"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.
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.
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.
These notable achievements solidified Ladd-Franklin's international reputation during her life time, and in our day have interested feminist historians of science.
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.
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.
Given her wide range of talents and interests perhaps no other US academic institution could have offered Ladd-Franklin so stimulating an intellectual environment.
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.
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.