by Robin L. Gordon, Ph.D.

Here lies wise, chaste, hospitable, humble,

I had gone on, but Nick [Satan] began to grumble:

"Write, write,” says he, “upon her tomb of marble

These words, which out I and my friends will warble:

'Shame of her sex, Welbeck’s [her home] illustrious whore,

The true man’s hate and grief, plague of the poor,

The great atheistical philosophraster,

That owns no God, no devil, lord nor master;

Vice’s epitome and virtue’s foe,

Here lies her body, but her soul’s below [Hell].[49] 

The Archetype of the Whore: The Challenge for Women in Science

Robin L. Gordon, Ph.D.
Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles
Presentation of a paper at the Eighth Joint Meeting of the BSHS, CSHPS, and HSS, 22-25 June 2016, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


The Oxford English Dictionary includes several definitions of the word, transition,

one geological reference being particularly relevant to this paper.  Regarding

geology, “Transition: the passage from an earlier to a later stage of development

or formation.”[1] They are referring to stratified rock layers which brings to mind where I live in Los Angeles. Although not a geologist, I can appreciate the forces that have made views of upended sedimentary rocks, such as the Vasquez rocks, common. The power of earthquakes is something every Californian experiences eventually.  The transition for women entering the STEM fields might be said to be akin to the upheavals in the earth we experience in my home state and for many, it can be just as jangling to the nerves.

Transitions come in many forms and may be smallish events or paradigm shifting explosions of knowledge. My thinking about the transition for women in science came about from a vicious story I encountered while researching Isaac Newton. A terrible rumor had been circulated suggesting that Newton’s niece, Catherine Barton, was figuratively given to Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax, as a mistress in exchange for Newton’s post at the Mint.[2] The gossip was certainly meant to embarrass Newton but did so by portraying Catherine Barton as either a victim or knowing courtesan; the truth did not matter. The focus of this paper is not to delve into the details and circumstances of that particular story. For my purpose, although Catherine Barton’s story should never be diminished, it matters not whether the rumor was true or not. However, the question begs to be asked: Why did the scandal seem an effective vehicle for attacking Newton? Why was it so easy to use Barton, not as an important player but as a pawn? The history of science includes countless instances where women, and in the context of this paper, women of science, have been described in the harshest manner, above and beyond what seems rational.

I will focus on the challenge of the story of a woman who attempted to join the ranks of natural philosophers in the 17th century, but seemed to provoke a negative archetype in her detractors. Although I plan to draw attention to the experiences of women, I hope to clarify that my goal is not to list instances of misogyny and to in essence, bash men. I believe that the issue about which I am speaking has persisted due to our current culture of patriarchy – not the misplaced thinking of individual men, and that affects both sexes. The stories of women whose work in the sciences was ignored or usurped are well known. I plan to explore the challenge for women, both historical and modern, who seemingly stepped outside a traditional role which engendered several types of reactions from both men and women of their time. Furthermore, my goal is to discuss specifically how some women experienced being the target of a particular archetype, the whore or harlot.  My perspective is from my depth psychological (Jungian) research. I will remind the reader of a quote by William Langer, the President of the American Historical Association stated in his 1957 address titled, “The Next Assignment.” Langer is discussing the future of historical research and suggests that in his words, the "newest history" will be more intensive and probably less extensive. He continues to explain that the historical narrative is ready to be examined through a lens that probes deeply into the psychological framework of the players. He argues that contemporary psychology is not the vehicle for looking at history; psychoanalysis and depth psychology are the keys for understanding the past.

There is, however, still ample scope for penetration in depth and I, personally, have no doubt that the "newest history" will be more intensive and probably less extensive. I refer more specifically to the urgently needed deepening of our historical understanding through exploitation of the concepts and findings of modern psychology. And by this, may I add, I do not refer to classical or academic psychology which, so far as I can detect, has little bearing on historical problems, but rather to psychoanalysis and its later developments and variations as included in the terms "dynamic" or "depth psychology.[3]

By framing my work within a depth psychological analysis, I also hope to propose some thoughts for consideration regarding a deeper analysis of the history of women scientists who found themselves in the unenviable position of representing, through no fault of their own, a negative archetype.

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

There are numerous examples in the history of science where women might have been skilled

researchers  yet, their work was either criticized maliciously or characterized by gossip quite

similar to that  experienced by Catherine Barton.  One such example is Lady Margaret Cavendish

who was the  first woman to be allowed to visit the Royal Society on May 30, 1667. Margaret

Cavendish  wrote on all manner of scientific topics. Her critics did not just dislike her writing,

they seemed to  loathe her and left no doubt in their own writing as well as their public reactions

to her person.

The frontispiece that adjoins the title page of The Philosophical and Physical Opinions, written

by her  Excellency, the Lady Marchionesse of Newcastle (1655) depicts Margaret Cavendish

as an attractive young woman, head cocked a little to the left, wearing a small coronet that appears

to be about to topple off her head. A quill and inkbottle sit on a table at her side, next to a blank

sheet of paper. Margaret’s gaze is in the direction of her precious library. At least we can draw that

conclusion as there is an inscription on the image that reads:

Thus, we meet the Marchioness of Newcastle, Lady Margaret Cavendish. Eventually she was given the unkindly sobriquet “Mad Madge,”[5] apparently due to her seeming eccentricities, a topic to which I will return shortly. However, Margaret Cavendish cannot be dismissed so easily. As we become familiar with her writing on all manner of scientific topics, it is clear that this woman was curious, enormously intelligent, and liable to make pointed observations about her contemporaries using humor that they did not often appreciate.

