On the invisibility of women

Mon 12 Nov 2012 09:18 PM

For a while now, I've been thinking about discussions of 'natural kinds' in the 19th century. One thing I discuss is a series of papers in Mind which discuss Mill's account of natural kinds. One of these papers is by M. H. Towry. There is a subsequent article by F. and C. L. Franklin of Baltimore, in which they respond to the argument made by "Mr. Towry".

I know that the latter authors were Fabian and Christine Ladd Franklin. She was a student of C.S. Peirce who worked primarily on various problems in logic.

I have not been able to make a positive identification of Towry, although there is circumstantial reason to think that it was Mary Helen Towry White. She wrote a diverse array of stuff over a period of decades. There is a book titled Clanship and the Clans in 1869, which one reference credits to "M. H. Towry (pseud. [i.e. Mary Helen White.])" There is an edited volume Spencer for Children and an adaptation of a French book Life Stories of Famous Children, both from the 1870s. The Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire has an article by "Miss M. H. Towry White, Author of 'Memoirs of the Whites of Wallingwells'."

Although I have e-mailed an antiquarian society and the editorial offices of Mind, I have been unable to confirm that "On the Doctrine of Natural Kinds" is by that very same M. H. Towry. For the purposes of my own writing, it does not matter too much. Towry's article is concise and clear. I can discuss its argument regardless of the author.

Yet it is a striking illustration of how women can easily be written out of history. The initials make it seem like any other Victorian philosopher. Even Franklin&Franklin, responding the Towry the following year, take it to be Mister Towry. I only know that one of the Franklins is a women because I know some backstory about her.

There is another reply to Towry by W. H. S. Monck. Google suggests that this might be William Henry Stanley Monck (1839-1915) who was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin and an amateur astronomer. It was pretty easy to find out about him because he was an academic. Of course, only men were academics.