More Valuable Than Even Radium: Christine Ladd-Franklin's Perspective on Intellect and the Life of the Mind
Walton, Andrea, Vitae Scholasticae
"I hold out to them the good example of the University of Chicago, and I hope to make it 'work' in course of time," confided Christine Ladd-Franklin, noted color theorist and logician, to a sympathetic male colleague in 1914. (2) An unsalaried lecturer and one of the few women then offering graduate instruction at Columbia, Ladd-Franklin was critical of the gender barriers and anti-feminist biases she perceived at the Ivy League university. To Ladd's frustration, Columbia remained far more willing to admit women into its graduate departments than to hire them as faculty. This was the case despite women's achievements not only at the nation's women's colleges but also at male-dominated coeducational universities. Ever the tireless reformer and optimist, Ladd-Franklin hoped that her own example as a highly productive scholar and distinguished lecturer, together with her vigilance and continued prodding, might prick the conscience of Columbia men and help break down the barriers militating against women's advancement on campus. These barriers continued, she believed, contrary to both common sense and meritocratic values. To her, the mind was neither male nor female: it was gender-neutral. Intellectual power was not to be wasted; it was to be embraced, cultivated, and enabled. From her vantage point, the intellect was, simply put," more valuable than even radium." (3)
This essay explores how Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847-1930) conceptualized the capabilities and contributions of educated women and the meaning she attached to the life of the mind. As such, this study builds upon and contributes to a rich feminist literature aiming to integrate women's experience into historical writing on higher education, the disciplines, and the professions. In addition to recovering the research achievements of women scientists like Ladd-Franklin, historians have pointed to gender biases within academic culture, considered whether gender shapes scientific knowledge, and highlighted the strategies women adopted to fight exclusion and marginalization in male-dominated fields and institutions) In making common cause with the existing literature on women academicians and scientists, this biography hopes to emphasize a dimension of scholarly women's story that albeit embedded within accounts of her pioneering achievements is too often overshadowed or muted by discussion of the hurdles she negotiated striving to build a career and achieve by male-modeled norms--and that is, what did intellect and the opportunity to pursue a life devoted to intellectual matters (traditionally held to be a masculine rather than a feminine pursuit) mean to this woman?
In order to consider this question, this essay considers the contours of one particular woman's life in depth. Biography, as Barbara Finkelstein has described eloquently," is to history what a telescope is to the stars. It reveals the invisible, extracts detail from myriad points of light, uncovers sources of illumination, and helps us disaggregate and reconstruct large heavenly pictures." Indeed, moving well beyond mere chronology, the historical study of a life "offers a unique lens through which one can assess the relative power of political, economic, cultural, social, and generational processes on the life chances of individuals." (5)
In focusing on Christine Ladd-Franklin, this essay seeks to open a window to the social world that Ladd-Franklin and other kindred women were compelled to negotiate in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We see how Ladd-Franklin's ability to envision and, beyond that, to realize an intellectual life and solidify her identity as an intellectual woman--to embrace her heroine Mary Wollstonecraft's dictum that women's "first duty is to themselves as rational creatures"--took shape against the landscape of major growth and innovation in higher education, especially the pivotal educational advances for women and the rise of research universities in the decades from the 1860s through the Progressive Era. (6) As this essay will explore, Ladd-Franklin's career was profoundly shaped by and capitalized upon these major changes. She was an early female collegian (Vassar Class of 1869), was among the first generation of university-trained psychologists, traveled to Germany for post-doctoral training, and spearheaded efforts of the Associate of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA) and, later, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to improve research conditions and fellowship opportunities for women. Further, although she lacked a regular academic appointment, she prized her years at two of the nation's top research centers--Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University.
These notable achievements solidified Ladd-Franklin's international reputation during her life time, and in our day have interested feminist historians of science. (7) This essay seeks to broaden our angle of vision of Ladd-Franklin's biography, to discern the pivotal moments in her life--in her girlhood, adolescence, schooling, married life, and career--that contributed to shaping her identity as an intellectual woman and helped steel her commitment to a scholarly life. The aim is to understand better how this accomplished woman--whom philosopher-settlement founder Jane Addams once described (though perhaps not entirely admiringly) as "the most intellectual woman"she had ever met--viewed the life of the mind and the connection between individual intellectual fulfillment and one's contribution to women's advancement. (8)
Fulfilling an Intellectual Mother's Expectations
Christine Ladd, also known as Kitty, was born in New York City on December 1, 1847, the first child born to Eliphalet and Augusta Niles Ladd. Her father, a New York City merchant, taught his daughter the value of hard work and perseverance. Her mother, a homemaker with a progressive social outlook (she was a staunch supporter of women's rights), encouraged her three children in daily prayer and avid reading. Both parents hailed from Protestant, patrician New England families that prided themselves on public service, duty, and leadership. In turn, their daughter's intellectual aspirations and the career she forged, one blending a dedication to the ideals of the academy and the rigors of intellectual life, especially to science, and support for women's intellectual and social rights, exemplified this Yankee heritage. (9)
Christine Ladd spent her early years with her family at the Niles family homestead in Windsor, Connecticut, but was sent to live with her paternal grandmother in New Hampshire in 1860, following Augusta's death from pneumonia. Ladd's diary entries from this formative period contain stylized expressions of a daughter's grief, provide insight into her family life, and shed light on Ladd's preoccupation with many of the intellectual questions, aspirations and social concerns (e.g. slavery, and women's rights) that were shared widely by her generation of white, middle-class young women--particularly those who became teachers, settlements workers, and charity organizers.
