Cultivators of Knowledge: Women & the Study of Botany
Before the 1900s, women were not encouraged to pursue scientific exploration. It wasn't until the Age of Enlightenment during the late 17th and 18th centuries that women emerged as trailblazers in certain scientific fields.
Women attempting to pursue sciences were widely ridiculed before the Enlightenment, with the thought that a woman's morals would be impacted, and in terms of botany, the naming of sexual parts was deemed to be unfit for women. Within this era arose the assumption that physiologically, the female brain could not cope with mathematics, experimental proofs, or laboratory procedures.
The lecture “Cultivators of Knowledge: Women and the Study of Botany from 1650 to1850” on September 30 at 6:00 p.m. explores the rich history of female botanists, highlighting examples of women who traveled the globe as botanical researchers, illustrators, writers, and educators.
Some fascinating pioneers include:
- Jeanne Baret—first known woman to circumnavigate the globe; snuck on a ship disguised as a man to accompany her lover in his work as botanist on Louis de Bougainville’s expedition.
- Maria Sibylla de Merian—German-born botanist and illustrator whose groundbreaking scientific illustrations of the relationship between plants and insects influenced many future naturalists and scientists.
The virtual lecture is presented in conjunction with the FGCU Archives and Special Collections exhibition, "The Shape of Orchids: An Eternal Love Affair” which is on display until December 3rd. The exhibition celebrates the Porecki Collection, named after Daniel and Mary Alice Porecki, in a new Victorian-esque narrative.
The Shape of Orchids highlights rare prints dating back to the early 17th century, a collection of stamps from across the globe, and Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid comics donated by Porecki in 2016. The exhibition also features rare books from our permanent collection, Clyde Butcher photographs, handcrafted botanical wallpapers, local herbarium specimens, and living orchid walls on loan from the Naples Botanical Gardens.
- Dr. Elizabeth Bouldin, Associate Professor of History at Florida Gulf Coast University