chapter  23
25 Pages

A neglected daughter of Adam Smith: Clara Elizabeth Collet (1860–1948)

In a pioneering study of women political economists, Thomson (1973) used the term ‘daughters of Adam Smith’ to describe the six subjects of her book: Jane Marcet, Harriet Martineau, Millicent Fawcett, Rosa Luxemburg, Beatrice Webb (Potter) and Joan Robinson. In introducing her study, Thomson (1973: 3) noted that some of these writers, especially the first two, ‘are derided … ignored, or their existence barely acknowledged by the profession’. Nevertheless, these first three were pioneers in the writing of elementary textbooks, no more dogmatic in their stance than the products from their economist-brothers used in principles courses in late twentieth-century tertiary institutions. The fifth was a noted social researcher contributing to specific economic issues at various stages of her long career, while the other two were prominent economic theorists, one in the male-dominated circles of Marxist social democracy in Germany, the other in equally male-dominated Cambridge from the 1930s. All six of course have this in common, they share the characteristic of having contributed to the science which Adam Smith made famous at the end of the eighteenth century, and having done so in a manner recognised by both their contemporaries and later generations. In addition, they were all recognised in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (Eatwell et al. 1987) in separate articles on their own, an honour they share with only twenty-three other women. One of these other women, Clara Collet, is the subject of this chapter.