Darwin’s correspondence shows that women made significant contributions to Darwin’s work, but were those contributions acknowledged in his publications? The following exercise encourages analysis of the referencing of women’s work in Darwin’s published materials. It raises questions about the relationship between gender ideology and the public recognition of women’s scientific work and, more broadly, encourages us to think about how the meaning and ownership of scientific work was shaped by gendered ideas and expectations.
Associated selected readings.
1. What sorts of work was, and was not, referenced by Darwin in his published materials?
2. Who decided which contributions were, and were not, referenced?
3. What do referencing patterns tell us about i) definitions of ‘work’ and ii) Victorian gender ideology?
4. What impact might referencing patterns have had on the ownership of scientific knowledge?
5. How might referencing patterns in published works of science have impacted understandings of scientific participation in the nineteenth century?
For comparison, you might consider how other works of science referenced the contributions of women. See, for example, George Romanes’ 1882 publication Animal Intelligence in which he explicitly refers to the contributions of “a young lady, who objects to her name being published”.
Letter 1113 – Darwin to Whitby, M. A. T., [2 September 1847]
In this letter, Darwin questions Mrs. Whitby, whom he had previously met at a meeting of the British Association, on the difference in flight capacity between male and female silkworm moths. He also requests the results of experiments she has undertaken to determine the heritability of dark “eyebrows”. She and her work are referenced throughout Variation.
Letter 2395 – Darwin to Holland, Miss, [April 1860]
In this letter, Darwin writes to Miss Holland to request information on birds which eat the berries of the Mountain-Ash. Her work appears to be referenced in Variation but her identity is both anonymised and masculinised.
Letter 3316 – Darwin to Nevill, D. F., [12 November 1861]
In this letter, Darwin asks actress and hot-house owner Lady Dorothy Nevill to send him some unusual plant samples to aid his work on orchids. Nevill is referenced by name for her “kindness” in Darwin’s Fertilisation of Orchids.
Letter 4038 – Darwin to Lyell, C., [12-13 March 1863]
In this letter, Darwin hints that his daughter, Henrietta, may have felt uncomfortable about being acknowledged publicly as a science critic.
Letter 4370 – Wedgwood, L. C. to Darwin, [April – May 1865]
In this letter Darwin’s niece, Lucy, passes on her and her sisters’ observations on oxlips, made at their home in Surrey. His nieces’ work is referenced in Different Forms of Flowers but they are identified only as “friends in Surrey”.
Letter 4794 – Darwin to Lyell, C., [25 March 1865]
In this letter, Darwin asks Charles Lyell for advice on how to reference Arabella Buckley’s observations of pigeons, which he planned to use in Variation. He is unsure whether to state that the information was “received through Sir C. Lyell” or received from “Miss. B”.
Letter 7060 – Wedgwood, F. J. to Darwin, [1867 – 72]
Letter 7223 – Darwin to Wedgwood, L. C., [9 June 1867 – 72]
In this letter, Darwin asks his niece to make observations of her dog when barking. Her observations are not cited in Expression.
Letter 5817 – Darwin to Huxley, T. H., [30 January 1868]
In this letter, Darwin asks Henrietta Huxley to make observations of her children and comments that another woman from his neighbourhood is making similar observations on his behalf. The observations made by numerous women of their infants are not referenced in a section of Expression on ‘the screaming and weeping of infants’. The only observer of infants identified by name in Expression was novelist Elizabeth Gaskell for her description of a crying baby in Mary Barton.
Letter 8321 – Darwin to Litchfield, H. E., [13 May 1872]
In this letter Darwin consults his daughter, Henrietta, about how best to reference her husband’s contribution to a chapter on music in Expression. If he should publish Litchfield’s remarks as his own he would “feel the public humming” at him.
Letter 7345 – Wedgwood, L. C. to Darwin, [15 June 1872]
In this letter Darwin’s niece, Lucy, reports back on her worm casting fieldwork. Her work was referenced in Vegetable Mould and Earthworms but she was identified only as “a lady, on whose accuracy I can implicitly rely”.
Letter 8427– Darwin to Litchfield H. E., [25 July 1872]
In this letter, Darwin thanks Henrietta for her editorial work on Expression. While her husband’s contribution to the same work was carefully referenced, Darwin made no mention of Henrietta’s considerable editorial input.
Letter 8719 – Darwin to Treat, M., [1 January 1873]
In this letter, Darwin asks naturalist Mary Treat to make some observations of Drosera and Dionaea on his behalf. “Mrs. Treat’s” contributions to Darwin’s work are referenced throughout Insectivorous Plants, as are her publications.