Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Invading Arcadia: Women Scientists in the Field in Latin America, 1900-1950*

  • Pamela M. Henson (a1)
Extract

Let us keep a place where real research men can find quiet, keen intellectual stimulation, freedom from any outside distraction." This was the response of a prominent North American naturalist opposed to a 1924 proposal to build facilities for women at the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory in Panama. In the first decades of the twentieth-century, in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and as the United States built the Panama Canal, the American tropics became a major focus for North American politics and natural history, with government funding and logistical support from the military for scientific expeditions. As the North American western frontier closed, the New World tropics—or Neotropics—assumed the role that the West had played for an earlier generation of nineteenth-century explorers. In a post-Darwinian world, a field trip to the tropics with its rich biodiversity had become a rite of passage and a route to fame for young North American naturalists. And in the decades during and after the successful campaign for women's suffrage in the United States, tensions between men and women ran high, in the home, at the ballot box, and at the field station.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Ruth F. Schallert, botany librarian at the Smithsonian, Pilar M. Montalvo, Jennifer A. Nichols, and Leslie E. Sagle of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Patricia Gossel of the National Museum of American History, and colleagues who commented on drafts of this article, especially Catherine A. Christen, Peggy A. Kidwell, Tanya J. Levin, Michael Robinson, Margaret W. Rossiter, A. Stanley Rand, Nancy G. Slack, and Robert Kargon's spring 2000 graduate seminar at The Johns Hopkins University.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 David G. Fairchild to Thomas Barbour, 10 September 1924, Box 1, Canal Zone Biological Area [CZBA], Records, 1918–1964, Record Unit [RU] 134, Smithsonian Institution Archives [SIA].

2 Wheeler, William MortonThe Dry Rot of Our Academic Biology,Science 57 (1923), pp. 6171.

3 McCullough, David The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914 (New York: Simon Schuster, 1977), pp. 120123 , 200–203, 252–253, 392–398, 405–408.

4 For information on the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, see Box 1, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, RU 7472, SIA; Edgar Alexander Mearns Papers, 1871–1916, RU 7083, SIA; and Edmund Heller Papers, 1898–1918, RU 7175, SIA. Philip Pauly argues that Roosevelt gave up a planned career in natural history because it had become too gendered as feminine. Pauly, Philip J.Summer Resort and Scientific Discipline: Woods Hole and the Structure of American Biology, 1882–1925,” in The American Development of Biology, edited by Rainger, Ronald et al (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), p. 126 ; Burroughs, John Camping and Tramping with President Roosevelt (New York: Arno Press, (1907) 1970); McCullough, David Mornings on Horseback (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981), pp. 114122, 162–163, 213–214; Wilson, Robert L. Theodore Roosevelt: Outdoorsman (New York: Winchester Press, 1971), pp. 117 , 20, 141–142, 172–202. “Smithsonian Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone,” Expeditions Organized or Participated in by the Smithsonian Institution in 1910 and 1911, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 59, no. 11 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1912), pp. 15, 17–18; “Completion of the Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone,” Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution in 1912, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 60, no. 30 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1913), p. 62; Heckadon-Moreno, StanleyEl Instituto Smithsonian y el reconocimiento biologico de Panama 1910–1912,Épocas Segunda Era 10 (October 1995), p. 11 , and “Estudios zoológicos de E. A. Goldman en Cerro Azul y Portobello, 1910–1911,” Épocas Segunda Era 10 (December 1995), p. 9.

5 Frederick W. True to Charles D. Walcott, 24 January 1912, and Albert S. Hitchcock to Frederick V. Coville, 8 January 1912, Box 43, Folder 2, Office of the Secretary, Charles D. Walcott, Records, 19071924, RU 45, SIA. Chase, AgnesObituary: Albert Spear Hitchcock,Science 83:2149 (6 March 1936), pp. 222224 . Like Chase and Hitchcock, Coville worked at the National Herbarium at the Smithsonian for much of his career while being paid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Glenn, Susan W.Frederick V. Coville,” in Sterling, Keir B. et al, editors, Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997), pp. 177178 ; and Maxon, William R.Frederick V. Coville,Science, vol. 85, no. 2203 (19 March 1937), pp. 280281.

