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Reviews Barbara T. Gates, Kindred Nature: Victorian and Edwardian Women Embrace the Living World. The University ofChicago Press, 1998. xv+293. Gates' book is an expansive exploration of the connections between women and nature, providing both a readable introduction to her subject for the general reader and an important step forward for scholars in the area ofgender and science studies. Kindred Nature addresses many of the assertions already made by writers in this area. She points out that women's studies of nature have suffered "minimalization of both numbers and roles" (4) and that "nature functions as mental and linguistic construct" that associates women with nature and thus robs them of any claim to reasoned, intellectual thought (5). Gates' study aims to correct the record. Within the well-established framework ofgender-science studies, Gates' specific contribution is two-fold. First, while being careful not to essentialize Victorian and Edwardian womanhood as natural, Gates nevertheless claims that the women in Kindred Nature formulate "distinctively female traditions in science and nature writing" (7). Gates posits that these women made use of their society's belief in the close association between women and nature, constructing nature differently to professionalizing, male scientists. Secondly, and equally importantly, Gates focuses on these women's accomplishments rather than continuing "to reiterate stories of female impotence" (250). Part One, entitled "Women on the Edge of Science," is somewhat at odds with these two tenants ofher work. The first chapter outlines the difficulties and challenges women faced in attempting to "speak in nature's name." For the uninitiated reader, Gates' discussion establishes how much women had accomplished by studying the natural world and by writing from their own perspectives and experiences. Yet this first chapter could lead the reader to see these women's lives and their approaches to nature which make up the rest of the work, as marginal to the 'real' work ofscience carried out by the professionalizing male scientist in the second-half of the century. Ifthe reader can pigeon-hole chapter one as a jumping-off point from which Gates' work extends, then Kindred Nature 1 24volume 26 number 2 Reviews succeeds in both ofits aims. Gates has uncovered an astonishing number ofwomen whose lives and writings were dedicated to communicating their views of nature to the reading public. These women experimented with new forms ofwriting natural history; they formulated original ways ofworking with and imaging the natural world. It seems almost unfair to zero in on any one or two women in the space of a review. Examples ofthese women's unique endeavours abound, such as the work ofArabella Buckley (1840-1929), known for a long time as Sir Charles Lyells secretary. Buckley rises to new heights in Kindred Nature as a revisionist of Darwin. Ahead ofher time, Buckley believed that "the raison d'etre for evolution was not just the preservation oflife but the development ofmutuality as well" (60). Further along, we meet Anna Kingsford (1846-1888) who, rather than a revisionist, was a creator of what Gates calls a "womanist view of nature." Kingsford "wanted to revamp the male-driven world by picturing a world in textures and colours that better suited women and nonhuman species" (144). She created a whole new religion by reconciling science and faith "by positing that all existence was essentially spiritual" (150). In the last section of the work, we find several women in chapter six creating a "Victorian female sublime" and communicating their breathless experiences of the natural world via travel and gardening literature. In chapter eight, we are introduced to several women who created "storied animals," bringing alive the individual zoo captive, pet or wild animals' life. In all cases, the women oĆ­Kindred Nature are in sympathy with the natural world of their studies, worlds that were "mentally and artistically apprehended and consciously and deliberately embraced" (5). This is apparently true even with regard to the hunters, fishers and farmers of Chapter 7. However, Gates is careful to show the contradictions in such women's beliefs, noting how Mrs. R. H. Tyacke, brave big game hunter, also suckled young animals orphaned by hunters (199-200). Equally, Gates also reflects that men could be in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 124-126
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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