In 1899 Texas, girls are expected to know how to knit, sew, cook and clean in order to make some lucky man a good wife. But Calpurnia Virginia Tate, the only daughter in a family of six rowdy brothers, couldnâ€™t be less interested in the domestic arts. â€œI had never classified myself with other girls. I was not of their species; I was different.â€ Instead of stitching away on samplers for her hope chest, Callie Vee prefers tromping around in the woods and wading in the creek with her blustery grandpa, a Civil War veteran and amateur naturalist. Together they collect various & sundry samples of floraÂ & fauna, even discovering a new species of hairy vetch. As Callie discovers the wonders of the natural world, she begins to consider becoming a scientist, especially after reading Mr. Darwinâ€™s controversial bookÂ The Origin of the Species. But is there room in Callieâ€™s proscribed society for that oddest of creatures, a female scholar? Callie begins to notice all the ways in which men are encouraged to dream big while women are expected to limit their hopes to hearth and home. When she asks why her sibs get paid for some chores while her labor comes free, older brother Lamar scoffs, â€œGirls donâ€™t get paid. Girls canâ€™t even vote. They donâ€™t get paid. Girls stay home.â€ As the new century looms large, with itâ€™s astonishing new inventions of telephones, automobiles and Coca-Cola, it begins to dawn on Callie that these amazing technological investigations are for men alone. â€œI was expected to hand over my life to a house, a husband, childrenâ€¦There was a wicked point to all the sewing and cooking they were trying to impress upon meâ€¦My life was forfeit. Why hadnâ€™t I seen it? I was trapped.â€ Can Callie draw inspiration from the intrepid female innovators who came before: Mrs. Curie,Â Miss Anning, Miss Kovalevsky, Miss Bird? Or is she doomed to a lifetime of darning and dusting? This delightfully detailed read, full of fascinating facts about nature and biology and imbued with all the excitement and optimism people felt as they entered a new age, is far deeper than its sweet and gentle cover implies. Like A Northern Lightâ€™s sassy little sister,Â ECTÂ explores themes of feminism,Â racism, and gender roles with equal aplomb. And, it’s just a really, really good STORY. Anyone who ever dared to dream beyond theirÂ meansÂ are bound to get along splendidly with Miss Calpurnia Tate.
4 thoughts on “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly”
The description of this book reminds me a bit of “The Thirteenth Child” by Wrede. I can’t wait to give it a try and would you believe, it is on the new book cart today! Yippeeee!
I **VERY** much want to read this one. It reminds me of a kind of later-century Austen tale, a girl who wants more. Sounds tasty.
Adorable read on so many levels!
I so LOVED this book. It was a Newbery Honor book for this year, and I liked this book better than the one that won. What a good story! What a great model of a girl thinking outside her box! Can’t say enough good about it!