American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences: Styles of Affiliation

Overview

During the nineteenth century, the content and institutional organization of the sciences evolved dramatically, altering the publics understanding of knowledge. As science grew in importance, many women of letters tried to incorporate it into a female worldview. Nina Baym explores the responses to science displayed in a range of writings by American women. Conceding that they could not become scientists, women insisted, however, that they were capable of understanding science and participating in its discourse. ...

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Overview

During the nineteenth century, the content and institutional organization of the sciences evolved dramatically, altering the publics understanding of knowledge. As science grew in importance, many women of letters tried to incorporate it into a female worldview. Nina Baym explores the responses to science displayed in a range of writings by American women. Conceding that they could not become scientists, women insisted, however, that they were capable of understanding science and participating in its discourse. They used their access to publishing to advocate the study and transmission of scientific information to the general public.

Bayms book includes biographies and a full exploration of these womens works. Among those considered are:
• Almira Phelps, author of Familiar Lectures on Botany (it sold 350,000 copies)
• Sarah Hale, who filled Godeys Ladys Book with science articles
• Catharine Esther Beecher, who based her domestic advice on scientific information
• Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, the actual ghostwriter of her husbands popular science essays
• Emily Dickinson, whose poetry is replete with scientific images.

Baym also investigates science in womens novels, writing by and about women doctors, and the scientific claims advanced by womens spiritualist movements. This book truly breaks new ground, outlining a field of inquiry that few have noted exists.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813529844
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Nina Baym has written many books and essays about American literature, includingAmerican Women Writers and the Work of History, 17901860 (Rutgers University Press). She is the general editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature. In 2000 she was awarded the annual Hubbell Lifetime Achievement Medal from the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association. She holds a Swanlund Chair in English and is a Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the English department at the University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Print and Women's Scientific Affiliations 1
2 Almira Phelps and the Discipline of Botany 18
3 Sarah Hale and the Circulation of Science 36
4 Catharine Esther Beecher and the Sciences of Home 54
5 Susan Fenimore Cooper and Ladies' Science 73
6 Elizabeth Cary Agassiz and Heroic Science 91
7 Testing Scientific Limits: Emma Willard and Maria Mitchell 113
8 Emily Dickinson and Scientific Skepticism 133
9 The Sciences in Women's Novels 152
10 Women of Letters and Medical Science 174
11 Spiritual Science 196
Notes 211
Works Cited 231
Index 255
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