The restlessness of Ladd's teenage years seems to have been tied, at least in part, to an inner struggle centering on her own spirituality and emergent identity as an intellectually ambitious young Christian woman, and by her growing sense of isolation and disillusionment with the foibles she perceived in her own character and in those around her: "I cannot make up my mind to be a Christian, although I long to be one, "she wrote in the summer of 1861. (10) Ladd was also troubled by her father's remarriage. In response, Ladd tried to devote her energies to study and self-cultivation, viewing this as a period of youthful independence before assuming the conventional responsibilities of adulthood--or what she in fact described as the "trials and sorrows" of womanhood. Relishing her "educational privileges," she found her intellectual ambitions consonant with the sense of duty upheld by her extended family, but had great difficulty reconciling her ambition and cerebral bent--traits that were culturally acceptable for men--with traditional religious sentiment and the social conventions of "women's sphere." (11)
Even as a teenager, Ladd valued public achievement above all else, and impatiently berated herself for not yet making her mark upon the world. In her prayers for Thanksgiving Day, 1861, the young woman stalwartly resolved to display more "energy," "industry," "tact," and "promptitude." (12) Such traits, she believed, were key to a "better happiness in a world to come." (13) But despite the outstanding scholastic performance her hard work produced, young Ladd's confidence was fragile and at times wavered. In such moments, she turned to her mother's memory, for Augusta had been her major role model of strength, intellect and caring. "If only I had someone to love me ..." she agonized in her diary, but I am so "unpleasing, so disagreeable, no wonder I am despised." She continued, "Oh mother come back from the echoless shore." (14)
A turning point in young Ladd's ability to conceptualize her own future as a leader came in early 1863. As she witnessed the violence unleashed by the Civil War, questions about social justice, the nature of equality, and her own life's purpose preoccupied her heart and mind. She took a keen interest as the subject of slavery was debated at prayer meetings and in the press. Writing in her diary on the 12th of May, 1863, she described the "genius and esprit" of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, and began to contemplate her own life's course, reflecting a growing maturity and heightened social awareness. (15) What was life's purpose? What would be a suitable goal for her ambition? she mused. Her initial choice of vocation was set: she planned to study to become a literature teacher.
To Ladd's thinking, all else paled compared in significance to a consideration of the social issues facing the country and the task of settling on one's path in life. The youthful world of dance parties and flirtatious kissing games that seemingly absorbed her cousins held no attraction for her, and she found herself disaffected from many of her adult relatives. (16) She dreamed of living instead "among educated people," individuals who like herself believed that "there is nothing like intellectual labor to polish one." (17)
Even if the independent-minded Ladd at times ascribed her spiritual wavering or limitations, at least partly, to her gender, she eventually, like many women of her generation who forged public careers, would envision her gender as her strength. (18) Part of her education in this regard came from being exposed to intellectual women. Indeed, she came to understand more clearly the conservatism of her household and the oppression of women in society when she attended a lecture by the woman's rights advocate and abolitionist Anna Dickinson. Arriving at the lecture hall "fully prepared to find fault" with the speaker's views, Ladd was instead impressed by Dickinson's eloquence and by the righteousness of her social cause. Her faith in women and self-confidence restored, Ladd was determined to cast off the conventional thinking of her relatives: "So long have I been under the government of these antiquarians ... now I shake off the shackles and am once more my own master." (19)
Ladd's youthful struggle to excel and shape her own identity--to harmonize spiritual and intellectual life--led her to focus on education and to find encouragement in the advances for women she observed. "I am crying for very joy. I have been reading an account of the Vassar Female College that is to be the glorious emancipation proclamation for woman," (20) she wrote on March 27, 1862. This "collegiate experiment" in women's liberal arts education, she believed, would build laudably upon the pioneering efforts of earlier seminary founders Catharine Beecher (Hartford Seminary, 1821) and Mary Lyon (Mt. Holyoke, 1836). In Ladd's view, women had been excluded or distanced from the institutions of male-dominated culture, by custom and law, and then ridiculed by men for their shortcomings. The opening of collegiate education to women was, she believed, a vital avenue for improving women's collective lot and a direct challenge to pseudo-scientific and anti-feminist doubts about women's intellectual capabilities. (21) Having excelled in Greek and having graduated at the head of her class at coeducational Wesleyan Academy (in Wilbraham, Massachusetts), Ladd made preparing for the Vassar entrance examination the focus of her energies. To Ladd, attending college would honor her mother's memory and uphold the qualities she most admired in Augusta: her "angel's zeal" for learning, her self-reliance, and her belief in working for the complementary goals of women's advancement and Christian goodness. Standing among Vassar's earliest graduates would satisfy the emotional imperative of embracing her mother's values and, beyond that, would enable her to contribute, on a personal level, to the process she described joyously as the "great reformation" of American "womanhood." (22)
One cannot underestimate the considerable difficulties that Ladd and other young women of her generation encountered in trying to develop their intellectual selves and their identities as scholars. Social pressures and attitudes precluded an academic career for all but the most ingenious and persevering or privileged women. "Surely woman has in her something noble, something higher than bread and butter. If ambition is right in man, is it not also right in woman?" Ladd asked. "Shall she not seek with all her strength to elevate her sex above its present degraded position, seek to attain her proper sphere ...?" Her admiration for female leaders like orator Anna Dickinson led Ladd to consider her own possible niche. Her deep attachment to the notion of social progress and individual achievement reflected the pervasive Social Darwinism of her era: "The true sphere for everyone is that for which his capacity fills him, and to no other ought he to aspire. But the ages onward roll and still the world progresses ... God cannot let his people continue forever in ignorance and blindness." "I am to do something, no matter how humble, for the benefit of my race," wrote Ladd, in 1863, and then added purposefully, "Let me strive to do something befitting womanhood." (23)
