Mischievous Creatures

The Forgotten Sisters Who Transformed Early American Science

Regular Price $32.50

Regular Price $41.00 CAD

Regular Price $32.50

Regular Price $41.00 CAD

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On Sale

Oct 31, 2023

Page Count

432 Pages




The untold story of two sisters whose discoveries sped the growth of American science in the nineteenth century

In Mischievous Creatures, historian Catherine McNeur uncovers the lives and work of Margaretta Hare Morris and Elizabeth Carrington Morris, sisters and scientists in early America. Margaretta, an entomologist, was famous among her peers and the public for her research on seventeen-year cicadas and other troublesome insects. Elizabeth, a botanist, was a prolific illustrator and a trusted supplier of specimens to the country’s leading experts. Together, their discoveries helped fuel the growth and professionalization of science in antebellum America. But these very developments confined women in science to underpaid and underappreciated roles for generations to follow, erasing the Morris sisters’ contributions along the way.

Mischievous Creatures is an indelible portrait of two unsung pioneers, one that places women firmly at the center of the birth of American science.

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"In Catherine McNeur's expert narration, a co-biography of sister naturalists in nineteenth-century Philadelphia becomes an excavation of power structures underlying science and history. A triumph of investigative research and artful writing."
 —Jared Farmer, author of Elderflora
Mischievous Creatures recaptures the fascinating world of two sister scientists in brilliant detail. The Morrises’ lab was their garden, where their unsung work changed the science of their time.”
 —Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival
“What did it mean for a woman to pursue a life in science in the decades before the Civil War? In this elegant and insightful book, Catherine McNeur recovers the lives and scientific labors of entomologist Margaretta Hare Morris and botanist Elizabeth Carrington Morris—the wheat flies, cicadas, beetles, ferns, and forget-me-nots that fascinated them, the curiosity that drove them, and the family, friends, and colleagues who sustained them. With stunning work in the archives, McNeur moves the Morris sisters from the margins to the center of the story and changes the way we think about the history of antebellum American science.”
 —Ann Fabian, author of The Skull Collectors
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