Margaret Cavendish’s Early Life   

 Although Margaret Cavendish has been the focus of rich scholarship by researchers such as Eileen O’Neill,[6]   I will focus on her autobiography and scientific writing as the main source for the following narrative. Margaret Cavendish neé Lucas was born in 1623. Her parents were Thomas Lucas and Elizabeth Leighton Lucas, who had caused a scandal by bearing their first son out of wedlock. Margaret’s father died when she was only three-years-old. She describes a happy childhood in her autobiography.[7] Her father had left the family in respectable financial shape and although they were not overly wealthy, they had enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. Margaret recalls that Elizabeth Lucas raised the children using reason rather than physical punishment as a disciplinary method. Perhaps due to Elizabeth’s earlier difficulties with societal mores, she kept the family somewhat isolated and became a stickler for decorum. Margaret Cavendish describes her mother’s views on education as somewhat traditional but with a bias, even an obsession, toward cultivating civility. She wrote: “For my mother cared not so much for our dancing and fiddling, singing and prating of several languages, as that we should be bred virtuously, modestly, civilly, honourably, and on honest principles.” [8]

Margaret describes herself as someone who grew up wondering about everything, all the time. She relates that she would walk for hours, thinking through some idea. However, she also could focus her attention on her friends and listen to their problems; it was strangers who bewildered her. Her observations of people were pointed and she found many people lacking in civility. Margaret Cavendish had an early education that was typical for a girl of her social class: reading, writing, singing, dancing, and music. She states that she was unable to learn a foreign language finding memorizing vocabulary impossible. Nevertheless, Margaret loved to read and when she did not understand a concept, she would ask her brother Lucas to explain it if he could. Being quite shy, she found an outlet in writing that could be described as obsessive.[9] Margaret Cavendish demonstrated a need to communicate her ideas with the world early on and writing allowed her to do so without having to speak to people.

Margaret attempted to become more sociable by serving as a maid of honor to Queen Henrietta Maria in 1643. The experiment did not go well. Margaret is candid about her own nature writing:

I was so bashful when I was out of my mother’s, brothers’, and sisters’ sight, whose presence used to give me confidence . . . that when I was gone from them, I was like one that had no foundation to stand, or guide to direct me, which made me afraid, lest I should wander with ignorance out of the ways of honour, so that I knew not how to behave myself. Besides, I had heard that the world was apt to lay aspersions even on the innocent, for which I durst neither look up with my eyes, nor speak, nor be any way sociable, insomuch as I was thought a natural fool. Indeed I had not much wit, yet I was not an idiot.[10]

 A shy personality did not bode well for dealing with the machinations of life at Court. Margaret wrote about trying to overcome her bashfulness but it was to no avail. The experience was overwhelming to someone with such a reserved nature and she asked to be allowed to come home. Her mother thought this unwise, worrying that it would look inappropriate to return home so soon. Thus, Margaret accompanied the Queen to France when she went into exile. It was in Paris that Margaret met the man who was to become her husband, William Cavendish.

We learn much about Margaret’s marriage to William Cavendish in the biography she wrote about him. He was 30 years older than Margaret and a widower. She explains how she met William for the first time when he came to visit the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria in Paris in April 1645. Their romance seems to have been one that began through an exchange of letters; however, it did move forward and they married. William Cavendish is described as an “amateur scholar”[11] who studied philosophy, alchemy, poetry, and astronomy. Margaret writes that William liked her just as she was. Finally, here was a person who admired her intellect as well as her beauty and despite her dread of men, she fell in love with him. Perhaps his being older gave her a comfort that younger men could not.[12]

 William had hoped that by marrying Margaret, he would have the opportunity to father more sons; however, she was unable to have children. Despite that disappointment, William appears to have remained a loving husband. He had lost almost everything in the Civil War and while living in exile, the couple lived on credit. There came a time when the couple became so desperate, Margaret Cavendish relates a story about having to pawn some toys she had given her maid. Yet, Margaret and William seemed to be able to create a loving family life that included his brother, Charles Cavendish, much treasured by Margaret. Sir Charles, a skilled mathematician, was a fellow outsider as he suffered from dwarfism or achondroplasia. Cavendish’s curved back is mentioned in Aubrey’s Brief Lives. “’He was a little weake crooked man, and nature having not adapted him for the court nor campe, he betooke himselfe to the study of the mathematiques, wherein he became a great master.’”[13] It may not be surprising that there are few paintings of Charles; yet, the one I have seen shows him upright and quite virile.[14] Charles received a knighthood in 1619. He remained unmarried and was buried in the family graveyard at Bolsover.

Margaret Cavendish’s Scholarship

Margaret, William and Charles formed an intellectual group known as the “Newcastle Circle” that included thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and Kenelm Digby, as well as the occasional participation of Rene Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Marin Mersenne.[15] Margaret was curious about most of nature. For example, it is said that she pondered “‘whether it be possible to make men and other Animal creatures that naturally have no wings, flie as birds do?’” [16] She also wondered if vision originates in the eye, in the brain, or in both. Both William and Charles encouraged her scholarship.