Christine's diary entry described her resolve to secure a Vassar education in cadences evoking what M. Carey Thomas described as the "passionate desire" of women of this generation to pursue higher education. (24) "I must be firm, perhaps I have some money ... which will take me to that consummation devoutly to be wished," Ladd wrote. She vowed to "give up any and everything for knowledge.... I feel that I am born for something higher and nobler than to be married off [to] the highest bidder in the market of husbands." (25)
Her enthusiasm notwithstanding, Ladd's path to obtaining her Vassar degree in 1869 was far from smooth. In July of 1866, after weeks of trepidation, she finally gathered the courage to disclose her college aspirations to her relatives only to have her grandmother vehemently oppose her plan, warning that four years of advanced studies would seriously diminish her marriage prospects. Ladd's response, albeit self-deprecatory, proved strategically sound. "[I]t would afford me great pleasure to entangle a husband but there was no one in the place who would have me or whom I would have.... "she claimed. Marshaling statistical evidence of a "great excess of males" in New England, she justified her plans not in terms of her intellectual ambition or affinity with the woman's rights crusade but as a practical matter--namely, preparation for the period of economic independence before marriage that many young women faced. Satisfied with her coup, she wrote in her diary,"[I] proved that as I was decidedly not handsome my chances were very small. Therefore since I would not find a husband to support me I must--myself ... so I needed an education. Grandma succumbed." (26)
Fortunately for Ladd, her aunt, Augusta's sister, was more receptive to the idea of a young woman attending college. Thanks largely to her aunt's emotional and financial support, Ladd was able to enroll in Vassar's second entering class. Although the college represented a noteworthy development in women's education in terms of rigor and endowment, Vassar College was by no means a seedbed of radicalism. Its curriculum and campus culture were designed to cultivate the refined, admirable qualities of educated Christian womanhood in students rather than imbue them with independence and inspire them to pursue a career. Moreover, Vassals small faculty and daffy academic affairs were dominated by men. (27)
To her disappointment, Vassar failed to measure up to the vision of a "cloistered" tower of learning that Ladd had relished as an intellectually eager school girl. (28) Perhaps, however, no mid-nineteenth-century American college, even one of the established Eastern men's institutions, could have satisfied Ladd's heightened expectations. After a year, she left Vassar temporarily, to help care for her younger siblings and to earn some money by teaching before resuming her studies. The hiatus also allowed her to consider her post-college plans. Ladd's first love was physics, yet she was pragmatic. She realized that women, regardless of their intellectual gifts and qualifications, were excluded from most universities and had great difficulty obtaining access to scientific equipment and laboratories. (29) She therefore turned to teaching, a socially acceptable and accessible form of employment and financial independence for women. Ladd wrote to her friend Dr. G.H. Sherman of Yale as she weighed the possibility of joining a small circle of her college classmates in opening a secondary school to prepare girls for Vassar, "I hate teaching, but there is nothing else for poor women to do. Meanwhile I can devote my spare time to optics which is at present the object of my dreams." (30) In the years immediately following Vassar, Ladd taught school, with the aim of financing her graduate studies, and likely studied mathematics on a non-degree basis at Harvard with W.E. Byerly and James Mill Pierce. She also began to publish, with articles appearing in The Analyst and The Educational Times. (31)
From Women's College to University: Another Experiment in Higher Education
Much as she had single-mindedly pursued admission to Vassar--touted as the 'best' in women's liberal arts education--Ladd aspired to the 'best' in university education--Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Opened in 1876, JHU emphasized German-style graduate seminars, laboratory work, and original investigation. Whereas by the 1870s, state universities had generally adopted coeducation (compelled by their public mission), privately-endowed JHU was able to guard its all-male admission policy.
Christine Ladd's graduate admission at Johns Hopkins (actually, the acceptance of "C. Ladd," as her application read) was advocated by the English-born and -trained JHU professor of mathematics J.J. Sylvester, who recognized Ladd's name from her publications in the Educational Times. (32) Upon Sylvester's urging, JHU officials invited the young school teacher to begin her studies in 1878; and, later, provided her with a fellowship from 1879 to 1882.
Ladd was not the first woman to make special arrangements for graduate studies at JHU. (33) One of her notable predecessors was M. Carey Thomas (Cornell, A.B. 1877), who would later become president of Bryn Mawr College (1894 to 1922) and a prominent advocate for women's education as a leader in the College Entrance Examination Board and the AAUW. (34) Hailing from one of Baltimore's well-to-do Quaker families, Thomas, like Ladd, had a father who fully supported his daughter's intellectual ambitions. (35) Moreover, Thomas similarly saw her academic pursuits as part of the fight on behalf of all women--and felt both the exhilaration and anxiety of belonging to a pioneering generation of female collegians. As a young girl, she had tearfully sought her mother's reassurance after reading Dr. Edward Clarke's Sex in Education (1873), a popular treatise arguing that collegiate studies imperiled female reproductive health. (36)
But Thomas's admission to study Greek at JHU "without class attendance," fell far short of her childhood dreams: she had to sit behind a screen during lectures or to consult privately with professors. Dissatisfied with such dehumanizing arrangements--"a kind of living death" (37)--Thomas left JHU, traveling first to Leipzeig, Germany, where women were permitted to study but were not awarded degrees, and then to Zurich, Switzerland, where she earned her Ph.D. in philology in 1882.
