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Darwin and Women: A Selection of Letters Hardcover – January 9, 2017
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'This magpie-eyed selection illuminates [Darwin's] relationships with the women in his family and social circle, as well as those who were engaged in similar scientific studies.' Helen Brown, Sunday Telegraph
Darwin and Women focusses on the correspondence between Darwin and female family members and professional colleagues. Including correspondence between the women themselves, the book showcases many previously unpublished letters, arranged in thematic chapters that provide new insight on women's role in nineteenth-century science.
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One purpose of the collection is to demonstrate that Darwin, no particular champion of women's rights and intellectual development, actually was dependent upon a large number of women assisting his research and publication. While the letters are broken down into 14 categories, only some are of particular interest. These deal with such topics as women scientific researchers and writers, letters demonstrating how women (some of whom felt free to fire off letters despite having had no previous contact with Darwin) provided data and ideas, how some women including a daughter edited and improved CD's writing; and how some Victorian women were able to advance their educational and political objectives.
For students of Darwin, such as myself, I found several categories especially insightful in understanding how Darwin worked and lived. For example, a longer section involves religion, always a key topic. Another covers Darwin's research habits on humans. Sprinkled throughout most sections are letters between Darwin family members, including particularly wife Emma, which provide further insights into Darwin's environment. In this regard. we see how Emma maneuvered with the children to remove certain discussions of religion from CD's posthumous published autobiography.
While the book as a whole contains some rich fields, it also has some deserts as well. But I think it rather an important book in that it affords bits and pieces of insight into Darwin and his world, and how he conducted his researches. A good short bibliography is included for those seeking further background. A solid contribution from the Darwin Correspondence Project.