Margaret Cavendish became a prolific writer, not only in natural philosophy but she wrote poetry and plays. She did not always take the time to revise or edit and was often mocked by her contemporaries. Reading her preface to William’s biography[17] is enlightening and reveals Margaret’s frustration with traditional academics who dismissed or doubted her ideas. She also exhibits humility and humor stating in the preface that she is slow to anger, not typically jealous, fair, kind, and good-natured. She could be self-righteous but also forgiving. She tended to worry about losing the people she loved. She accepts that she is a timid person but also has no doubt that she would risk her life for her loved ones. Margaret Cavendish concludes her preface rather poignantly by apologizing to those who might criticize her for writing an autobiography, imagining they would think her vain and over-confident to believe people would want to read about her life. She states that she wrote the book for herself, so that “after-ages”[18] would know that she was the daughter of Lucas of St. Johns and as well, the second wife of William Cavendish, not to be mistaken for his first wife or for any succeeding wife. She wants to have a voice. This is who she is.

Discussing the double standard applied to women writers of the time, Whitaker argues that some were accepted by their social circle, especially if they were related to a well-known male writer or had a family member who was part of the higher social strata. Some women were dismissed by critics, calling their morals into question. Others, such as Margaret Cavendish, were labeled “queer.”[19] Margaret was well born but did not fit into societal norms.

  Margaret Cavendish was influenced by a variety of philosophers whom she reflected upon before proceeding to draw her own conclusions. Her science might be inaccurate but she was exploring the nature of many fields—biology, astronomy, motion, optics, mathematics, and chemistry. Margaret was fluent in natural philosophy, commenting on John Baptiste von Helmont (father of Francis Mercurius), John Dee and numerous other natural philosophers/alchemists. She eventually published 21 works focusing on the subjects of natural philosophy, poetry, drama, oration, and fiction. Her writing and ideas were frequently dismissed by both her contemporaries as well as subsequent historians. Their critiques centered upon questions regarding her rationality and her belief in what was called “vitalistic materialism.”[20] Margaret Cavendish believed not only in self-moving, self-knowing, matter but that there existed a kind of prima materia or pervasive underlying matter in the universe. Margaret argued that first matter or first motion was infinite, having no beginning. It sounds very much like Spinoza’s ideas of first matter as well as Anne Conway’s monads. I have not found evidence that Margaret’s acquaintance with alchemy was anything beyond theoretical.

In a letter written circa March 1665 to Lady Anne Conway by her friend and imminent scholar, Henry More, he adds his voice to the crowd who could not respect Margaret’s work. Margaret often sent More copies of her writing, which he read and dismissed making one wonder why she continued to do so more than once. More referred to Margaret Cavendish sarcastically as “this great Philosopher.” [21]
"But I am not fallen upon one hand alone, I am spar’d by neither sexe. For I am also inform’d that that Marchionesse of Newcastle has in a large book [Philosophical Letters] confuted Mr. Hobbs, Des Cartes, and myself, and (which will make your Ladiship at least smile at the conceit of it) Van Helmont also to boot."[22]

 Margaret Cavendish had a rather polarizing effect on people.[23] She loved discussing philosophy, science, and literature. She also craved the acceptance of men whom she deemed to be learned and envied their freedom to explore the natural world unfettered by social mores. Several men enjoyed her company and many women resented it. In social gatherings, Margaret was more inclined to speak about the studies that interested her rather than local gossip. She tended to chatter when she became nervous and was so concerned that her guests would be comfortable, often overdid the amenities. At one time she heard that she was being criticized by guests for avoiding talk about her writing. Upon trying to rectify this, she was then criticized for talking about her work too much. Mary Evelyn (wife of the famous diarist, John Evelyn) was especially harsh, writing in her diary about one of their visits:
"My part was not yet to speak, but admire; especially hearing her [Margaret Cavendish] go on magnifying her own generous actions, stately buildings, noble fortune, her lord’s prodigious losses. . . Never did I see a woman so full of herself, so amazingly vain and ambitious."[24]

Mary Evelyn was educated but clearly convinced of a woman’s place in society. She disapproved of Margaret, not only because she discussed science and politics but also because Margaret wrote about issues that Mary Evelyn believed were the purview of men. Mary Evelyn continues to write that although she enjoys reading about many subjects, notwithstanding that she is surrounded by science with her husband being a member of the Royal Society, she is content to leave those fields to men. Keeping in mind that Mary Evelyn once called Margaret a “chimera—a grotesque, terrifying, fire-breathing hybrid monster of ancient myth”[25] it is easy to imagine that Margaret was the person Mary had in mind when penning her thoughts on proper womanhood stating, “I hope, as she [Margaret Cavendish] is an original, she may never have a copy.”[26] Margaret Cavendish represented so much of what Mary Evelyn feared and perhaps, envied. To be fair to her detractors, Margaret did seem to be a cause for wonder as some of her outfits were quite bold and fantastic. She was said to have worn a dress on a visit to Charles II that was much talked about, but that may have been due as much to its extravagance and the faux pas she made by having a female attendant carry her train, the prerogative of only the most high-ranking woman. Margaret recalls:
"I took great delight in attiring, fine dressing, and fashions, especially such fashions as I did invent myself, not taking that pleasure in such fashions as was invented by others. Also I did dislike any should follow my fashions, for I always took delight in a singularity, even in accoutrements of habits. But whatsoever I was addicted to, either in fashion of clothes, contemplation of thoughts, actions of life, they were lawful, honest, honourable, and modest.[27]