No less aware of the inequalities women faced at JHU than Thomas, Ladd opted to remain, primarily to continue her studies with William Storey and C.S. Peirce. She completed the coursework for a doctorate in mathematics in 1882, writing a well-received dissertation on "The Algebra of Logic," but Johns Hopkins officials withheld her degree. (38) At the time few American women, even faculty at the prestigious Northeastern women's colleges, held doctorates, and JHU's status-conscious trustees were wary that any hint of formalizing coeducation might diminish the university's stature and competitive standing. (39)
The end of her doctoral studies, though, opened a new chapter in Ladd's JHU career. That August, Ladd married Fabian Franklin, a Hungarian-born mathematician somewhat her junior, who, after receiving his Ph.D. from JHU in 1880 joined the faculty. The marriage between Christine Ladd-Franklin (she used a hyphenated surname) and Fabian Franklin was a marriage of equals, anchored in their shared commitments to intellectual life and career, family, civic reform, and social concerns. In many ways, Christine Ladd-Franklin found her guide for living-whether in personal or professional matters--in Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Here was a well-reasoned justification for women's education and a persuasive argument for "men [to be] content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience" on women's part. (40)
These early years as a faculty wife at JHU found Ladd-Franklin forging a career that combined childrearing (her daughter Margaret was born in 1883), unsalaried lecturing, reform activity in Baltimore, and contributions to the Nation on scientific news and a host of topics relating to women: including, for instance, ethnological perspectives on female subordination, the social contributions of working-girls clubs in America, the exclusion of women from intellectual and public life in Germany, and reviews of recently published biographies of talented and unconventional women--such as author Louisa May Alcott, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and physician Elizabeth Blackwell. (41)
Given her wide range of talents and interests perhaps no other US academic institution could have offered Ladd-Franklin so stimulating an intellectual environment. (42) This was the era when JHU was home to G. Stanley Hall Charles S. Peirce, G.S. Morris, and a cluster of talented male graduate students who would later be influential in the field of psychology, among them John Dewey, James McKeen Cattell, Joseph Jastrow, and E.C. Sanford. (43) But even if JHU was an intellectually vibrant campus, academic affairs in the department of psychology were not always calm. Department chair G. Stanley Hall alienated many of his JHU students and colleagues (on both personal and intellectual grounds). Certainly, there is little evidence to suggest, especially if the views of intellectual women Hall later published in Adolescence, 1904, are telling, that Hall would have been sympathetic to someone like Ladd-Franklin. (44) But the void left by Hall's resignation in 1888 created a possibility for JHU--and, eventually, for Ladd-Franklin. By 1903, JHU had recovered from the financial straits of the 1890s, and President Ira Remsen, Daniel Coit Gilman's successor, had hired Princeton's James Mark Baldwin to re-organize the Johns Hopkins psychology department. Ladd-Franklin knew Baldwin, having already served for two years as an associate editor (logic and philosophy) for his Dictionary of Philosophy. Under Baldwin, the department departed from Hall's German-style model and re-emphasized psychology's links to philosophy. By 1895 Fabian Franklin had resigned his JHU mathematics professorship to pursue a full-time career in journalism, accepting an editorship at the Baltimore News, but from 1904 to 1909, Ladd-Franklin lectured in the psychology and logic department. By this time, she had already traveled to Germany (having accompanied her husband during his sabbatical year, 1891-92), where she studied with three world renowned researchers in the study of color vision--G.E. Muller, Hermann von Helmholtz, and Arthur Konig--and had garnered attention for her own theory of color vision at the International Congress of Psychology in London.
Ladd-Franklin Advocates for Women's University Education
In addition to her growing preeminence as a scientist, Ladd-Franklin also had emerged during the JHU stage of her career as a stateswoman who had a keen grasp of trends in higher education and of the intellectual and financial resources needed to cultivate female talent. From her New England youth and Vassar days, Ladd-Franklin had regarded education as a touchstone for liberating women and men from unexamined tradition and irrational patterns of thought. Why should there be "patrician" and "plebeian" education that buttresses the disparities between the educated and the uneducated, and a system that perpetuates sexual inequality? she asked. Like many other thinkers of her day, who were weaned on Social Darwinian notions, Ladd-Franklin was convinced that society's advancement would depend on broadening educational opportunities for women. She was encouraged that college attendance for women was becoming more acceptable and more financially attainable. Too many women, she believed, had internalized and, thereupon, perpetuated the very social expectations that oppressed women. "Self-sacrificing" women, Ladd-Franklin argued, must he "artificially guarded against themselves." Living in a college community helped free a young woman from the conservatism of family and home and from the "unavoidable annoyances" of housekeeping; engagement in campus life would elevate her "mental plane." (45)
If, in Ladd-Franklin's view, college was in fact an inherent part of a young woman's road to emotional maturity and intellectual independence, she also realized that the academic enterprise and the pathway to intellectual and social leadership had changed fundamentally during the span of her own career. Twenty-five years earlier, a competent individual might have advanced by "easy stages" from being a college student to a professor, but by the 1890s the growing emphasis on expertise and credentials now required candidates who aspired to leadership in scientific and scholarly professions, charity organizations, or any other public field be educated "far beyond a college course." (46)
What type of education did modern women need? Although she was the product of a woman's college and a loyal member of women's advocacy groups, such as the AAUW, throughout her adult life, Ladd-Franklin rejected gender segregation in intellectual matters. Her Johns Hopkins years gave Ladd-Franklin insight into the ways institutions routinely structure the relationship between the sexes and led her to reject separatism as outdated. Her own success lecturing at JHU strengthened Ladd-Franklin's belief that there was little "abnormal" or "improper" about women teaching men. Coeducation at the university level, she believed, as did her former JHU classmate M. Carey Thomas, was a sensible, efficient use of intellectual resources. (47) Educating men and women together recognized the contributions of both. Moreover, the presence of researchers and graduate students, regardless of sex, uplifted the tenor and rigor of undergraduate life. In short, it was imperative to equalize educational and career opportunities for women. This meant opening admission for women to the nation's premier research universities like Johns Hopkins, whose laboratory and library resources and faculty expertise could not be duplicated. (48)
Ladd-Franklin understood that it was possible to help broaden educational opportunity for women working through the power of philanthropy and voluntary action and the power of the pen. (49) Drawing upon her organizational savvy and energized by her feminist politics, Ladd-Franklin helped organize and served as chair of the Baltimore Association for the Promotion of the University Education for Women in 1897. Members of this advocacy group were disappointed that Baltimore's citizenry in terms of their engagement with the cause of women's education as a matter of civic pride, if not simple justice, lagged behind their counterparts in New York City, Cambridge, Providence--or even the centuries-old university towns of England. (50)
Ladd-Franklin, noted philanthropist Mary Garrett, and the eleven other members of the Baltimore Association petitioned the Johns Hopkins trustees to adopt graduate coeducation ("one of the most salient and unmistakable phenomena of our time"), but the Johns Hopkins Trustees rejected the proposal in polite but summary terms as "inexpedient." (51) The Association therefore set about to publicize women's plight by offering a $500 fellowship for a Maryland woman to pursue advanced studies abroad. (Ladd-Franklin chaired the first selection committee.) (52) Ladd-Franklin similarly led the ACA in establishing fellowships for US women to travel to Europe for first-rate advanced training. (53) As an admiring ACA colleague put it, the fellowships were a means by which to "storm the coveted citadels of learning" and give women entry to those "sacred precincts." (54)
