Illuminating gender and sexuality...
Although Charles Darwin, in common with most of his contemporaries, believed that women were best suited to domestic life and childcare, he had a surprisingly large number of female correspondents - more than 100 - and went out of his way to encourage the scientific interests of the women who wrote to him. Many of them, such as Mary Boole, were practising scientists. Boole, a teacher, is often mentioned as the widow of George Boole who gave his name to Boolean logic, but she was, in fact, a gifted mathematician in her own right. Another correspondent, Lydia Becker, was a leading campaigner for women's right to vote; Darwin encouraged her botanical observations. Thanks to a generous donation from The Bonita Trust, The Darwin and Gender project is able to make available Darwin's private and largely unpublished writings relevant to all aspects of gender as a single resource.
These are remarkable letters by and about remarkable people and deserve to be better known.
Dr Alison Pearn, Assistant Director, Darwin Correspondence Project
Funding from The Bonita Trust has also provided for an Education Officer to work with schools. The three-year research project is being overseen by the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University Library. "The encouragement of women in the fields of science and technology is one of Bonita's core activities around the world," explained Ruth Parasol DeLeon, founding member of The Bonita Trust International Advisory Board. "Many of the issues raised by Darwin in his correspondence have great relevance to modern society. The Darwin and Gender project will allow a wider audience an insight into this, and into how his views on gender shaped Victorian society."