Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Women Botanists and their Intertwined Tale


These are beautiful botany drawings by Dutch Maria Sybilla Merian from 1730. During the Scientific Enlightenment women were kept out of the new field of science in general  - with the exception of botany.

After all, looking at flowers was a genteel thing and one didn't need a formal education to document what they looked like, just an observant nature and some drawing ability. (And if women could embroider flowers, they could certainly draw them.) The importance of Merian's work, she went to Surinam to document 'new' species.


I've written a great deal on this blog about McGill Botanist, Carrie Derick, who happened to be a Canadian feminist pioneer and the first female full professor in Canada.

She was President of the Montreal Council of women from 1909-1912 (the era of my e-book Threshold Girl) and the President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, founded in 1913 and dissolved in 1919.

She continued to be education chair of the Canadian Council of Women - and she used her authority as a Botanist to promote eugenics.

There's a book of hers posted on archive.org... a collection of Botany articles published the Montreal Herald in 1900.

The Nicholsons of Richmond read the Herald, so it is very likely that Edith Nicholson 'met' Carrie Derick through her work long before she met her in the flesh at McGill in the 1920's.






By C.M.D!!!Did they not want to say this was written by a woman?? I think so. The preface says these drawings are from the pen 'of a well known botanist of high standing'...No wonder Derick got into feminist activism, as the case of 18th century  Merian reveals, Women Botanists were not such an unusual thing.



              Carrie Derick writes a note to suffragist Marie Gerin Lajoie on McGill Botany Paper

                                    This is a more scientific paper, autographed by Derick.


 a drawing from Flora Nicholson's 1911/12 Nature Diary for Macdonald Teachers College. I don't know if she ever met Derick (through her sister Edith) but in my e-book Threshold Girl I have her attend a meeting of the Montreal Council of women.

Flora refers to the dowdy Miss Derick as the woman who studies flowers but does not wear them on her hat.


More of Merian's work.