Such a brilliant and challenging theory which was pooh-poohed by male scientists although Elaine Morgan was a distinguished Oxford educated scientist herself !

The Descent of Woman

Helen Percy's account of her struggle with the Church of Scotland is enough to make your hair stand on end ~ the sheer wickedness of those out to destroy her, mainly the revered Elders who were prepared to lie and really go to any lengths to achieve their self-righteous objective.   As well as those poor women who in some primitive societies are stoned to death if suspected of adultery, and even if they have been raped, her story reminds me of the scene in Mary Webb's "Precious Bane" in which some particularly nasty characters (men, of course) have decided Prue Sarn is a witch and a witch must die ~ she is already tied in the ducking stool and submerged in the mere when Kester Woodseves comes to her rescue ~ the cause of people's suspicion that Prue is a witch and their fear of her powers is that she has a hare-lip.

In a similar way, Helen Percy's tormentors may have taken against her so violently because she is a woman, and a lively young woman at that, and the Old Guard were not prepared to accept women among their exalted  ranks.    Befroe we leave her, this seems to sum the situation up :

"I've heard naebody speak ill of ye ~ only the toffs that run the kirk round here . . . ye affronted thembecause ye showed an interest in what ordinary folk were daein ... it was naethint'dae wi' all that rubbish in the paper ... if y'd a face like the back o' a bus it wud never hae happened at a'."   There was another interesting quote from an Episcopal Bishop who said something like God and the church are entirely different ...   Can't fish it out again ~ I'll have another look later.

Tidying up the big bookcase in my bedroom, I came across another gripping book that I have not looked at for years : "The Descent of Woman," by Elaine Morgan.   I think I'll copy the article I wrote about it for The Guardian some 40 years ago . . .  I've simply copied it from document and will tidy it up tomorrow ~ time for Edwardian Farm and then Dad's Army and so goodnight !

Adam and Evolution

I was absolutely amazed to find no reference in Saffron Davies’ inclusive piece on the origin of our ability to stand up straight and walk on two legs, to Elaine Morgan and her fascinating theory on the subject. 

Elaine Morgan, in case you’ve forgotten, is the author of that brilliant and highly original book “The Descent of Woman” which came out in hardback in 1972 (Souvenir Press) and in paperback shortly afterwards.   But for such a revolutionary thesis it had a surprisingly short and insignificant life. 

I started to read the book while spending a night with friends.  “Here,” they said, casually tossing the paperback in with a mug of Ovaltine.   “You might enjoy this.” 

Enjoy it !   I was enthralled by this bold myth-shattering book.  So well researched.   And witty.   And thoroughly readable.   Clearing a path through twenty million years of evolutionary garbage.  Incrediblu unfettered by the long-accepted, the traditional lines of explanation.   “The unreasoned male reasoning” which got Saffron Davies tied up in such knots.   Hammering Darwin and Desmond Morris and the rest of your Man-the-mighty-Hunter brigade sharply on the head.   Giving us women back what God and man and the Book of Genesis have been denying us for centuries. 

“Take it to read on the train,” they suggested as I set out for home next morning. 

“No, no ~ I wouldn’t like to lose it for you.   Anyway, this is a book worth owning.   I’ll get myself a copy.” 

But somehow I never did.   Other things took over.   I forgot.   It was 1980 before I thought about it again, The Descent of Woman, during a feminist discussion with my friend Karen. 

“I only ever read the first hundred pages,” I told her.   So she lent me her copy. 

Unfortunately the day she dropped it round for me I had a visit from a nomadic New Zealander who fell on Elaine Morgan’s book and (I’m ashamed to say) when she left to hitch-hike home through Asia The Descent of Woman went with her.   Oh, heavens !   Not only had I lost Karen’s book, I hadn’t even had a chance to read it before it was stolen ! 

I rang our friendly neighbourhood book shop.   I rang all the book shops in town.   And Foyles.   And the library.  I even rang the publisher.   But the story was invariably the same : “Sorry ~ it’s unobtainable ~ it’s out of print.”

In desperation I tried one of the SEARCH firms [this was long before Google, Amazon etc] which claim to be able to find anything.   Sure enough, within six weeks they had located a second-hand hardback copy for me.   At long last I was able to read Elaine Morgan’s staggering work from cover to cover.   And Karen, bless her, was so overcome by the lengths I had gone to to replace her copy that she insisted I should keep this one. 

Well, that book bowls you over, folks.   Positively bowls you over. 

“Evolutionary theories are riddled with mysteries, inconsistencies and unanswered questions,” it says in the blurb.   “Even more damning are the questions that have never been asked.   It has taken a woman to explain what male evolutionists have ignored or misunderstood for centuries.” 

Why do we weep ?   Why do we speak ?   Why are our bodies hairless ?   Is monogamy a natural state of affairs ?   To these and many other biological questions Elaine Morgan offers clear, logical and simple explanations.   The illusive orgasm included.  

No mystery then that a book of this calibre, a revolutionary thesis if ever there was one, should so quickly have disappeared from the book shelves.   That it should have been allowed (encouraged ?) to sink without stirring more than a fleeting ripple on the scientific pond. 

I suspect that the world at large, the male dominated scientific community in particular, is not ready to consider this new take on human evolution but will persist in their ludicrous claims of bipedalism in our hominid ancestors. 

I’m not going to spoil it for you by revealing the solution that Elaine Morgan arrives at ~ especially not now that The Descent of Woman has been re-issued (and about time too) by Souvenir Press @ £5.95   Buy yourself a copy.   Quickly before the book disappears again.   And once you’ve got it, don’t let it out of your sight.

{I don't think the Guardian published this ~ the book is well worth reading ~ having just finished Helen Percy's, I'm already half way through this and it certainly gripping !)

Tuesday afternoon: David has found a wonderful two-seater sofa for number 4 ~ from Scarborough Sale Rooms, and brand new still with price tag on etc ~ and perfect in that little room.   Richard is here working on all our gardens ~ nos 7, 6 and 4 ~ what a gem he is !   Poor old Georgie had an operation yesterday on her shoulder to remove a spur of bone that was pressing into muscle and ligaments ~ they didn't keep her in overnight but now that the anaesthetic has worn off it is pretty painful ~ the best thing about it is that she has to have at least two weeks off work, possibly more ~ these days she's always so tired.

Spent a good hour organising the Picture Library and managed to delete dozens of them which can only be a good thing as BT Cloud keeps telling me there is very little room left in my memory.   Must try to keep it this way.