Ladd-Franklin was astute enough to realize that creating more equitable opportunities for women meant changing attitudes and common practices in academic culture. Why should women's opportunities be so restricted? Ladd-Franklin asked in a 1904 article for the ACA, titled "Endowed Professorships for Women." Scholarly editors, she pointed out, concerned themselves only with the caliber of one's intellectual contribution and did not ask whether an author was a man or a woman. What if trustees and presidents were to follow this same "dispassionate" method in evaluating candidates for professorships in coeducational colleges? Ladd-Franklin proposed. While believing that professorships could be decided "without regard to sex or with very little regard" there was also, in Ladd-Franklin's view, a justification for more affirmative steps on behalf of women based on sex, given the formidable biases against hiring and promoting women: "whenever the woman applicant for a position is distinctly superior ... she shall have the position." This was a "modest intermediate stage" toward an endowed professorship for women. (55)
Ladd-Franklin's vision of change hoped to equalize the playing field for women. By the turn of the century, when the numbers of female doctorates had risen nearly eight-fold, she identified the crucial need to provide intellectual women with career alternatives to teaching: "It is the more highly trained who are most deserving of our sympathy. It is for them that we wish to secure--by hothouse methods if necessary--not the position of the overworked teacher in the smaller colleges but rather the minor professorships in the major universities, those which offer leisure at first, and, later, opportunity for advancement." (56)
Ladd-Franklin was convinced that the principle of economy largely explained the teaching profession's openness to women, and therefore argued that money could provide an "entering wedge" for women doctorates seeking employment. "At the present time (in the East) a woman must either be very cheap or very distinguished ... we propose to make her the one to enable her to become the other," she wrote in 1905. (57)
Changing Worlds: From Johns Hopkins and Baltimore to Columbia and New York City
When Christine Ladd-Franklin, husband Fabian, and young daughter, Margaret, arrived in Manhattan in 1910 (Fabian had accepted an editorship), faculty at Columbia and academics nationwide still hotly debated the nature of women's intellectual achievements and the relationship between sex variability and genius. (58) Columbia's psychology department--which included such notables as department chair James McKeen Cattell, Robert Sessions Woodworth, Edward Thorndike, John Dewey, and James Hyslop--had no women faculty, though numbers of women had earned master's degrees and doctorates since the days back in 1891 when Columbia's trustees deliberated for a month before permitting the gifted Vassar graduate Margaret Floy Washburn to audit Cattell's courses. (59)
Editor of Science and American Men of Science [sic], Cattell was familiar with Ladd-Franklin's submissions to Science and respected her starred status in the first edition of his American Men of Science, which recognized 982 men and only 18 women. (60) But Cattell had angered many female academics, Ladd-Franklin included, by discounting social prejudice among university men as an explanation of women's underrepresentation in American Men of Science and the professoriate. A feisty, strong-willed man whose ideas reflected a striking and unusual combination of sexist and socialist politics, Cattell, like Ladd-Franklin herself, never backed away from controversy. "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is an innate sexual disqualification," he wrote in 1910. (61) But, as Margaret Rossiter has discussed, Cattell's views on the subject had already begun to shift when Ladd-Franklin joined his department. (62)
For her part, Christine Ladd-Franklin was, by all accounts, already a controversial figure in psychological circles and a familiar name to readers of the Nation when she arrived at Columbia. Her theoretical contributions and extensive publications by their example rebutted the views of female inferiority put forth by some influential scientific men, among them her Columbia colleague Edward Thorndike and former JH colleague now Clark University president G. Stanley Hall. Moreover, Ladd-Franklin had achieved a confident--and in some eyes, too aggressive and disquieting--self-image as a scientist. She was outspoken when researchers or textbook editors deferentially acknowledged the early works of Helmholtz or Herring (two pillars of German psychology), but failed to cite her more recent and synthetic evolutionary theory (which she touted as a "Hegelian" contribution in an age of increasing compartmentalization). She protected her intellectual property vigorously and in the process gained a reputation as a feisty, "belligerent" proponent of her color theories. (63) Ladd-Franklin was often devastatingly brutal in her criticism of colleagues whose experimentation or scholarship she believed lacked rigor, and she was equally impatient with social views she deemed guided by prejudice rather than rationality. (64) She keenly resented any instance when she was seemingly denied an invitation to attend a scientific meeting or join a committee because of her sex. Such action was an untenable violation of the principles of science and professional ethics. (65)
In October, 1914, Ladd-Franklin approached Robert S. Woodworth, Cattell's successor as department chair, about securing a formal appointment to lecture on her specialties--color vision and logic. In support of Ladd-Franklin's case, Woodworth reminded Columbia's President Nicholas Murray Butler that "her reputation and mastery of her specialty would reflect credit on the University and be of service in the work of the department." (66) Butler, himself a Columbia-trained philosopher, had once heard Ladd-Franklin lecture at Johns Hopkins and was quite impressed by "the originality and profundity" of her literature on Logic. He supported the idea of a lectureship for Ladd-Franklin but did not commit Columbia's financial resources toward creating a position. He recommended her to an unsalaried position in December of 1914.
The next March, armed with the legitimacy of her Columbia University title, Ladd-Franklin wrote to Cornell's E.B. Titchener, founder and head of the Experimentalists, a small professional group that refused women membership, about the group's upcoming meeting to be held on Columbia's campus. She criticized his policy of barring women, especially at her "very door," as "unconscientious, so immoral--worse than that--so unscientific!" Her criticism rested not only in Titchener's disregard for the precedence that the Philosophical and Psychological Associations admitted women, but also in the belief that the exclusion of women (or, more to the point, her exclusion) hindered the quality of the scientific debate:" And you need me! I particularly want to discuss for you at this meeting the present vagaries of Watson, Dunlap, and [her Columbia colleagues] Rand and Ferree--(Watson doubly)." (67)
While Ladd-Franklin generally showed the world beyond Columbia's campus only her pride in her Columbia University affiliation, her close friends knew the barriers she encountered and the frustrations she endured. Her friend Dr. Simon Flexner, a noted medical educator-researcher and supporter of women's education and opportunities in science, encouraged her. He was "delighted" that she had secured the library facilities at Columbia that she needed, which, he added," should have been placed at your disposal long ago and without delay." (68)
Even after her formal appointment at Columbia, Ladd-Franklin's negotiations with university officers to maintain her minimal professional requirements--an office and a phone--were at times contentious. One such incident occurred late in 1917 when a Columbia official, perhaps Secretary Frank Fackenthal, became annoyed by Ladd-Franklin's complaints and reminded her that one "so unemolumented" as herself should make no demands on the university. She rejoined that "Mr. B. [President Nicolas Murray Butler] is a gentleman," to which the official firmly replied," I am not. I am an officer of the government of the university." (69)
Ladd-Franklin's ire was raised. Having confidently assessed her intellectual value to Columbia, she steeled herself to fight. How many Columbia professors lectured in four departments? How many had been among Cattell's first five hundred starred scientists? Had she not been told by a German professor that she was "better fitted" for university life than any of his colleagues [all men]? Her personal notes on the incident reflected her deep sense of propriety and her indignation at what she regarded as Columbia's refusal to extend her due professional courtesy: "What letters, what appeals over his head to the trustees to be allowed to present a modest locker, bookshelf to the university and to lend it my books!" This particular situation was eventually resolved and tensions diffused when a university official assured her that Columbia had been congratulated on having the privilege of hearing her lectures on symbolic logic. (70) Ladd-Franklin was not impressed by insincere flattery but a certain deference and recognition of her preeminence as a scientist were prerequisite to any relationship with her.