6 Frederick V. Coville to Frederick W. True, 10 January 1912, Box 43, Folder 2, Secretary Records, 1907–1924, RU 45, SIA. “Frederick W. True,” by Cox, William E. Biographical Dictionary of Naturalists, pp. 785787.

7 Frederick W. True to Frederick V. Coville, 13 January 1912, Frederick W. True to Charles D. Walcott, 24 January 1912, and Charles D. Walcott to Frederick V. Coville, 31 January 1912, Box 43, Folder 2, Secretary Records, 1907–1924, RU 45, SIA. Rossiter, Margaret W. Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), pp. 5172 ; Yochelson, Ellis L.Charles Doolittle Walcott,Biographical Dictionary of Naturalists, pp. 803806.

8 Hitchcock to Coville, 8 January 1912, op cit. McCullough, , Path Between Seas, pp. 418420 , 554–556.

9 Solomon, Geri E.Mary Vaux Walcott,Biographical Dictionary of Naturalists, pp. 807808.

10 “Barro Colorado Island Laboratory,” Box 6, Folder 4, James Zetek to Jay J. Morrow, 27 March 1923, Jay J. Morrow to James Zetek, 16 April 1923, Box 25, Office of the Secretary, Canal Zone Biological Area, Records, 1912–1965, RU 135, SIA; Thomas Barbour to James Zetek, 2 March 1924, Box 1, Folder 4, Committee on Organization and Incorporation for The Institute for Research in Tropical America, Report, 15 January 1921, Box 1, Folder 1, Conference on Research in Tropical America, Report, 12 June 1920, Box 1, Folder 1, Albert Spear Hitchcock to Alexander G. Ruthven, 21 November 1924, Box 1 Folder 2, Alexander G. Ruthven to Albert Spear Hitchcock, 24 March 1924, and Albert Spear Hitchcock to Alexander G. Ruthven, 27 March 1924, Box 1, Folder 4, CZBA Records, 1918–1964, RU 134, SIA. Benson, Keith R.Review Paper: The Naples Stazione Zoologica and its Impact on the Emergence of American Marine Biology,Journal of the History of Biology 21 (1988), pp. 331341 ; Gross, Alfred O.Barro Colorado Island Biological Station,” in Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1926 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1927), pp. 327342 ; Hagen, Joel B.Problems in the Institutionalization of Tropical Biology: The Case of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory,History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 12 (1990), pp. 235237 ; Maienschein, Jane 100 Years of Exploring Life: The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1989), pp. 1116 , 19–25, 64–70, 104–107; Mcllheny, Eleanor H.Barro Colorado Island,Smithsonian Torch (May-July 1956), passim; Wheeler, “Dry Rot;” “Barbour, Thomas,” and “ Wheeler, , Morton, William,” Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981); “ Zetek Papers, James,” Guide to Smithsonian Archives (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), p. 611.

11 Thomas Barbour, “First Annual Report of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Station in the Panama Canal Zone, 7 March 1925,” Box 11, Folder 2. Rossiter, , Women Scientists, pp. 4748, 86–88, 122; Sloan, Jan ButinThe Founding of the Naples Table Association for Promoting Scientific Research by Women, 1897,Signs 4:1 (1978), pp. 208216.

12 Maienschein, 100 Years, pp. vii–viii, xiii–xvi, 151–174; Pauly, , “Summer Resort and Scientific Discipline,” pp. 121150 ; Rossiter, , Women Scientists, pp. 8688 . For additional discussion of men's clubs, see Baltzell, E. Digby Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1989) and Domhoff, G. William The Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats: A Study in Ruling-Class Cohesiveness (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974).

13 Mcllheny, , “Barro Colorado Island,” pp. 78 . See also annual reports of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Station in Box 11, Secretary CZBA Records, 1912–1965, RU 135, SIA; Oral History Interview of Graham Bell Fairchild, 1989, RU 9559, SIA.

