Not coincidentally, I wrote a paper on Ellen Swallow Richards last fall and, dear reader, I'm happy to provide it to you. I was really interested in Richards' theories human-environmental interactions, so I mostly focused on that. But some of my main points will interest environmental, women's studies, and history of science scholars:
- Ernst Haeckel introduces Oekologie (ecology) in 1866, defining it as:
“knowledge concerning the economy of nature—the investigation of the total relations of the animal both to its inorganic and its organic environment… the study of all those complex interrelations referred to by Darwin as the conditions of the struggle for existence.” (Foster, 2000:195)
- Richards envisions ecology as the science of the total environment (human and non-human, including the built environment), introducing it to America in 1892.
- As the "organismal" (and non-human) definition of ecology prevailed in the male-dominated sciences, Richards’ tries to re-brand her vision of ecology as domestic science, home economics, human ecology, and "euthenics"- as opposed to eugenics- as "the science of the controllable environment."
- Richards situates women as guardians of the home environment, emphasizing safety, efficiency, education and relief from drudgery. Rather than seeking to impose more housework on women, Richards saw scientific home economics as empowering.
This blog is cross-posted at my other, less updated blog, Her Story of Science. References available in my paper, linked above.