Ladd-Franklin was keenly aware that not all Columbia departments and faculty members were unequivocally accepting of a woman colleague. As she wrote to a friend at all-male Princeton University in 1917, "Columbia is far too proud to permit a person of my poor sex to address it on the subject of logic! Men are "simply wonderful' in the discovery of premises!" Fittingly, she underscored the irony of her marginalization at Columbia with a syllogism, "None can be members of the faculty who are not in receipt of a salary. Dr. Ladd-Franklin is not in receipt of a salary...." Continuing, she added, "I have never definitely refused to accept one--it is that I offered, faute de mieux, to lecture for nothing, and I have been, for four years, a member of the psychology faculty." (71)
Perhaps it was the heady nature of university life and an affirming sense of intellectual if not financial reward that sustained Ladd-Franklin's Columbia career, despite the rocky times. Certainly she valued the respect she felt on President Nicholas Murray Butler's part. Her cordial relationship with President Butler was anchored in their shared intellectual standards and common disciplinary interests but also in their mutual interest in reform and civic life. Both valued the ties between university and city life. She occasionally sent him a courteously phrased, but assertive, note directing his attention to her latest lecture series. She was never reluctant to speak directly to Butler when she discerned a problem or felt slighted or wronged, as was the case, for example, when she was denied a library carrel, or when the psychology library was overcrowded, or yet another time when some Columbia College boys teased her as they crossed on the Broadway sidewalk. (72) For her part, Ladd-Franklin conceptualized the university as an arena to be guided by intellect and moral integrity. Ladd-Franklin was therefore incensed that Columbia's School of Journalism hired the behaviorist J.B. Watson, who had been fired from Johns Hopkins in 1919 for having an extra-marital affair with his graduate assistant. (73) Alarmed by what she perceived as Columbia's acquiescence in a professor's impropriety, Ladd-Franklin sent a brief note admonishing President Butler, Was Columbia "to fail to support President Goodenow [of Johns Hopkins] in this effort to keep this world good and decent?" She then added, asserting her own indignation and sense of self-importance as a Columbia affiliate and, hence, representative of the university: "I like to know, in such cases--authoritatively--just what one is to say." (74)
Full Circle: A Mother's Example, a Daughter's Contributions to Change, and the End of A Career
Ladd-Franklin's years at Columbia brought the deep satisfaction of once again being situated at a leading university. From here, reflecting back over the years of her highly productive career, she could "[extract] detail from myriad points of light" (to borrow Finkelstein's phrase) and discern the figures and moments that saliently shaped her career. (75) Her intellectual life had taken root in antebellum New England, had been enriched by the educational experiments at Vassar and JHU, and her hard-won education applied not only in the science lab but also in her leadership in women's voluntary associations, professional groups, and civic life in Baltimore and Manhattan, but in some ways it was the women of her family who had most inspired her. In an April 1918 interview for the Buffalo Express, she recalled that "the first specific influence that led me toward serious intellectual pursuits was my mother's character and family circle." As she explained, "My mother was one of four sisters, all of whom were brilliant women. In spite of the fact that they were widely separated by marriage, they would return in the summers to our family home in Windsor, Connecticut, and there led a delightful intellectual life together." (76)
Much as memories of Augusta Ladd's social values had profoundly inspired her daughter, Ladd-Franklin's scientific career, her spirited civic involvement, and her work in women's organizations inspired her daughter Margaret, Bryn Mawr College, '07, to work on behalf of women's intellectual and social equality. Notably, Margaret published The Case for Suffrage in 1913 and in the 1920s helped galvanize support among New York City women's groups and Columbia alumni to open Columbia's Law School to women. This goal was finally achieved in 1926. Proud of her daughter's triumph (the type of satisfying work on behalf of womanhood to which young Christine Ladd had herself aspired), Ladd-Franklin's mind turned toward correcting an old injustice. She decided to petition the Johns Hopkins trustees for the doctorate she had rightfully earned in 1882, and, in fact, was adamant that the Ph.D. be awarded for her graduate studies rather than for her professional work during the intervening forty-four years. She received the doctorate in 1926, during the same week as JHU commemorated the 50th anniversary of the late Daniel Coit Gilman's inauguration as its first president. While some interpreted the bestowal as a sign of "the great change that [had] come over U.S. education in less than a century," history, including controversy in our own times over women's scientific abilities, shows that gender biases were not so easily erased. (77)
"Labor is Heaven's choicest gift," Christine Ladd had asserted in her girlhood diary. (78) What began in the 1860s as a New England school girl's crusade to win her own family's support for her plans to attend Vassar College became a young woman's venture to secure advanced scientific training, first at Johns Hopkins and later at the German universities of Gottingen and Berlin. What had been an individual goal eventually translated into a lifelong devotion to a public cause. Ladd-Franklin's last years at Columbia were busy and productive, filled with nine-hour work days, punctuated by the occasional cigarette break. Four years after belatedly receiving her Ph.D., Christine Ladd-Franklin died at the age of 82, after a brief case of pneumonia. "She was the youngest person on the Columbia campus," wrote her Columbia eulogist Cassius J. Keyser, Adrain Professor Emeritus of Mathematics. "It should be noted that her strenuous intellectual life was not incompatible with the possession of great feminine charm," he wrote assuredly. Hers was a "long unbroken scientific activity fashioned by a very rare union in her of analytical and logical power with intuition." (79) Keyser's remembrances while conveying his deep collegial respect nevertheless reflected the cultural tensions between intellect and femininity that confronted Ladd-Franklin throughout her career. A woman who from girlhood prided herself on living by reason, rather than by sentiment, and who committed her considerable energies not only to building her own career but also to advancing women's status in the academy, Ladd-Franklin continually pushed back. Even in death, Ladd-Franklin contributed to advancing commonly held views about scholarly womanhood. As the New York Times' tribute succinctly put it, her many accomplishments were something "for anti-feminists to consider." (80)
(1) Undated memorandum on the Ph.D., page 2, Box 49, Christine Ladd-Franklin and Fabian Franklin Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, New York; hereafter CLF & FF Papers.
