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From Eve to EvolutionDarwin, Science, and Women's Rights in Gilded Age America$
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Kimberly A. Hamlin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226134611

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226134758.001.0001

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Working Women and Animal Mothers

Working Women and Animal Mothers

(p.94) Chapter Three Working Women and Animal Mothers
From Eve to Evolution

Kimberly A. Hamlin

University of Chicago Press

Chapter three analyzes how various thinkers applied evolutionary theory to turn-of-the-twentieth century debates about motherhood. Opponents of women’s advancement typically claimed that women’s foremost function was to bear and raise children; any intellectual or professional endeavors detracted from this sacred duty and imperiled the human race. These arguments were often couched in evolutionary discourse, as exemplified by the much-studied “Race Suicide” panic of the early 1900s. Because of the flexibility of Darwinian discourse, however, evolutionary theory also buttressed a feminist redefinition of motherhood– promoted by Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others—which claimed, in part, that it was unnatural for women to be confined to domestic tasks because female domesticity had no precedent in the animal kingdom. Focusing on feminist applications of animal-human kinship, this chapter examines the turn-of-the-century vogue for fit pregnancy and demands for the reapportionment of domestic duties to enable mothers to work outside the home.

Keywords:   Working women, Working mothers, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, The Sexes Throughout Nature, Animal-human kinship, The Descent of Man, Motherhood, Race suicide, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics

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