Teaching Modules


Determination and Resistance



Themes and historical touchstones that the lesson will cover:

  • Influential biological determinists such as Dr. Edward H. Clarke and Dr. G. Stanley Hall argued that women’s bodies could not withstand the rigors of advanced scholarship.
  • Marriage and reproduction as women’s destiny
  • Acceptance of sex-typed roles for women – dominance of Darwin and Spencer and the conviction of biological temperaments by gender – women’s early professions built around belief in women’s inherent nurture     


Context for the lesson:

  • Clarke's text as foundational. He was retired at the time of publication. If women studied, they would endanger their reproductive possibilities. His book as a kind of medical endorsement of a much older cultural suspicion that women simply were unable undertake the same kind of scholarship as men. Went through 17 printings.
  • Objections of the 1870s centered around the question of health
  • 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act
  • Women’s labor expanded during the war – as nurses, doctor, farm hands, factory laborers.