(2) Christine Ladd-Franklin to Professor Moore, December 8, 1918, Box 18, CLF & FF Papers.
(3) See note 1.
(4) For example, Margaret Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982); Penina Glazer and Miriam Slater, Unequal Colleagues: The Entrance of Women into the Professions, 1890 to 1940 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Elizabeth Scarborough and Laurel Furumoto, eds., Untold Lives: The First Generation of American Women Psychologists (1987); Pnina G. Abir-Am and Dorinda Outram, eds., Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives: Women in Science, 1879-1979 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987), Evelyn Fox-Keller, Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1983); and Londa Schiebinger, Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2008).
(5) Barbara Finkelstein, "Revealing Human Agency: the Uses of Biography in the Study of Educational History," in Craig Kridel, ed., Writing Educational Biography: Explorations in Qualitative Research (New York" Taylor Francis, 1988), 45; 45-60.
(6) M. Carey Thomas, "Present Tendencies," Educational Review 35 (1908): 64-85; Ladd-Franklin's review of the new edition (1891) of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women, as cited in Furumoto, "Collegial Exclusion," 110.
(7) Furumoto, "Collegial Exclusion," 109-129; Furumoto, "Joining Separate Spheres: Christine Ladd-Franklin, Woman Scientists (1847-1930), American Psychologist 47 (February 1992): 175-182; Andrea Walton, Chapter 4, in "Women at Columbia: A Study of Power and Empowerment in the Lives of Six Women," (Columbia University Ph.D dissertation, 1995), 115-168; Notable American Women, s.v. "Ladd-Franklin, Christine."
(8) Victoria Bissell Brown, The Education of Jane Addams (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 175.
(9) Ladd-Franklin's father's uncle, William Ladd, founded the American Peace Society. Her mother's uncle, John Milton Niles, served as a senator from Connecticut and was later Postmaster General. See various clippings in the CLF & FF Papers.
(10) Christine Ladd-Franklin diaries, July 27, 1861; November 29, 1861, Vassar Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries, Poughkeepsie, New York; hereafter CLF diaries.
(11) CLF diaries, April 15, 1863.
(12) CLF diaries, Thanksgiving, 1861.
(13) CLF diaries December 31, 1860.
(14) CLF diaries November 25, 1861 and November 29, 1861.
(15) CLF diaries March 12, 1863.
(16) CLF diaries January 2, 1863; February 25, 1863.
(17) CLF diaries January 8, 1863.
(18) CLF diaries January 22, 1863.
(19) CLF diaries n.d. p. 96; Notable American Women, s.v. "Dickinson, Anna."
(20) CLF diaries March 27, 1862.
(21) CLF diaries n.d. p.104. See also Christine Ladd-Franklin, "Vassar College," Nation (1890) 50: 483-84.
(22) CLF diaries, May 1, 1863.
(23) All quotes from CLF diaries, May 15, 1863.
(24) Thomas, "Present Tendencies."
(25) CLF diaries, March, 1863.
(26) CLF diaries, July 23, 1866.
(27) Trances A. Wood, Earliest Years at Vassar: Personal Recollections (Poughkeepsie: Vassar College Press, 1909), 6.
(28) Undated manuscript, p.33, Box 12, CLF & FF Papers.
(29) The Biographical Cyclopedia Of American Women (1928), s.v. "Ladd-Franklin, Christine."
(30) Ladd to Sherman, April 17, 1869, Box 22, Ladd-Franklin Papers.
(31) Women in Psychology: a Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), s.v. "Ladd-Franklin, Christine."
(32) Fabian Franklin, The Life of Daniel Coit Gilman (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1890), 214.
(33) See also Julia B. Morgan, "Women at The Johns Hopkins University: A History," www.library.jhu.edu/collections/specialcollections/archives/ womenshistory/index.html (accessed December 29, 2008).
(34) Andrea Walton, "Cultivating a Place for Selective All-Female Education in A Coeducational World: Women Educators and Professional Voluntary Associations, 1880-1926," in "A Faithful Mirror"--Reflections on the College Board and Education in America, edited by Michael Johanek, (New York: The College Board, 2001), 134-193.
(35) Laurel Furumoto, "Joining Separate Spheres: 175-182.
(36) Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, ed., The Making of a Feminist: The Early Journals and Letters of M. Carey Thomas (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1979) 69.
(37) Quoted in Edith Finch, Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr (New York: Harper, 1947), 72;
(38) Her alma mater, Vassar, awarded her an honorary degree, LLD, in 1887.
(39) Margaret Rossiter, "Doctorates for American Women," History of Education Quarterly 22 (1982): 159-183.
(40) Christine Ladd-Franklin, Nation 52 (February 19, 1891): 163.
(41) See, for example, the review of Edward von Hartmann, The Sexes Compared and Other Essays by Ladd-Franklin in the Nation 61 (August 29, 1893): 154-5. Furumoto argues that Mitchell was a great inspiration to Ladd-Franklin in "Joining Separate Spheres," 177.
