Friday, September 3, 2010
Down but never out
My desire to look further into the role of women in the garden came about while reading the book 'Green Thoughts, a writer in the garden' by Eleanor Perenyi. A gardener and a writer, she had definite ideas and opinions on the status of women not just in the garden but through history. Once one starts to research this area it becomes abundantly clear quickly that women were encouraged to enjoy pretty flowers to keep them out of man's way and his domains. Both Eleanor and I are 'modern' women (she died in 2009 at the age of 91) which makes it difficult at times to look at this history and keep it in context, especially since our modern selves continue to bounce our heads off the Plexiglas ceiling.
Eleanor says women were the first horticulturists. While the men hunted the women searched the land for plants that could be used for medicinal purposes and those that were edible. This information was passed down through the generations and continues to be of immense value today (consider pharmaceuticals and the health trade). With the decline of the hunt men took over this role and gave women the jobs they did not want to do themselves. And so it began.
Without a doubt, the male sex is at the forefront of garden history, but there are wonderful stories of the women standing behind or beside them. It is these women I want to highlight. The idea of what a garden is has changed over time. Their use and their structure has evolved or mutated (take your pick) and differs from place to place, country to country, era to era. Somehow I am going to wade through this and bring it to you.