Another famous diarist, Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps" for fellow Californians who see most words through our Spanish- speaking lens) , seemed to be both fascinated and repelled by Margaret. His diary entries describe her clothes in a way that brings to mind modern fashion critics.
April 11, 1667 - T"o White Hall, thinking there to have seen the Dushesse of Newcastle’s coming this night to Court to make a visit to the Queene, the King having been with her yesterday to make her a visit since her coming to town. The whole story of this lady is a romance, and all she does is romantic. Her footmen in velvet coats, and herself in an antique dress, as they say; and was the other day at her own play, “The Humourous Lovers;” the most ridiculous thing that ever was wrote, but yet she and her Lord mightliy pleased with it; and she at the end made her respects to the players from her box, and did give them thanks. There is as much expectation of her coming to Court, that so people may come to see her, as if it were the Queene of Sweden: but I lost my labour, for she did not come this night." [28]

[Also on] April 26, 1667: "Met my Lady Newcastle going with her coaches and footmen all in velvet; herself (whom I never saw before), as I have heard her often described (for all the town talk is now-a-days of her extravagancies), with her velvet-cap, her hair about her ears; many black patches, because of pimples about her mouth; naked-necked, without any thing about it, and a black just-au-corps. She seemed to me a very comely woman; but I hope to see more of her on May-day."[29]

The juste-au-corps was a knee-length coat worn by men so perhaps, Margaret caused a stir by wearing men’s clothing, grounds for criticism of women even through the 1960s. The reader may have noticed that Pepys still seems to look forward to catching another glimpse of Margaret.

 It is clear that Margaret Cavendish appeared to not only elicit criticism but vituperative rhetoric of the kind that causes a depth psychologist to pause and wonder. Prior to her visit to the Royal Society, John Evelyn wrote in his diary on April 18, 1667:
"I went to make court to the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, at their house in Clerkenwell, being newly come out of the north. They received me with great kindness, and I was much pleased with the extraordinary fanciful habit, garb, and discourse of the Duchess."[30]

Margaret’s visit was recorded in the History of the Royal Society of London. The entry for May 30, 1667 begins with business and the presentation of a few papers. Then, “The duchess of Newcastle coming in, the experiments appointed for her entertainment were made: First, that of weighing the air.”[31] They also demonstrated “several experiments of mixing colours”[32] as well as “the experiment of making a body swim in the middle of water.”[33] It is unclear how this was accomplished but the entry records that the Duchess left and the meeting continued. 

Pepys shows a great deal of disdain regarding Margaret’s visit as he writes:
"May 30, 1667: . . . where I find much company, in expectation of the Duchesse of Newcastle, who had desired to be invited to the Society; and was, after much debate, pro and con, it seems many being against it; and we do believe the town will be full of ballads of it. Anon comes the Duchesse with her women attending her . . . She is indeed black, and hath good black little eyes, but otherwise a very ordinary woman I do think, but they say sings well. The Duchesse hath been a good comely woman; but her dress so antick [antique] and her deportment so ordinary, that I do not like her at all, nor did I hear her say any thing that was worth hearing, but that she was full of admiration, all admiration. Several fine experiments were shown her, of colours, loadstones, microscopes and of liquors: among others, of one that did, while she was there, turn a piece of roasted mutton into pure blood, which was very rare. After they had shown her many experiments, and she cried still she was full of admiration, she departed."[34]

 Whitaker suggests that Margaret was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that she could not say much more than how much she admired their work. However, it seems that the Fellows hoped for more loquaciousness on her part and were disappointed. It is likely that she would have engendered criticism regardless of her actions and despite having her visit accepted by the Fellows. In 1668, with the publication of in her book Observations on Experimental Philosophy Margaret offended some of the Society, as she did not tread lightly in her discourse. She criticized both Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle, eminent Fellows of the Society.  Margaret seemed to believe in the power of the human mind to observe and reason whereas conducting experiments seemed an invalid and useless occupation. Echoing the earlier critics of the scientific method she writes, “Neither ought artists, in my opinion, to condemn contemplative philosophy, nay, not to prefer the experimental part before her . . . But our age being more for deluding experiments than rational arguments.”[35] She was distrustful of the information gained by using microscopes and telescopes, comments that would have certainly annoyed the Royal Society Fellows.

Another story about Margaret comes via Dr. Wilkins, Bishop of Chester who was discussing quite seriously, his plan for journeying to the moon. He told Margaret Cavendish that the journey would take 180 days to which she asked, how he was planning to be able to feed his horses on the way. I wonder if she was joking but he thought she was odd and perhaps a killjoy as he is said to have later stated that he was surprised she would ask such a question as she was one “who had built so many castles in the air, she might lie every night in one of her own.”[36]      

Margaret also explains her medical knowledge saying that any wife of, for example a farmer is confronted with those subjects naturally. She argues that if one examines a sheep that has been cut open, one is going to observe the viscera and understand the anatomy. Moreover, in order to be effective in the healing arts, one is bound to be steeped in the appropriate use of medicine as well as the many diseases and conditions suffered by people. In other words, Margaret makes the case that considering all that women do in their daily lives, it should be no surprise that they have significant knowledge of the natural world without having to refer to well-known scholars such as Galen or Hippocrates. She also states that she feels equally capable with the subject of mathematics.
"Now for the great learning of knowing the terms of Geometricians, when this Lady touches upon Triangles, Squares, Circles, Diameters, Circumferences, Centers, lines straight and crooked, etc. I will not dissect these great mysteries, because they are so very common, as the meanest understands all these termes, even to Joyners and Carpenters, therefore surely this Lady is capable of them."[37]