(42) Like many scholars in the nation's new research universities, Ladd-Franklin's interests embraced several interrelated areas that had yet to delineate their boundaries and professionalize: among them, psychology, philosophy, physics, logic, and mathematics.
(43) Philip J. Pauly, "G. Stanley Hall and His Successors: A History of the First Half-Century of Psychology at Johns Hopkins," in One Hundred Years of Psychological Research in America: G. Stanley Hall and the Johns Hopkins Tradition, ed. Stewart H. Hulse and Bert E. Green Jr. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 21-51. See "The Johns Hopkins University, 1882-1884," in George Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973), 28-43, esp. 29-32.
(44) Scarborough and Furumoto (1987) note Hall's view, expressed in Adolescence, that intellectual women were "functionally castrated," 4.
(45) See Christine Ladd-Franklin, "College Life for Women," Nation 49 (October 24, 1889): 327; "Coeducation," Nation (January 24, 1888): 293; M. Carey Thomas, "Present Tendencies," Educational Review 35 (1908): 68; Barbara Cross, ed., The Educated Woman in America (New York: Teachers College Press, 1965), 41.
(47) Thomas, "Present Tendencies."
(48) Ibid, 10. See also Christine Ladd-Franklin, Undated manuscript, p. 12, Box 18, CLF & FF Papers.
(49) Andrea Walton, Women and Philanthropy in Education (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).
(50) Lilian Welsh, Reminiscences of Thirty years in Baltimore (Baltimore: Norman Remington, Co, 1925), 16.
(51) Quoted in Welsh, Reminiscences, 17.
(52) Welsh, Reminiscences, 23.
(53) Rossiter discusses Ladd-Franklin's efforts as part of a broader discussion of activist-minded female scientists in American Women in Science, 38-50. See also, Margaret Rossiter," Doctorates for American Women," 165.
(54) Bessie Bradwell Helmer to Phoebe Hearst, 1 May 1894, cited in Rossiter, American Women Scientists, 169. Christine Ladd-Franklin, paper presented to the ACA, 24 October 1890, Series 6, No. 20.
(55) Kate Holladay [Claghorn] to Ladd-Franklin, October 14, 1898; October 25, 1898, Box 3, CLF & FF Papers. See also Rossiter, American Women Scientists, 49-50 for Ladd-Franklin's involvement with the ACA Berliner Fellowships, which helped support women's research.
(56) Christine Ladd-Franklin, "Endowed Professorships for Women," Publications of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, Series III, No. 9 (1904): 55; 53-61.
(57) Manuscript, 1905, Box 18, CFL & FF Papers.
(58) Cynthia Russett, Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991).
(59) See "Margaret Floy Washburn," in vol. 2 of History of Psychology in Autobiography, ed. Carl Murchison (Worcester, Ma.: Clark University Press, 1932), 338; Furumoto, "A Little Hard on the Ladies," and Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press), 67.
(60) Cattell wrote to Ladd complimenting her: "Everything you write seems to me excellent, "August 3, 1896, Cattell to Ladd, Box 10, CFL & FF Papers. Both Christine Ladd-Franklin and Fabian Franklin had been starred in Cattell's original (1910) list of prominent scientists.
(61) James McKeen Cattell, "Further Statistical Study of American Men of Science," Science 176 (1910): 110.
(62) Rossiter, American Women of Science, 108-109.
(63) Christine Ladd-Franklin, Colour and Colour Theories, C.K.O. preface, ed. Robert Woodworth (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1929), vii; Notable American Women, s.v. "Ladd-Franklin, Christine."
(64) Ladd-Franklin to Ferree, May 30,1921; Ladd-Franklin to Professor Carr, August 16, 1925; Ladd-Franklin to Professor Hunter, January 8, 1928; Ladd-Franklin to Professor Keyners, August 3, 1927; Ladd-Franklin to Muller, April 18, 1928; Ladd-Franklin to M. Pieron, July 25, 1926; Ladd-Franklin to Titchner, August 16, 1925 all in Box 8, Ladd-Franklin Papers. Harry Helson, Saturday Review of Literature, 20 July 1929. My interpretation here follows along lines similar to Laurel Furumoto, "Collegial Excursions," 109-129.
(65) Helson, Saturday Review of Literature, July 20, 1929.
(66) Woodworth to Butler, October 26, 1914, Robert Sessions Woodworth Papers, Central Files Collection, Columbia University, New York City, New York; hereafter cited as Woodworth Central Fries.
(67) Ladd-Franklin to Titchener, n.d., Box 8, CLF & FF Papers.
(68) Flexner to Ladd-Franklin, November 21, 1913, Box 3, CLF & FF Papers.
(69) Handwritten notes dated November 12, 1917, Box 14, CLF & FF Papers.
(71) Christine Ladd-Franklin to Professor Moore, December 8, 1917, Box 8, CLF & FF Papers.
(72) Ladd-Franklin to Butler, May 11, 1920, Box 3; undated handwritten note, Box 8; CLF & FF Papers. See also, Nicholas Murray Butler to Dean F.J.E. Woodbridge, February 18, 1924, Butler Central Files, Columbia University, New York.
(73) For Ladd-Franklin's sense of "Anglo-Saxon morality"; see Christine Ladd Franklin, "Dangers of Paris for the American Student," Nation 71 (1900): 149.
(74) Ladd-Franklin to Butler, n.d., Box 8, CLF & FF Papers.
(75) Finkelstein, "Revealing Human Agency," 55.
(76) Quoted in vcencyclopedia.vassar.edu/index.php/ Christine_Ladd-Franklin, (accessed May 15, 2009).
(77) "At Johns Hopkins," Time Magazine. March 1, 1926.
(78) CLF diaries, n.d., p. 74.
(79) Obituary, Box 14, CLF & FF Papers.
(80) Obituary, New York Times, March 7, 1930.…
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Publication information: Article title: More Valuable Than Even Radium: Christine Ladd-Franklin's Perspective on Intellect and the Life of the Mind. Contributors: Walton, Andrea - Author. Journal title: Vitae Scholasticae. Volume: 26. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2009. Page number: 20+. © 2006 Caddo Gap Press. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.