Open main menu

GARDENER, Mrs. Helen H., scientist and author, born near Winchester, Va., 21st January, 1853. Her father, the late Rev. A. G. Chenoweth, freed his inherited slaves and moved north with his family before the war. He saw the evils of slavery and determined that his children should not be educated where the atmosphere of race subjugation might taint them. Helen, the youngest of her HELEN H. GARDENER.jpgHELEN H. GARDENER. father's family, was then less than one year old. She grew into young girlhood, little differing from other children of her surroundings and condition, and her school and college career did not vary much from that of girls whose environment and education were of a similar character. She was not remarkable, either as being the brightest or the dullest pupil of her classes. Her talent is not a result of scholastic training. Although books, fin >m her babyhood, have been her friends, and she has eagerly absorbed from them all the information they could give, she has been and is a greedy student in a broader and deeper school than the colleges afford. She is a believer in the subtle law of heredity, and her own life is corroborative of that belief. She traces her paternal lineage back to Oliver Cromwell and her maternal to the Peels of England and Virginia. The first representative of her father's family in America was John Chenoweth of Baltimore county. Md , whose wife was Hannah Cromwell, whose mother was a daughter of Lord Baltimore. Her paternal grandmother was the daughter of Judge John Davenport, of Virginia, to whose family belongs the well-known southern writer, Richard M. Johnston, and she is a cousin of Gen. Strother (Porte Crayon). Her oldest brother, Col. Bernard Chenoweth, served with distinction during the war of the rebellion and was sent by President Grant as consul to Canton, China, where he died at the early age of thirty years. She did not choose literature or authorship as a profession, nor did a desire for fame induce her to write for the public. With her habit of close observation, rapid mental analysis and logical conclusion, she soon saw and appreciated the world-wide difference between the man and the woman as to advantages accorded by society to each in the struggle for existence and advancement. It seemed to her that the strong were made stronger by every aid society could give, and the weak were made weaker by almost every conceivable hindrance of custom and law. Her sense of right was shocked and she sought for the cause or causes for this manifest injustice So she began to write because she had something to say to her fellow-creatures. For three or four years she simply wrote as she communed with herself She was too diffident to let the public or even her friends, except one or two of the nearest, know what she wrote or that she wrote, and her first published article was sent by one of her most intimate friends to the press, against her desire At length, when she was induced to send some of her writings for publication, she was so timid and distrustful of her own work that she used pseudonyms, generally masculine, and she rarely used the same name to more than one article. She was twenty-seven years old when the name of Helen H. Gardener was first given to her readers She has devoted her life to the disenthrallment of women and thereby of humanity. Everything she has written has been done for the good of her sex and of humanity. She is a pronounced agnostic, not an atheist. She has generous hospitality for all honest opinions and principles. Her first book published, "Men, Women and Gods" (New York, 1885), was composed of a series of agnostic lectures, in which she called attention to the attitude of the Old and the New Testaments toward women, as interpreted by the adherents of the religions based upon those so-called sacred writings. She wrote other lectures in that direction, which were given to the public through the press and on the platform. She undertook the study of anthropology in order that she might satisfy herself as to the correctness of the dictum of the doctors, generally accepted as indisputable, that woman is by nature man's inferior, having smaller brain and of inferior quality and less weight, and consequently having less mentality as less physical strength. Her investigations, in which she was aided by the leading alienists and anthropologists of America and Europe, caused her to discover the utter fallacy of the theory upon which this dictum, as to sex difference in brain, is based. Her work in that direction is the first scientific, basic work and the most thorough that has ever been done, and she settled beyond question the error of the assertion that there is any difference known to science, in brains, because of sex. She gave an epitome of her conclusions on that subject, a part of which was published in the " Popular Science Monthly," to the Woman's International Congress held in Washington, in 1888, in the form of a lecture on "Sex in Brain" (New York, 1888), and her paper was a revelation to all who heard it. It was favorably noticed and commented on by medical journals in this country and in Europe. Knowing that the general public does not read and would not understand essays and scientific articles, she concluded to incorporate some of her scientific and sociologic ideas and theories in stories. These stories appeared first in magazines. Their reception by the general public was immediately so cordial that a publisher brought out a number of them In a book entitled. "A Thoughtless Yes" (New York, 1890). They were read as interesting stories by the general reader, while the leading alienist in America wrote of them: "I have put the book in my scientific library, where I believe more works by the same able pen will appear later. I had believed there were but three persons in America able to do such work, and these are professional alienists." Her first novel, "Is This Your Son, Sly Lord?" (Boston, 1890), won extraordinary favor. Twenty-five-thousand copies were sold in the first five months, a success equaled by few other novels. All her vigor of thought and expression, her delicacy of wit, fine sense of humor and clever dramatic powers, so manifest in "A Thoughtless Yes." are equally marked in her volume of short stories, "Pushed by Unseen Hands" (New York, 1892). She has recently published a novel, "Pray You. Sir, Whose Daughter?" (Boston. 1892).