Margaret continues to defend her understanding of topics that span a diverse list including theology, transubstantiation, astronomy, philosophy, medicine, and physics stating that understanding these subjects is not overly demanding. She refers to the scientific establishment as “the Gown-tribe”[38] and has no difficulty challenging them, an attitude that likely contributed to their dismissal of her work. A few years after the visit to the Royal Society, Pepys wrote a diary entry in which he, of course, hated Margaret’s biography of her husband, writing on March 18, 1668:
"Thence home, and there in favour to my eyes staid at home, reading the ridiculous history of my Lord Newcastle, wrote by his wife; which shows her to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an ass to suffer her to write what she writes to him and of him."[39]

However, the University of Cambridge and Charles Lamb, specifically, reviewed the book positively. Pepys was no stranger to discussing Margaret’s writing. An April 11, 1667 diary entry sums up Pepys’ opinion on Margaret who elicited, at least in him, contradictory feelings of repulsion and some type of attraction, consistent with the emergence of the archetype of the whore.
"To White Hall, thinking there to have seen the Dushesse of Newcastle’s coming this night to Court to make a visit to the Queene, the King having been with her yesterday to make her a visit since her coming to town. The whole story of this lady is a romance, and all she does is romantic. Her footmen in velvet coats, and herself in an antique dress, as they say; and was the other day at her own play, 'The Humourous Lovers;' the most ridiculous thing that ever was wrote, but yet she and her Lord mightliy pleased with it; and she at the end made her respects to the players from her box, and did give them thanks. There is as much expectation of her coming to Court, that so people may come to see her, as if it were the Queene of Sweden: but I lost my labour, for she did not come this night.”[40]

Perhaps one of the more telling critiques of Margaret’s work comes from a much later analysis by Isaac Disraeli quoted here.
"There are [in the writings of the Duchess] the indisputable evidence of a genius as highborn in      the realms of intellect as its possessor was in the ranks of society: a genius strong-winged and swift, fertile and comprehensive, but ruined by deficient culture, by literary dissipation and the absence of two powers without which    thoughts are only stray morsels of strength, I mean Concatenation and the Sense of Proportion. She thought without system, and set down everything she thought. Her fancy turning round like a kaleidoscope changed its patterns and lines with the most whimsical variety and rapidity. Nevertheless, I believe, had the mind of this woman been disciplined and exercised by early culture and study, it would have stood out remarkable among the feminine intellects of our history."[41]

The scathing reactions to Margaret Cavendish are touched upon in her work such as in The Philosophical and Physical Opinions. She exhibits what I interpret as humor, sarcasm, and some defensiveness. She rails against readers who think that in order for her to have written these treatises, she must have spoken at length to, and relied upon, the great thinkers such as Descartes and Hobbes (a member of her intellectual circle). She states that she has read their work but has been more than capable of drawing her own conclusions. The first epistle in the Opinions is titled: “An Epistle to justifie the Lady Newcastle, and Truth against falsehood, laying those false, and malicious aspersions of her, that she was not Author of her Books”[42] She writes:
"First ‘tis but your envious Supposition that this Lady must have converst with many Scholers of all kindes in learning, when ‘tis well known the contrary, that she never converst with any profest Schooler in learning, for to learn, neither did she need [emphasis mine] it, since she had the conversation of her Honorable, and most learned Brother [Lucas] from her cradle; and since she was married, with my worthy and learned Brother [Sir Charles]; and for my self I have lived in the great world a great while, and have thought of what has been brought to me by the senses, more then was put into me by learned discourse; for I do not love to be led by the nose, by Authority. . .  And I assure you her conversation with her Brother [Margaret is speaking about herself], and Brother-in-law [Sir Charles Cavendish], were enough without a miracle or an impossibility to get the language of the arts, and learned professions, which are their terms, without taking any degrees in Schooles."[43]

In other words, Margaret’s lack of formal degrees does not mean she cannot think and reason well.

This is mindful of a more recent example where the lack of formal schooling contributed to an historian’s unique view. In the biography of the more contemporary historian, Frances Yates, it is noted that Yates was both admired and criticized for her theories that were new and non-traditional and were probably due to her very different and informal early education.[44] She wrote in her auto biography about receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Edinburgh University in 1999. She relates that although her introduction may have been intended to be tongue-in-cheek, she was introduced thusly.
“The idea that Miss Yates has received an education is difficult to accept. All the evidence tells against it. . . . She has played no very conspicuous part in the educational machine. . . .Unblushingly, she confesses that from 1926 to 1939 she spent most of her time on private study and writing.  . . . The record is deplorable . . .”[45]

She was then introduced as the honored guest. However, Yates adds that her unusual education allowed her to be free of traditional historical research restrictions. She states, “This outsider position, which let me free, had also the disadvantage of making me for many years rather diffident, unsure of my position.”[46] Yates could envision history without the constrictions of academic dogma but was not always confident in her voice. Margaret inhabited an imaginative landscape in her thinking that was just too peculiar to her peers; it is a place known to many who inhabit what is called, the Borderland.[47]  Borderlanders see the world in ways that are different from their peers. They see the negative space first when viewing art. They hear the voices other people fail to acknowledge. They may focus their energy into work such as Newton did or live quietly and anonymously. Borderlanders often believe they are the crazy one but time often proves them to have been just a little more observant than their contemporaries.

"Are You an Urban Scientist or an Urban Whore?"[48]

Margaret Cavendish was called mad, ridiculous, and vain by her peers. Her scientific thinking was described as haphazard and her writing reviled. After her death, a bogus epitaph was circulated in which the concept of whore is described explicitly, the archetype that is the focus of this paper. 

When a stranger or new acquaintance provokes extremes of either derision or commendation, depth psychologists like to look at the hooks and projections that lead people to develop such strong feelings about a person they barely know. Having just met that person, we cannot know him or her but some-thing gets stirred. There is some complex of our own that needs to be considered and the person or subject is often tied to an archetype or basic principle experienced by most of humanity.

