Darwin and Women in Science

This really isn’t a quote by Darwin, rather it is one about him. It concerns the higher education of women – in particular in the sciences:

It has occurred to me that many lovers of science, and others interested in the higher education of women (whom I cannot otherwise address), will be glad to assist the efforts now being made by the science students of Girton and Newnham Colleges to raise about £800 needed for a physical and biological laboratory for women in Cambridge. The present provision for practical work is very inadequate and the number of students has largely increased, while the colleges are at present unable to afford the sum required.” Our correspondent mentions that she has already received donations amounting to about £30 (including five guineas from Mr. Charles Darwin [emphasis mine – afarensis]), and will most gratefully acknowledge any further help.

I’m not sure how large or small a sum five guineas represents, but clearly he approved of women in science or he wouldn’t have donated the money…


10 Responses

  1. I was looking for some info on what 5 guineas would’ve been around that time, but I don’t wnat to spend too much time. I did find some figures, for instance in a footnote in Darwin’s correspondence, here:
    Dr. G. however finds he is obliged to treat me cautiously, & during last week all my treatment has been much relaxed. There are many patients here even already: last summer I hear he had 120!– He must be making an immense fortune. And a footnote points out:
    The charges for James Manby Gully’s water cure are given in Wilson and Gully 1845, pp. 29-31. For patients who resided with Gully the fee was from four to five guineas per week, plus a weekly payment of 2s. 6d. to the bath servant; for patients who lived in lodgings the fee was reduced to two to three guineas, plus a weekly payment of 4s. to the bath servant. In either case there was an initial fee of two guineas for a consultation with Dr Gully.
    A few other comparison points:
    from 1907 “The two substitute doctors appointed to act in their place have declined to continue to do duty at a lower rate of remuneration than five guineas per week.”
    from 1886: “Forest Creek Wattle Gully Co. A lawsuit was instituted against the Company by one Dittmer,who was injured in May, 1885, through a truck of stones falling and striking him. Full wagesof two guineas per week were paid him for nearly five months.”
    from 1861: “In 1861 Frenchman, Armand Auguste Fortune LaMoile opened the Malvern Hill Water-cure establishment close to present day Hopetoun Road. LaMoile offered board, including residence, treatment and bath attendance, at five guineas per week.”
    Seems like a decent sum.

  2. $711.59
    I found it here, which is a pretty cool toy.

  3. I guess this eventually led to the Balfour Lab (1884-1914). Note that though women students could sit exams at Cambridge they could not be members of the University or take degrees there so when space was tight in the regular university labs, women as non-members would be excluded. Newnham apparently raised 2000 pounds for the facility which was open to both Newnham and Girton students (the two women’s colleges at Cambridge).
    Some more info for those with access:

  4. 5 guineas in 1881 = $711.59 thanks to HP’s post above
    5 pounds in 1881 = $677.56 thanks to the same link.
    So, the real problem with the British is:
    What the hell is a guinea?
    How does it relate to a pound?

  5. Just A Guess, but a “guinea” might be a coin – silver or gold – while a “pound” might be a paper certificate. Even if nominally the same value, paper could be discounted against metal.
    I had a really hard time not spelling that “Guinness.”
    James 2:24

  6. 1 guinea was equal to 21 shillings.
    1 pound was equal to 20 shillings.
    1 shilling was equal to 12 pence.
    The guinea went out of use in the early 1800s, but the amount (21 shillings) was still used by some people.

  7. So, the mystery is cleared up.
    Which only leaves the next mystery.
    Why the use of the odd number of coins (21)?
    Where did that number come from?
    I should do my own research and not be so lazy.

  8. Googling I see several pages dealing with Gunieas and Pounds, among them a good little page from Woodlands Junior School. Among their info they state: “A guinea was considered a more gentlemanly amount than £1. You paid tradesmen, such as a carpenter, in pounds but gentlemen, such as an artist, in guineas.”
    From another site: “As late as the 1960s there was a tradition at the Bar that the pound, twenty shillings, went to the barrister and the one shilling to his clerk, so the clerk got 5% on the barrister’s fee.”
    Also, although everybody is probably already remembering this, $700 was a nice sum. Here in Victoria, BC, there’s an online census report from 1901 and a few average salaries:
    32 year old Assistant City Treasurer $960/yr.
    42 year old Bank Accountant $1800/yr.
    18 year old Actress $1860/yr. (NOTE: there are listed a number of “actresses” and “models”, all late teens and early twenties, and making the kind of money a banker makes; you figure it out)
    44 year old BC Supreme Court Judge $4000/yr.
    A couple folks in town at that time (merchants) were making well over $10,000/yr. at that time

  9. BTW, just realised (DUH!) that my salary comparisons aren’t quite what I was thinking, cause the 5 guineas = $711 is modern $711. Oh well. It’s still not chump change, although not as good as I was thinking.
    Duhee again. 🙂

  10. I like the story about the barristers. That makes some kind of sense to me. That accounts for a 21 shilling amount.
    I suspect the “Actresses” worked harder than the Bankers……

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