14 Allee, Warder C. and Allee, Marjorie Hill Jungle Island (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1925); Chapman, Frank M. My Tropical Air Castle: Nature Studies in Panama (New York: Appleton, 1929) and Life in an Air Castle: Nature Study in the Tropics (New York: Appleton, 1938); and Fairchild, David Grandison The World Was My Garden (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938).

15 Barbour, , “Annual Report, 1925,” pp. 4 , 6, and 8. Pauly, , “Summer Resort,” pp. 128134 ; Rossiter, , Women Scientists, pp. 8688, 122, 306.

16 Hitchcock to Ruthven, 21 November 1924, Ruthven to Hitchcock, 24 March 1924, and Hitchcock to Ruthven, 27 March 1924, op cit; Fairchild Oral History, RU 9559, SIA. Douglas, Marjory Stoneman Adventures in a Green World: The Story of David Fairchild and Barbour Lathrop (Miami: Field Research Projects, 1973); Fairchild, David GrandisonThe Jungles of Panama,National Geographic Magazine 41 (1922), pp. 131145 ; Hagen, , “Problems,” p. 31 ; “Fairchild, David Grandison,” Dictionary of American Biography.

17 David E. Fairchild to Thomas Barbour, 10 September 1924, Box 1, Folder 11, CZBA Records, 1918–1964, RU 134, SIA.

18 Thomas Barbour to James Zetek, 25 September 1924, Box 1, Folder 11, Thomas Barbour to David G. Fairchild, 2 March 1924, Box 1, Folder 4, CZBA Records, 1912–1965, RU 134, SIA. Hagen, , “Problems,” pp. 229230, 233, 237.

19 Frank M. Chapman to Thomas Barbour, 16 November 1925 and 22 January 1938, Box 15, Folder 3, James Zetek to Thomas Barbour, 12 November 1925, Box 25, Folder 3, James Zetek to Frank M. Chapman, 7 May 1938, Box 15, Folder 3, William M. Wheeler to James Zetek, 27 February 1935, Box 21, Folder 2, Secretary CZBA Records, 1912–1965, RU 135, SIA. Britton, Sidney W. Kline, R. F. and Silvette, H. Blood-chemical and other conditions in normal and adrenalectomized sloths (Washington, D.C.: American Physiological Society, 1928); Buettinger, CraigWomen and antivivisection in Late Nineteenth-century America,Journal of Social History 30:4 (June 1977), pp. 857870.

20 Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1916 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1917), pp. 22–23; Miller, FrancescaThe International Relations of Women of the Americas 1890–1928,The Americas 43 (1986), pp. 171182 ; Ripley, S. Dillon and Steed, James A.Alexander Wetmore: June 18, 1886-December 7, 1978,Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences 56 (1987): 597626 ; Swiggett, Emma B. Pan-American Scientific Congress, 2nd, Washington, D.C., 1915–1916, Women's Auxiliary Conference (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1916); Walsh, Jane M. Henson, Pamela M. and Dittemore, Margaret R. Expeditions: 150 Years of Smithsonian Research in Latin America (Washington, D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank, 1996); Wetmore, Alexander et al, The Birds of the Republic of Panama, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1965–1984); Wetmore, Alexander Los Aves de la República de Panama, trans, by López, Joaquín (Panama: Editorial Universitaria, Universidad de Panama, 1970). For a discussion of scientific colonialism, see Reingold, Nathan and Rothenberg, Marc eds., Scientific Colonialism: A Cross-cultural Comparison (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987), especially Chambers, David WadePeriod and Process in Colonial and National Science,” pp. 297321 ; and Sheets-Pyen-son, Susan Cathedrals of Science: The Development of Colonial Natural History Museums during the Late Nineteenth Century (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1988).

22 Henson, Pamela M.Foreword,” in Agnes Chase's First Book of Grasses: The Structure of Grasses Explained for Beginners, edited by Clark, Lynn G. and Pohl, Richard W., 4th edition (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), pp. xiii-xvi; Stieber, Michael T.Chase, Mary Agnes,” in Notable American Women: The Modern Period, edited by Sicherman, Barbara et al (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 146148.