Margaret Cavendish certainly engendered both harsh criticism and some acclaim. Something that emerges for me is what I have already described as passionate, malicious diatribes against her. The complex fascination and repulsion expressed by Margaret’s detractors both literally and metaphorically, illustrate a very basic archetype, that of the whore.[50] This archetype is best characterized by the prostitute, harlot, or loose woman. Women who engender this archetype are often considered outsiders and dismissed by so-called polite society. Specifically, the descriptions and analyses of Margaret’s manners and dress accompanied by the scathing rhetoric concerning her work, are especially reminiscent of the manner in which the Whore of Babylon is described by John the Apostle in Revelation 17: 3-5.
"And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."[51]         

 The subtitle for this section is a quote from a story concerning Dr. Danielle N. Lee, a blogger for Scientific American’s, Urban Scientist, who reported an incident in her blog on October 11, 2013.[52] Dr. Lee had been invited to contribute to the science blog, Biology Online. She inquired about remuneration and when told there was none, declined the invitation. The editor replied, "Are you an urban Scientist or an urban whore?”[53] Dr. Lee wrote in her account:
"It wasn't just that he called me a whore - he juxtaposed it against my professional being . . . completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand."[54]

 In another example of emerging complexes is the uproar over the Nobel Laureate and member of the Royal Society, Dr. Tim Hunt, who was reported to have stated in June 2015 at the World Conference of Journalists in Seoul: “Let me tell you about the trouble with girls. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!”[55] Unfortunately these characterizations of women, and specific to this paper, women scientists, are not unusual, even in 2016 which brings me to pose the question, “Why?” Why is it that so often when women’s competence is questioned, does their femininity, or perceived lack thereof, come into the conversation?

Edward Edinger wrote about the Book of Revelation in his seminal work, Archetype of the Apocalypse.[56] He makes an interesting point about the collective psyche. He reminds us that the feminine ideal, embodied in Venus and the older pagan traditions, underwent its own alchemical transmutation in the evolution of human thinking. Venus, was usually held up as a model of beauty and the ideal woman. Describing the opposite archetype to Venus, Edinger sees the Whore of Babylon as “a degraded version of ‘Venus.’” [57

Another idea to consider is projection and shadow. We can think of the unconscious as containing all that remains hidden from the ego, also known as shadow elements. John R. Van Eenwyk describes the personal shadow as something that, “we cannot or do not want to see it in ourselves.”[58] The emotion that surrounds certain psychic contents is indicative of the culture. For example, human sexuality has been suppressed in myriad eras or movements such as that of the Puritans. The chaste or Madonna-like woman was valued; however, the lure of the fallen woman or harlot could cause all sorts of psychic and personal havoc. One may cling to the Madonna archetype and struggle to either be like her, or look for that quality in a partner. However, the opposite of the Madonna, the whore, becomes an archetype that gets buried in the unconscious. We call that shadow. The conscious ego cannot accept taboo desires and an individual might see them as vile. The energy of the complex must then be externalized which is called projection. The projection involves externalizing the shadow but is accompanied by the emotion that it evokes.[59] A more recent illustration of this archetype is found in the following reference to the Harlot of Babylon. Mike Bickle, Pastor of the International House of Prayer expounded the following to his congregation.
"The Harlot Babylon is preparing the nations to receive the Antichrist. The Harlot Babylon will be a religion of affirmation, toleration, no absolutes, a counterfeit justice movement. They will feed the poor, have humanitarian projects, inspire acts of compassion for all the wrong reasons. They won’t know it, beloved they will be . . . sincere, many of them, but their sincerity will not in any way lessen the impact of their deception. The fact that they are sincere does not make their deception less damaging. I believe that one of the main pastors, as a forerunner to the Harlot movement, it’s not the Harlot movement yet, is Oprah. She is winsome, she is kind, she is reasonable, she is utterly deceived, utterly deceived. A classy woman, a cool woman, a charming woman, but has a spirit of deception and she is one of the clear pastors, forerunners to the Harlot movement." [60]

The caveat is that the ego needs to balance or moderate the shadow which has no morality and if left unchecked, can cause harm to the individual as well as others. One must become aware of, and learn to engage, with the shadow. Shadow projection is critical to the experience of the women referenced in this paper. The fledgling research post-doc walks into her new post and if the projection of the whore archetype is in attendance, she can become the object of unwanted sexual advances, her ideas might be taken less seriously, and/or she may see others rise through the professional ranks more swiftly and easily than she. Murdock reminds us that unfortunately, it is all too common for women who have become the object of a projection to see themselves as at fault. They think they must not be as competent as they thought. The whole business must be their fault.           

