Friday, June 30, 2017

Botany - A Proper Female Pursuit for "the fair daughters of Columbia" in a British American Patriarchal Society

Early British American colonial botanist Jane Colden Farquher (1724-66) came from a traditional patriarchal family. Her physician father Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776) sailed to New York in 1710, He was Lt. Governor of New York from 1761, until his death & served as Surveyor General for New York. His scientific curiosity included a personal correspondence between 1749-1751 with Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). Colden thought women should study botany because of "their natural curiosity & the pleasure they take in the beauty and variety of dress seems to fit them for it."  Moreover, he viewed such study as an ideal substitute for idleness among his female children, when he moved his family to the country in 1729. He believed gardening & botany "an Amusement which may be made agreable for the Ladies who are often at a loss to fill their time."  He went so far as to recommend that perhaps from Jane's example "young ladies in a like situation may find an agreable way to fill up some part Of their time which otherwise might be heavy on their hand May amuse & please themselves & at the same time be usefull to others."  Jane Colden far surpassed her father's amusement theory. 
The Fair Florist. British Museum

In South Carolina, Eliza Pinckney (1722-1793), who was responsible for profitably changing the economy of South Carolina by introducing indigo agriculture, wrote in 1760, “I love a garden & a book; & they are all my amusement.”

The Rev. Mr. John Bennet (1714–1759), a Methodist English clergyman interested in the appropriate behavior (especially the conduct of women) for a moral society whose 1803 Letters to a young lady...calculated to improve the heart, to form the manners and to enlighten the understanding circulated throughout Great Britain & the United States, wrote"Attention to a garden is A truly feminine amusement. If you mix it with a taste for botany, and a knowledge of plants and flowers, you will never be in want of an excellent restorative."

Irish immigrant gardener, seed dealer, & writer Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816), noted nearly the exact sentiments as father Colden in his 1806 Phildadelphia book The American Gardener's Calendar"The innocent, healthful, and pleasing amusement that Botanical studies might afford to the fair daughters of Columbia, who have leisure time to devote to such, is also a very important object, as in that way, many happy and enchanting hours might be delightfully spent to useful and salubrious purposes, which othecwise would hang heavily or be trifled away perhaps to disadvantage."

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