From Eve to Evolution
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 has made excellent work of giving context and meaning to the biological turn of Gilded Age American feminism. She offers a scholarly and convincing resolution of the long-standing historical puzzle of the appeal of an evolutionary-based “different but equal” thesis to feminists of this particular time and place."
“In this powerful and invigorating book, Hamlin presents some of the best-known and lesser-known female intellectuals from this fascinating age. One crucial and significant aspect of her work is how feminists such as Eliza Burt Gamble applied the then-acceptable framework of Darwinism to the advancement and justification of feminism, which effectively challenged the validity of Gilded Age Darwinian beliefs.”
“While Charles Darwin is not widely associated with feminism, Kimberly A. Hamlin argues convincingly that his work was foundational to the American women’s movement of the late nineteenth century....Hamlin’s book is lively with the intellectual debates of the moment when Darwin’s ideas merged with the women’s rights movement. It would work well on a syllabus alongside Rebecca M. Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm (2010), serving to remind us that constructions of gender, sex, and science are both continually in flux and in conversation with each other.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
"In [Hamlin's] deft and elegant account of American intellectual women’s responses to evolution and its interpreters, she establishes the Darwinian legacy to be—at least with regard to discourses of sex difference, sexual selection, and reproductive outcomes—more multifaceted than Darwin’s own utterances and beliefs predicted."
"From Eve to Evolution tells the story of early feminists and evolutionary theory with great clarity and verve, extolling the accomplishments of these generations of women without ever resorting to hagiography.... This is a truly enlightening book, sure to serve for years to come as a model for the exploration of how science and culture interact."
"The most useful aspect of this book is that it can be included in not only women’s studies courses but, most importantly, in those courses that examine the intellectual, cultural, and economic dimensions of Darwinism in America during the latter half of the 19th and into the 20th centuries."