22 Henson, Pamela M.The Comstocks of Cornell, A Marriage of Interests,Pycior, Helena M. Slack, Nancy G. and Abir-Am, Pnina G. eds., Creative Couples in the Sciences (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996), pp. 112125 ; Keeney, Elizabeth The Botanizers: Amateur Scientists in Nineteenth-century America (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1985), pp. 1112 , 35, 41–43, 57–80, 102–105, 161–187; Rossiter, , Women Scientists, pp. 6063 ; Rudolph, Emanuel D.Women in Nineteenth Century American Botany; A Generally Unrecognized Constituency,American Journal of Botany 69 (1982), pp. 13461355 ; Shteir, Ann B. Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora's Daughters and Botany in England, 1760 to 1860 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 1922.

23 Charles Frederick Millspaugh to Joseph Nelson Rose, 22 November 1903, Box 16, Folder “Millspaugh,” Division of Plants, United States National Museum, 1886–1928 and undated, Records, RU 221, SIA; Fosberg, F. Raymond and Swallen, Jason R.Agnes Chase,Taxon 8:5 (1959), pp. 145151 ; Henson, Pamela M., “Art for Science's Sake,Zoogoer 25:5 (1996), pp. 2126 , “Chase, Mary Agnes,” Dictionary of American Biography, and “Foreword,” pp. xiii–xvi; Duane Iseley, F. RaymondMary Agnes Chase (1869–1963),” in One Hundred and One Botanists (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1994), pp. 303305 ; Kohlstedt, Sally GregoryIn from the Periphery: American Women in Science, 1830–1880,Signs 4 (1978), pp. 8196 ; Stieber, , “Chase, Mary Agnes,” pp. 147148.

24 Glazer, Penina Midgal and Slate, Miriam Unequal Colleagues: The Entrance of Women into the Professions, 1890–1940 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1987), pp. 119128 ; Lurie, Nancy OestreichWomen in Early American Anthropology,” in Helm, June ed., Pioneers of American Anthropology: The Uses of Biography (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966), pp. 2981 ; Solomon, Barbara Miller In the Company of Educated Women: A History of Women and Higher Education in America (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 4361, 63–64, 78–90, 115–118, 126–139; Sterling, Keir B.Mary Jane Rathbun,Biographical Dictionary of Naturalists, pp. 661662.

25 Agnes Chase's field notebooks are located in Collected Notes, Lists, and Catalogues on Plants, 1825–1966, RU 1010014, SIA. Henson, , “Foreword,14 ; Hitchcock, Albert S. and Chase, Agnes North American Species of Panicum, Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, vol. 15 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1910), Tropical North American Species of Panicum, Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, vol. 17 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1915), pp. vii, 459–460, Grasses of the West Indies, Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, vol. 18 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1917).

26 Ford, Linda G. Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman's Party, 1912–1920 (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1991), pp. 123138 , 197–217, Chase's role is discussed on pp. 137, 204 and 212; Henson, , “Foreword,” pp. xiv-xv; Irwin, Inez Haynes Up Hill with Banners Flying (Penobscot, Maine: Traversity Press, 1964), pp. 198299 , 344–375, for Chase, see p. 366; Rossiter, , Women Scientists, pp. 116 ; Stevens, Doris Jailed for Freedom (New York: Schocken Books, Inc., 1976), p. 356 ; Stieber, , “Chase, Mary Agnes,” pp. 147148.

27 Chase, AgnesCollecting Grasses in Brazil,Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 26 (1925), pp. 196198 ; Kohlstedt, Sally GregoryWomen in the History of Science: An Ambiguous Place,Osiris 10(1995), pp. 3958.

28 Agnes Chase/Maria Bandeira correspondence is in Box 1, and Agnes Chase, lecture to the Bio-logical Society of Washington, 24 October 1925, Box 12, Folder 4, Division of Grasses, Records, 18841963, RU 229, SIA; Agnes Chase field notes, Brazil, 1924, Collected Notes on Plants, 1884–1966, RU 1010014, SIA. Chase, AgnesCollecting Grasses in Brazil,” pp. 196198 , “Botanical Expedition to Brazil,” Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution in ¡925 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1926), pp. 48–54, and “Eastern Brazil Through an Agrostologist's Spectacles,” Annual Report of the Smithsonian institution for ¡926 (Washington, D.C.; United States Government Printing Office, 1927), pp. 383–403.

