Send in the Clones? Naomi Mitchison, Feminism, Socialism, Eugenics, and Science Fiction
Leslie Hall (Senior Archivist, Wellcome Library, UCL Centre for the History of Medicine)
Wellcome Library, London
Angus McLaren in his recent study _Reproduction by Design: Sex, Robots, Trees, and Test-tube Babies in Interwar Britain_(University of Chicago Press, 2012) has delineated the extent to which issues about reproduction, fertility and breeding were being expressed and debated between the wars in Britain. Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999) was positioned centrally within the flux of these ideas: her brother was the Communist geneticist and populariser of science JBS Haldane, while his wife, Charlotte, wrote both dystopic fiction and a polemic on modern motherhood; Aldous and Julian Huxley were close family friends.
She was active in the birth control movement and a somewhat conflicted member of the Eugenics Society, as well as part of the feminist circle around the journal _Time and Tide_ and involved in Labour politics, supporting her husband as he pursued election as a Labour MP. A prolific and successful novelist, in the 1960s she turned to writing science fiction in which she presented a number of issues around breeding and reproduction, engaging in a nuanced dialogue with ideas that had proliferated in the earlier part of the century in the milieu in which she was embedded, by no means entirely superseded at the time she was writing. Her science fiction novels ask intriguing and pertinent questions about a range of issues, as, from a possibly
unique perspective, she explored ideas generated by intersections between a wide range of theories, beliefs and ideologies, from Edwardian feminist eugenics of free mate choice, via interwar eugenics, to the implications of Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA.
Open to all. No registration required.