Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2009
In 1924, Virginia Woolf wrote a short story based upon the life of Eleanor Ormerod. A wealthy spinster, Ormerod achieved notoriety in late nineteenth-century Britain as an economic entomologist. In 1904, Nature compared her to Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville. In terms of recent scholarship devoted to the history of women in science, Ormerod's career differed markedly from that of her two predecessors. The emotional or intellectual support of a brother, husband, father, or male family relation made no considerable contribution to her commitment to the study of entomology. Furthermore, her life as an independent spinster offered no positive proof for Francis Power Cobbe's dictum: as she aged, Eleanor Ormerod showed no tendency to become a ‘women's rights woman’. She publicly accepted or internalized the dominant, masculine ideology of science; and by contemporary standards, she achieved success.
2 ‘A lady entomologist’, Nature (7 07 1904), 70, 219–20.Google Scholar On Somerville and Herschel, see Patterson, Elizabeth C., ‘Mary Somerville’, BJHS (1969), 4, 311–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich, ‘Women astronomers in Britain, 1780–1930’, Isis (1984), 75, 534–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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5 In this respect, Ormerod's story falls short of the goals of present-day feminism. A recent trend among overtly feminist historians of science is the search for a ‘female epistemology’. See Tomaselli, Sylvana, ‘Collecting women: the female in scientific biography’, Science as Culture (1988), 4, 95–106.CrossRefGoogle ScholarKeller, Evelyn Fox, ‘A world of difference’, in her Reflections on Gender and Science, London, 1985, 158–76Google Scholar, posits the career of geneticist Barbara McClintock as a partial example of a female epistemology of science.
6 I do not pretend to be a ‘knight errant’ rescuing Ormerod from the tower of neglect; she managed to achieve a modicum of contemporary fame. See Robert Wallace, ‘Ormerod, Eleanor Anne’, DNB, Oxford, 1912, 53–4Google Scholar; Neave, S. A. and Griffin, F. J., The History of the Entomological Society of London, 1833–1933, London, 1933, 155–6Google Scholar; Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey, Women in Science, Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century: A Biographical Dictionary with Annotated Bibliography, London, 1986, 142–3Google Scholar; and Alic, , op. cit. (3), 116–17.Google Scholar
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