Sarah Blaffer Hrdy and Patricia Gowaty were pioneers. Yet their work is still contentious—and their contribution all too often ignoredby Angela Saini / July 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
When I set out to write a book on what science tells us about women—a topic as controversial as it is vast—there was one person I knew I had to meet. So I found myself on the sun-drenched road to Winters, a town in California’s western Sacramento Valley. Here, a picturesque walnut farm is home to one of the most incredible women in science, a thinker whose work one researcher told me reduced her to tears. Anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, now professor emerita at the University of California, Davis, can reasonably be credited with transforming the way biologists think about females.
“Everything I am interested in, initially, it’s personal,” she told me as we parked ourselves in deep couches outside her study. Now in her seventies, Hrdy came from a conservative American family which made its money from oil. “I grew up in South Texas, a deeply patriarchal, deeply racist part of the world.” The juxtaposition between this and her current liberal Californian life could not be starker. But it’s also no accident.