Saturday, January 13, 2024


who the first female Botanists were? 

What prompted this subject you ask?  A few days ago, a friend share an article from the Wall Street Journal regarding developing new tomato varieties meant for processing into pizza sauces and ketchup that will survive on a fraction of their traditional water needs without sacrificing taste or juiciness.  Research is also being done to create hardier crops of less water-intensive rice and shorter corn that can handle higher winds.

The tomato research is being done in the Bayer pharmaceutical and agriculture testing facility in Woodlands CA.  The pictures featured women in the lab.  Certainly not an eye-opener in this day but it did make me wonder who the first females were to lead the way.

Jane Colden 1724-1746 can be considered America's First Female Botanist according to a New York Botanical Garden article written for Science Talk.  Colden was the daughter of the Lieutenant Governor of New York who was also a scientist and physician.  Colden was trained in the Linnaean system of plant nomenclature.  Linnaeus himself wrote--

"As this accomplished lady is the only one of the fair sex that I have heard of who is scientifically skillful in the Linnaean system, you, no doubt, will distinguish her merits and recommend her example to the ladies of every country."

Jumping forward to America's Progressive Era 1890-1920.  The 1920's was characterized by the Women's Suffrage Movement.  Although industrialization had increased, work opportunities were still limited. 

Jane Bourne Haines was inspired by the horticultural training of women in England and Germany.  Haines mission was to establish an institution that would be able to take their place in the male-dominated field of practical horticulture.  

Haines purchased 71 acres of farmland north of Philadelphia, recruited trustees, and instructors and on February 12, 1911, opened a school with 5 students.  Historic photos show students in their long black dresses climbing trees to do pruning and running through fields herding cattle.

Students at the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women began each day at 7:30 am and ended at 5:30 pm.  Their time was split between classroom learning and hands-on work in horticulture, botany, orchard care and livestock management.  After 45 years, in 1958 PSHW merged with Temple University, later becoming known as Temple University Amber Campus.

Carrie Lippencott 1863-?  One of the first women to establish a seed-selling business based in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1886.  Her full color images of women and children lounging amid beautiful flowers seemed to work.  She claimed to receive a quarter of a million catalog orders by 1898.

Ellen Biddle Shipman 1869-1950 was one of the first women to break into the male-dominated field of landscape architecture.  Her works include gardens at Duke University, Longue Vue Gardens in New Orleans and space at the New York Botanical Gardens

The list goes on and on and all are worthy of our praise and second thoughts.

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