Summer (Aestas) from the series The Seasons by Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Woman’s Work

Chores in the field and garden were often divided between men and women by body strength, a strategy that has been passed down through time. It has its benefits, but truly is unnecessary. Most of the time the basest of garden chores were handed down to women; the weeding. In English estates weeding was done almost exclusively by women. English records from Rotherhithe (Surrey) for 1354 list women as weeders. Women employed in the 16 century show rates of pay at 3 d a day to remove convolvulus, dandelions, charlock, cockles, dock, dodder, groundsel, thistles and nettles. The women were paid less than the men, but also seemed to hold less value than many of the garden implements they may…

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The Garden in a Nunnery, Part 1

“Come, I’ll dispose of thee among a sisterhood of holy nuns” Romeo and Juliet. Monasteries have been around in many forms. In the East men attracted by the hermits life preferred living in isolated cells (room) to the cloistered community. Early monks depended on the alms collected to survive. If these were insufficient then there would have been a need for a garden. Western monasteries appear to have always been cloistered as a community. Gardens were always part of the plan. Some of the earliest gardens were found in monasteries all throughout Europe. The monastic gardens served many purposes.  Food for the table, flowers for the altar and herbs for the sick were all grown within the walled grounds of…

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Catharine Parr Traill – (1802 –1899)

Catharine Parr Traill is important to Canadian history as is her sister Susanna Moodie for authoring a number of books, some which offer the reader a view of early Canadian history. She is not like most women in garden history who tend to be royalty or wealthy with funds at their disposal for grand gardens or greenhouse collections. She is not a plant hunter or a botanist who identifies species and then sends the moverseas to be catalogued and named by men. How then does she fit into a garden history? Catharine is unique and she belongs in garden history because she has seen a world few of us ever will. She immigrated to Canada in 1832 a time when…

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Sojourner Truth

American Women Abolitionists: Freedom Fighters I

Abolitionist Movement in Philadelphia In the 1830s, female antislavery societies circulated and gathered signatures on antislavery petitions, held public meetings, organized fundraising events, and financially supported improvements in free black communities. Many of these organizations focused on submitting signed petitions to the U.S. Congress as a top priority in their campaigns to end slavery. Women were not yet allowed to vote; therefore, petition drives were one of the few forms of political expression available to female abolitionists. Petition campaigns drew women out of their homes and into their neighborhoods where they conducted massive door-to-door campaigns and then sent the signed documents to the U.S. Congress. Between 1834 and 1850, these women sent thousands of these petitions to Washington DC, causing…

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women's education reformer

First Women’s Rights Activists II

Pioneers in the Fight for Women’s Rights Activism consists of efforts to promote changes in society, politics, the economy, or the environment. Activism can be expressed through political campaigns, boycotts, confrontational strikes or street marches, or by simply writing letters to newspaper editors. Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) Judith Sargent Murray was light years ahead of her time. Her ideas about women’s education were extremely radical for the late 18th century. She believed that the idea that women were intellectually inferior to men stemmed from the way they were raised: boys were encouraged to learn while girls were neglected. Although her family was wealthy, Judith found few opportunities to receive a formal education. Therefore, most of her knowledge was self-taught. Fortunately,…

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woman pioneer of the Oregon Trail

Amelia Stewart Knight

Women Settled the West Starting from Monroe County, Iowa, April 9, 1853 and ending Near Milwaukie, Oregon Territory, September 17, 1853, Amelia Stewart Knight, her husband, and seven children traveled the Oregon Trail searching for a new home in the Pacific Northwest. Early Years Amelia Stewart was born in Boston, Massachusetts in January 1817. Her future husband, Joel Knight, had been born in Sussex, England, April 5, 1808. In 1825, he immigrated with his father to the United States, landing in New York, November 7, 1825. Mr. Knight settled in Wayne County, and Joel went to Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York State, where he resided until April 1831. There he learned to make gentlemen’s hats and supported himself by that…

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Anna Murray Douglass

Anna Murray Douglass

Wife of Former Slave Frederick Douglass Anna Murray Douglass was an American abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and the first wife of orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Her life illustrates the challenges faced by women who marry famous men. Early Years Anna Murray was born free to Bambarra and Mary Murray in Denton, Maryland in 1813. Anna was ambitious; by the age of 17 she had moved to Baltimore and established herself as a laundress and housekeeper and was earning a decent income, especially for someone so young. Murray facilitated Frederick’s second escape attempt by providing money for a train ticket and a sailor’s disguise. She followed him to New York City, where they were married by the prominent…

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Jean Margaret Davenport

Civil War Nurse and Stage Actress Jean Margaret Davenport (May 3, 1829, Wolverhampton, England – August 3, 1903, Washington, D.C.), later Mrs. Frederick William Lander, was an English actress with a career in both England and the United States. American Civil War nurse and English-American stage actress Early Years Jean Margaret Davenport was born May 3, 1829, in Wolverhampton, England. Her father was a lawyer, but he left the bar for the stage and became the manager of the Richmond Theatre in the London borough of Richmond Upon Thames. At the age of seven, Jean made her first professional appearance at that theater as Little Pickle in The Manager’s Daughter, and in Dion Boucicault’s version as The Young Actress. Jean…

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First Women’s Rights Activists I

Women’s Rights Advocates The first women who fought for their civil and legal rights were not a unique breed. Many were wives and mothers like most other females in the mid-nineteenth century. However, they must have developed a strong sense of self and some support from their husbands, for they found time in their busy lives to protest against the confining space that society had assigned them: women’s sphere. May Wright Sewall May Wright Sewall (1844 – 1920) Born May Eliza Wright May 27, 1844 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May graduated in 1866 from North-Western Female College in Evanston, Illinois. There she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts in 1871 and began a career in teaching…

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Agnes Maxwell Kearny

Agnes Maxwell Kearny: Wife of the One-Armed Devil Agnes Maxwell Kearny Agnes Maxwell was born sometime in 1833, daughter of the customs collector for the port of New York City. Her affair with Philip Kearny, who was nearly twice her age, caused quite a scandal in both Paris and New York City. Agnes broke all societal customs by living with Kearny several years before they were married. Philip Kearny (pronounced CAR-nee) was born June 1, 1815 in New York City, the only child of a wealthy couple, Philip and Susan Watts Kearny. Young Philip lived a privileged childhood, but it was touched by tragedy with the untimely death of his beloved mother when he was eight years old. When his…

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