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The Sexes Throughout Nature
Title page of The Sexes Throughout Nature Author Antoinette Brown Blackwell Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons Publication date 1875
The Sexes Throughout Nature is a book written by Antoinette Brown Blackwell, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1875.
. "For a handful of nineteenth-century women intellectuals, however, evolutionary theory was just too important to ignore. Instead of turning away, they stepped forward to tap Darwin and Spencer on the shoulder to express their support for this revolutionary view of human nature, and also to politely remind them that they had left out half the species."
The book critiques Charles Darwin four years after he published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex in 1871, and Herbert Spencer, whom the author thought were the most influential men of her day. Darwin had written a letter to her in 1869, thanking her for a copy of her book, Studies in General Science. She also answers Dr. E. H. Clarke and his book Sex and Education which she deplored. Blackwell's book was republished by Hyperion Press in 1976, 1985 and 1992. Parts of the book were first published in Woman's Journal and Popular Science Monthly.
Blackwell chose to highlight balance and cooperation rather than struggle and savage rivalry. She criticized Darwin for basing his theory of evolution on "time-honored assumption that the male is the normal type of his species". She wrote that Spencer scientifically subtracts from the female and Darwin as scientifically adds to the male. It was not until one century later that feminists were working from inside the natural sciences, and could address Darwin's androcentricity.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy wrote in her book Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection (quoting from an excerpt of pages 12-25 in AnthroNotes for educators published by the National Museum of Natural History),
"For a handful of nineteenth-century women intellectuals, however, evolutionary theory was just too important to ignore. Instead of turning away, they stepped forward to tap Darwin and Spencer on the shoulder to express their support for this revolutionary view of human nature, and also to politely remind them that they had left out half the species."
Hrdy added, "Evolutionary biology did eventually respond to these criticisms, yet in their lifetimes, the effect that these early Darwinian feminists--Eliot, Blackwell, Royer, and a few others--had on mainstream evolutionary theory can be summed up with one phrase: the road not taken."
Part II and III (of __The Descent of Man_): Sexual selection
See also: Sexual selection in human evolution and Sexual selection Darwin argued that the female peahen chose to mate with the male peacock who had the most beautiful plumage in her mind.
Part II of the book begins with a chapter outlining the basic principles of sexual selection. This is followed by a detailed review of many different taxa of the kingdom Animalia. The ninth chapter surveys the lower classes of the animal kingdom, such as molluscs, crustaceans etc. The tenth and eleventh chapters are both devoted to insects, the latter specifically focusing on the order Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths. The remainder of the book shifts to the vertebrates, beginning with cold blooded vertebrates (fishes, amphibians and reptiles) and then four full chapters on birds. Two chapters on mammals precede those on humans. Darwin explained sexual selection as a combination of "female choosiness" and "direct competition between males".
Antoinette Blackwell, one of the first women to write a critique of Darwin
Darwin's theories of evolution by natural selection were used to show women's place in society was the result of nature. One of the first women to critique Darwin, Antoinette Brown Blackwell published The Sexes Throughout Nature in 1875. She was aware she would be considered presumptuous for criticising evolutionary theory but wrote that "disadvantages under which we [women] are placed...will never be lessened by waiting". Blackwell's book answered Darwin and Herbert Spencer, who she thought were the two most influential living men. She wrote of "defrauded womanhood" and her fears that "the human race, forever retarding its own advancement...could not recognize and promote a genuine, broad, and healthful equilibrium of the sexes".
In the Descent of Man, Darwin wrote that by choosing tools and weapons over the years, "man has ultimately become superior to woman" but Blackwell's argument for women's equality went largely ignored until the 1970s when feminist scientists and historians began to explore Darwin. As recently as 2004, Griet Vandermassen, aligned with other Darwinian feminists of the 1990s and early 2000s (decade), wrote that a unifying theory of human nature should include sexual selection. But then the "opposite ongoing integration" was promoted by another faction as an alternative in 2007. Nonetheless, Darwin's explanation of sexual selection continues to receive support from both social and biological scientists as "the best explanation to date".
Antoinette Louisa Brown, later Antoinette Brown Blackwell (May 20, 1825 - November 5, 1921), was the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United States. She was a well-versed public speaker on the paramount issues of her time, and distinguished herself from her contemporaries with her use of religious faith in her efforts to expand women's rights