes Hamlin’s narrative: how a relatively small but influential group of American feminists embraced the natural evolution of humans as a weapon to challenge the biblical—and notoriously patriarchal—account of God’s creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The fact that historians have struggled for decades to identify women’s voices in the debates over Darwinism, both pro and con, makes this volume especially valuable.”
Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, editor of History of Women in the Sciences
From Eve to Evolution documents the ardent ways in which women’s rights advocates articulated and advanced Charles Darwin’s observations of female choice in the natural world as a counterargument to age-old biblical assertions about women’s roles in society. Original and synthetic, Hamlin’s analysis follows key activists—some radical and others well established in society—to demonstrate their careful attention to the science involved as they made their case. She provides a fresh intellectual history of late nineteenth-century feminism that will interest historians of science as well as those interested in women, gender, and science issues.”
Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, author of Wild Unrest
From Eve to Evolution offers a lucid account of Darwin’s theories and their reception in America, focusing particularly on elements critical to women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—the conflict between work and motherhood, women’s individuation, and sexual selection. The book restores figures, important in their own day but lost to historical consideration, such as Helen Hamilton Gardener and Eliza Burt Gamble, and presents lesser-known aspects of better-known figures, such as Antoinette Brown Blackwell. The work offers an important reminder of the role that science increasingly played in American culture and the baneful effects of the silencing of women’s voices from scientific discussion and debate.”
Rebecca Herzig, Bates College
“This engaging and persuasive discussion shows how American feminists influenced by The Descent of Man sought to reframe gender relations in Darwinian terms. Hamlin offers much-needed historical perspective on current debates over evolutionary concepts of human difference.”
Contents
Introduction  Evolution and the Natural Order

Chapter 1 Eve’s Curse

Chapter 2 “The Science of Feminine Humanity”

Chapter 3 Working Women and Animal Mothers

Chapter 4 “Female Choice” and the Reproductive Autonomy of Women

Conclusion

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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