James D. Watson’s memoirs illustrate the startling ways complexes can cause great pain both in the work environment and personally. Watson writes regarding his colleague, Dr. Rosalind Franklin.
"By choice she did not emphasize her feminine qualities. Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not. There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair, while at the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents. So it was quite easy to imagine her the product of an unsatisfied mother who unduly stressed the desirability of professional careers that could save bright girls from marriages to dull men. But this was not the case. Her dedicated, austere life could not be thus explained –she was the daughter of a solidly comfortable, erudite banking family."[61]

Watson and Maurice Wilkins (also at Kings) made life terribly difficult for Rosalind, imagining that in a few instances, this colleague whom they described as overly emotional and unstable, was about to physically attack them. Furthermore, Rosalind’s insistence that she be treated as an equal was threatening, the emphasis is also mine. “Clearly Rosy [a nickname given by a colleague] had to go or be put in her place. The former was obviously preferable because, given her belligerent moods, it would be very difficult for Maurice to maintain a dominant position that would allow him to think unhindered about DNA.”[62]

The goal of this paper is not to wallow in sad stories, connect them to modern experiences and leave it at that. The disparagement of women scientists hurts the field, for both male and female scientists. Male scientists who have pushed back against the norm can find their own stories in those of modern women who were chastised for trying to change their perceived societal roles. Maureen Murdock talks about women (and this can pertain to men as well) who experience a kind of death if they allow cultural mores to overwhelm their resolve. She states:

The most challenging dragon of all, however, is the societal reptile that smiles and says, “Yes dear, you can do anything you want to do,” while continuing to sabotage her progress with few opportunities, low salaries, inadequate child care, and slow promotions. What this dragon really means is, “Yes dear, you can do anything you want to do as long as you do what we want you to     do.”[63]

Murdock argues that women have been socialized to subsume their needs to others be they family, spouse, or colleague. And if they do strike out to express her needs, “she feels that something is wrong with her. She may actually feel shame that she has needs too.”[64] The image of the harlot is not literal in Murdock’s argument; it symbolizes woman gone wrong. It is a struggle against a cultural patriarchy that honors the father and has come to feel content with him being at the helm of the ship. Carol Christ examines the God/father image with her own challenges upon entering the male dominated clergy.  “The nonacceptance of me as a colleague was the catalyst that made me begin to question whether or not daughters could ever be accepted in the house of the fathers.”[65] If one is inclined to push back against the dominant culture, all sorts of complexes and archetypes emerge. The following anecdotes serve as examples.
"When I was an undergraduate in 2011, a chemistry PhD student told me he thought women were simply worse at science. He went on to say that if he ever suspected that the women in his department were benefiting from positive discrimination, he was planning on deliberately ‘sabotaging’ the careers of women in chemistry to ‘redress the balance’. "(PhD student at Oxford University)[66]

Another researcher noted:     

"I had won a prize after giving a talk at a conference during my PhD. During that week, I had laryngitis, and my voice was still rather husky when I gave the talk. My supervisor’s comment about being awarded a prize was ‘You probably just got it because of your sexy voice’." (Immunologist who has studied and worked in laboratories in world-leading US and UK universities.)[67]

 Murdock writes about the so-called ungrateful recipient of largesse, exploring the notion that when one has been literally, “chosen, especially by the King,”[68] a certain amount of gratitude is expected. The King has seemingly bestowed riches on this ungracious person. And the woman can be complicit in that in gaining acceptance into the inner circle, she can become intoxicated with the aura of power and these kinds of things are not given up easily.

Depth psychologists tend to be optimistic believing that awareness and introspection can lead to greater self-acceptance, which in turn, helps one withdraw projections as we understand their genesis is in our own complexes, not necessarily outer reality.  We learn to withdraw projections. It becomes more of a challenge when one is the object of a projection. Awareness and understanding can at least reassure the target that she is not at fault; projection is something the other must work out. That can place us in a position of power in that we understand “it” is not about “me.” That might sustain a person challenged by unwanted and unfair situations. However, sometimes one must just walk away.


Looking back on his memoirs, James D. Watson concluded in an epilogue the following.
"In 1958, Rosalind Franklin died at the early age of thirty-seven. Since my initial impressions of her, both scientific and personal (as recorded in the early pages of this book), were often wrong, I want to say something here about her achievements. The X-ray work she did at King’s is increasingly regarded as superb. . . . we both [Watson and Francis Crick] came to appreciate greatly her personal honesty and generosity, realizing years too late the struggles that the intelligent woman faces to be accepted by a scientific world which often regards women as mere diversions from serious thinking."[69]

This paper began with an exploration of Margaret Cavendish’s challenges with attempting to follow her passion for science during the 17th century, experiences, which unfortunately still persist in the 21st century. Nevertheless, it is clear that modern women have myriad options compared to those experienced by women even 50 years ago. I hope that by looking with a depth psychological perspective, at the transition of more women entering STEM fields, a deeper level of meaning regarding these challenges emerges for the reader. As well, I hope I have made it clear that I believe there is great hope for progress. Sharing power might be seen as an exciting potential for both women and men, supporting each other in daily life and as well, in exploring the profound complexity of the universe.

