INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY - LADIES WE DIG: PART 3!
For the past couple of years we have tipped our hat to some of the amazing plantswomen past and present to mark International Women's Day, and wouldn't you know it, the list just keeps on growing!!
Women have played a key role in shaping the world of plants and flowers throughout history. At the same time they've also shown time and again how gardens, as places of growth, abundance and even revolution, can shape history in return.
Ladies, keep on keeping it green!
Jeanne Baret (1740 - 1807)
Back in the day botany was a bit of a boy's club, but Jeanne Baret was not one to let that stop her.
Born to a peasant-class family in France, Baret became interested in botany when working as a housekeeper for botanist Philiber Commercon, who helped sneak her onto an exploratory expedition - dressed as a man to get around the ship’s “no women allowed” rule *eye roll please*. It was two whole years before she was found out, by which time the fellas couldn't deny her importance to the expedition.
She went on to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, and is who we can thank for bringing bougainvillea (the bright pink flower of mediterranean dreams) to Europe from South America.
Anne Spencer (1882-1975)
You are probably heard the saying, 'To garden is an act of resistance', and if anyone demonstrates this, it was Anne Spencer. A poet, civil rights activist and gardener, Anne Spencer exemplifies the intersection of gardening and revolution we so often talk about today.
Her poetry was influential during the Harlem Renaissance and often references her own plants and garden. In fact, her home and garden in Lynchburg, Virginia was the backdrop for discussions among many hugely influential African American writers and civil rights activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois in the early and mid-twentieth century. If you find yourself in Virginia, you can visit the garden, which has been authentically restored and maintained to what it would have been during Anne's lifetime for free.
Dr Janaki Ammal (1897 - 1984)
Recognised to this day as one of India’s finest plant scientists, Janaki Ammal was an early proponent of environmentalism and pivotal to inspiring India to protect its rich tropical diversity. Right through to her 80s, Dr Ammal was advocating for the preservation of native biodiversity, particulalrly around Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, which stands as one of the last undisturbed swathes of forest in the country and home to lion-tailed macaques, endangered orchids and nearly 1000 species of endemic flowering plants.
Like a little sugar in your coffee? You can thank Dr Ammal for that too. She also was responsible for cultivating sweetest sugarcane variety in the world.
She is so respected that she has not one but TWO flowers named in her memory - a white magnolia and yellow rose.
Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow" is perhaps one of this starlet's most quoted sentiments. As well as being an icon on the silver screen, Audrey Hepburn was an avid gardener. She once said: “Gardening is the greatest tonic and therapy a human being can have. Even if you have only a tiny piece of earth, you can create something beautiful, which we all have a great need for. If we begin by respecting plants, it’s inevitable we’ll respect people.” PREACH AUDES!
One of her final on-screen appearances was as host of the documentary series “Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn", which even went on to win an Emmy!
Frances Tophill (today!)
We are sure there's more than a few fellow Gardener's World fans here (anyone else giddy with excitement when March rolls around and it returns to our TV screens?). A regular on the show, but brilliant elsewhere too, Frances' endlessly enthusiastic yet practical and honest approach to gardening and growing your own is just what you need to hear when the growing gets tough.
Alice Vincent (aka Noughticulture) (today!)
With a gardening obsession to rival our own, it's been a delight to follow Alice's adventures through garden land. She, too, is an admirer of lady gardeners the world over, so much so she wrote a book about it - check out her new publication Why Women Grow and feel utterly inspired.