When Catharine Parr Traill came to Upper Canada in 1832 as a settler from England, she brought along with her ties to British botanical culture. Nonetheless, when she arrived she encountered a new natural landscape and, like other women chronicled in this book, set out to advance the botanical knowledge of the time from the Canadian field.
Flora's Fieldworkers employs biography, botanical data, herbaria specimens, archival sources, letters, institutional records, book history, and abundant artwork to reconstruct the ways in which women studied and understood plants in the nineteenth century. It features figures ranging from elite women involved in imperial botanical projects in British North America to settler-colonial women in Ontario and Australia – most of whom were scarcely visible in the historical record – who were active in "plant work" as collectors, writers, artists, craft workers, teachers, and organizers. Understood as an appropriate pastime for genteel ladies, botany offered women pathways to scientific education, financial autonomy, and self-expression.
The call for more diverse voices in the present must look to the past as well. Bringing botany to historians and historians to botany, Flora's Fieldworkers gathers compelling material about women in colonial and imperial Canada and Australia to take a new look at how we came to know what we know about plants.
Introduction: Women and Plant Practices in Nineteenth-Century Canada beyond “the Usual Records” / Ann Shteir 3
Part One: Approaching Lady Dalhousie: New Resources, New Perspectives
1 A Botanical Journey of Discovery: Lady Dalhousie in British North America / Deborah Reid 37
2 Lady Dalhousie’s Orchids and Other Rare Plants in Lower Canada, 1820-1828: Resources for Historical Study / Jacques Cayouette and Faye-Yin Khoo 70
3 Gender, Botany, and Imperial Networks: Reflections on a Letter / Virginia Vandenberg 100
Part Two: Collecting and Its Contexts
4 “I dare not say Botanical … Mine is a real love for flowers”: Mary Brenton in 1830s Newfoundland / Ann Shteir 133
5 Baron Ferdinand von Mueller’s Plant Collectors: At Home with the Australian Flora / Sara Maroske 158
6 Alice Hollingworth, Early Botanical Explorer in Muskoka District, Ontario / James Pringle 186
Part Three: Natural History “Old” and “New”
7 Catharine Parr Traill: A Natural Historian in Changing Times / Michael Peterman 217
8 “Botany … a Prominent Study”: Isabella McIntosh’s Ferns and Natural History in 1860s Montreal / Karen Stanworth 247
Part Four: Seeing and Making
9 Botanical Albums as Theoretical Objects: Sophie Pemberton and the Logic of Identity / Kristina Huneault 281
10 Slips and Seeds: Botany and Horticulture in Two Nineteenth-Century Canadian Quilts / Vanessa Nicholas 320
Part Five: Expanding Public Practices
11 Botanical Gardens in Nineteenth-Century Canada: Individuals and Institutions / David Galbraith 347
12 Women, Citizen Science, and Botanical Knowledge in Ontario, 1870-1920 / Dawn R. Bazely and Kathryn McPherson 378
Afterword: Finding Meaning in the Understory / Suzanne Zeller 403
Tables and Figures 415
Ann Shteir is a professor emerita and senior scholar in gender, feminist, and women’s studies at York University.
"Refreshingly interdisciplinary, Flora's Fieldworkers is replete with new information and insights, even on known figures like Dalhousie and Traill. The volume offers innovative perspectives on women's involvement in botany and plant culture, making strides in the historiography on science in Canada and the fields of women, gender, and science."
– Donald L. Opitz, DePaul University