[1] The Oxford English Dictionary 18 (Clarendon, Oxford 1989), 406.
[2] E. A. Osborne, Newton: His Friend and His Niece (London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1968).
[3] William Langer, “The Next Assignment,” The American Historical Review 63, no. 2 (1958): 283-304.
[4] Margaret Cavendish, Philosophical and Physical Opinions (London: William Wilson, 1663).
[5] Dorothy Stimson, Scientists and Amateurs: A History of the Royal Society (New York: Henry Schuman, 1948), 82.
[6] Eileen O’Neill, ed., Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle: Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
[7] Margaret Cavendish, The Life of William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle To Which Is Added The True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, And Life, C. H. Firth, ed. (London: John C. Nimmo, 1886). (Original work published 1667)
[8] Cavendish, Life of William Cavendish, 280.
[9] Eileen O’Neill (ed), Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle: Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), xii.
[10] Cavendish, Observations, 286-287.
[11] O’Neill, Margaret Cavendish, xiii.
[12] Bridget G. MacCarthy, Women Writers: Their Contribution to the English Novel 1621–1744, Volume 1 (Eire: Cork University Press, 1944).
[13] Quoted in Matthew and Harrison, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 10, 608-609.
[14] Cavendish, Observations, frontispiece.
[15] O’Neill, Margaret Cavendish, xiii.
[16] MacCarthy, Women Writers, 82.
[17] O’Neill, Margaret Cavendish, xiii.
[18] Cavendish, Observations, 318.
[19] MacCarthy, Women Writers, 21.
[20] O’Neill, Margaret Cavendish, xxi.
[21]Marjorie Hope Nicolson, ed. and Sarah Hutton, revised ed., The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and Their Friends 1642-1684 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1992), 237.
[22] Nicolson and Hutton, Conway Letters, 233-234.
[23] Katie Whitaker, Mad Madge: the Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen (New York: Basic Books, 2002).
[24] Whitaker, Mad Madge, 292-293.
[25] Whitaker, Mad Madge, 293.
[26] Whitaker, Mad Madge, 293.
[27] Cavendish, Observations, 312.
[28] Samuel Pepys, Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, Esq.F.R.S. Secretary to the Admiralty in the Reigns of Charles II and James II. His Diary from 1659 - 1669 Volume 3 (2nd Ed.). Braybrooke, Richard Lord, ed. (London: Henry Colburn, 1828), 193-194.
[29] Braybrooke, Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, 206-207.
[30] Austin Dobson, The Diary of John Evelyn, Volume II (London: Macmillan, 1906), 269.
[31] Thomas Birch, The History of the Royal Society of London, for Improving of Natural Knowledge, from its First Rise, Volume 2 (New York & London: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968), 177.
[32] Birch, History of the Royal Society, 178
[33] Ibid., 178.
[34]. Braybrooke, Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, 229-230.
[35] Cavendish, Observations, 196.
[36] Dorothy Stimson, Scientists and Amateurs: A History of the Royal Society (New York: Henry Schuman, 1948), 83.
[37] Cavendish, Observations, A3.
[38] Ibid., A2.
[39] Firth, Colin H. ed., “The Life of the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle,” In Fritze, R. H., and Robison, W. B. eds., Historical Dictionary of Stuart England, 1603 - 1689. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), viii.
[40] Braybrooke, Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, 193-194.
[41] MacCarthy, 83.
[42] Cavendish, Observations, A1.
[43] Ibid., A1-A2.
[44] Marjorie G. Jones, Frances Yates and the Hermetic Tradition (Lake Worth, FL: Ibis Press, 2008).
[45] Ibid., xxii.
[46] Ibid., xxii.
[47] Jerome S. Bernstein, Living in the Borderland: The Evolution of Consciousness and the Challenge of Healing Trauma, (New York: Routledge, 2005).
[48] Danielle Lee, “Responding to No Name Life Science Blog Editor Who Called Me out of My Name,” Scientific American Urban Scientist, October 11, 2013 (16:58), http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/urban-scientist/responding-to-no-name-life-science-blog-editor-who-called-me-out-of-my-name/.
[49] Whitaker, Mad Madge, 348.
[50] For more on the archetype of the whore see Edward Edinger Archetype of the Apocalypse (Chicago, Open Court, 1999).
[51] Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV), Rev. 17: 3–5.
[52] Actually, Scientific American pulled the blog immediately in order to verify the facts. This was accomplished and the blog was re-posted on October 14, 2013.
[55] Cat Ferguson, “Nobel Prize Winner Makes Shockingly Sexist Remarks at Journalism Meeting,” Buzzfeed, June 10, 2015 (11:08 am), http://www.buzzfeed.com/catferguson/nobel-prize-winner-is-a-sexist and verified by Dr. Hunt.
[56] Edward Edinger, Archetype of the Apocalypse (Chicago, Open Court, 1999).
[57] Ibid., 133.
[58] John R. Van Eenwyk, Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols (Toronto: Inner City Books), 94.
[59] Van Eenwyk, Archetypes & Strange Attractors, 94.
[60] From an undated GOD TV video reported by several news organizations in 2011 regarding Rick Perry and more recently on Jan. 22, 2016 by Rachel Maddow.
[61] Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski  (Eds), The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix (New York, Simon & Schuster, 2012), (Original copyright 1968, James D. Watson).
[62] Gann & Witkowski, Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix, 12.
[63] Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey (Boston & London, Shambhala, 1990), 48.
[64] Murdock, Heroine’s Journey, 49.
[65] In Murdock, Heroine’s Journey, 79, from Carol Christ, Laughter of Aphrodite, (New York: Harper & Row, 1987).
[66] Steven Diggle, “Stories of Sexism in Science: 'Sorry About All the Women in this Laboratory,'” Guardian, June 12, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/jun/12/stories-of-sexism-in-science-sorry-about-all-the-women-in-this-laboratory
[67] Seth Mnookin, “A Chance to Discuss Sexism & Misogyny in Science Communication: DNLee, Bora, & the SciAm Fiasco,” October 15, 2013, http://blogs.plos.org/thepanicvirus/2013/10/15/a-chance-to-discuss-sexism-misogyny-in-science-communication-dnlee-bora-the-sciam-fiasco/
[68] Murdock, Heroine’s Journey, 84.
[69] James D. Watson, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (Gunther S. Stent (Ed.). (New York, W. W. Norton, 1980), 132-133.



Studious She is and all Alone
Most visitants, when She has none,
Her Library on which She looks
It is her Head her Thoughts her Books.
Scorninge dead Ashes without fire
For her owne Flames doe her Inspire.[4]