29 Agnes Chase, lecture on field trips to Brazil, undated, and “Brazil, 1929–1930,” Box 12, Folder 4, Agnes Chase to Harold C. Anderson, 20 December 1941, Box 1, Alfred S. Hitchcock to W. A. Taylor, 22 April 1929, Box 12, Division of Grasses, Records, 1884–1963, RU 229, SIA; Agnes Chase field notes, Brazil, 1929, Collected Notes on Plants, RU 1010014, SIA. Chase, , “Collecting Grasses in Brazil,” p. 198 ; Spencer, MarjorieThe Botanical Quests of a Woman in Latin America,Pan American Magazine 42:6(1930), pp. 389391.

30 Agnes Chase to Henri Pittier, 11 November 1942 and 5 July 1945, and Henri Pittier to Agnes Chase, 19 July 1943, Box 30, and Agnes Chase/Zoraida Luces de Febres correspondence in Box 5, Division of Grasses, Records, 1884–1963, RU 229, SIA. Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1941), p. 26; Chase, AgnesStudying the Grasses of Venezuela,Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution in 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1941), pp. 6166 , First Book of Grasses (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1922), Primer libro de las Gramíneas: la estructura de las gramíneas explicada a los principiantes, trans, by Zoraida Luces de Febres (Turrialba, C.R.: Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agrícolas, 1959), and Prìmeiro livro de gramíneas: noções sobre a estrutura com exemplos da flora Brasileira, trans, by Tatiana Sendulsky (São Paulo: Instituto de Botânica, 1991); Eakin, Marshall C.The Origins of Modern Science in Costa Rica: The Instituto Físico-Geográfico Nacional, 1887–1904,Latin American Research Review 34, 1 (1999): 123150 , Pittier had also worked in Costa Rica at the Instituto Físico-Geográfico Nacional de Costa Rica; Henson, “foreword.”

31 Maria Bandeira to Agnes Chase, 8 August 1927, 12 December 1929, 8 January 1931, Agnes Chase to Maria Bandeira, 18 September 1927, 20 August 1929, 29 January 1931, Box 3, Division of Grasses, Records, 1884–1963, RU 229, SIA.

32 David G. Fairchild to Thomas Barbour, 4 July 1941, Box 16, Folder 4, and James Zetek to Thomas Barbour, 4 July 1941, Box 15, Folder 2, Secretary CZBA Records, 1912–1965, RU 135, SIA. Marie L. Farr to Director, Smithsonian Institute, 22 June 1956, and John E. Graf to Marie L. Farr, 2 July 1956, Box 16, Folder 4, Secretary CZBARecords, 1912–1965, RU 135, SIA. National Geographic Society film on Barro Colorado Island by photographer Richard Stewart, 1950, shows Stirling's accommodations on the island, Box 210, Alexander Wetmore Papers, RU 7006, SIA. Hagen, , “problem,” pp. 240243 , 246–247; Kohlstedt, “In from Periphery”; Stirling, Matthew W.Exploring the Past in Panama,National Geographic Magazine 95:3 (1949), pp. 373399 and “Exploring Ancient Panama by Helicopter,” National Geographic Magazine 97:2 (1950), pp. 227–246.

* The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Ruth F. Schallert, botany librarian at the Smithsonian, Pilar M. Montalvo, Jennifer A. Nichols, and Leslie E. Sagle of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Patricia Gossel of the National Museum of American History, and colleagues who commented on drafts of this article, especially Catherine A. Christen, Peggy A. Kidwell, Tanya J. Levin, Michael Robinson, Margaret W. Rossiter, A. Stanley Rand, Nancy G. Slack, and Robert Kargon's spring 2000 graduate seminar at The Johns Hopkins University.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Americas
  • ISSN: 0003-1615
  • EISSN: 1533-6247
  • URL: /core/journals/americas
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed