Last week I visited Rochester, New York . I traveled there to give a talk…
I am currently reading Michael Waters’ book The Garden in Victorian Literature.
This title fits into my general area of interest, the history of the garden.
In this case I am looking at how novelists and poets wrote about the garden in the Victorian period.
Such literature tells us a great deal about the garden, but also about the role of women in horticulture.
Women in Horticulture Week
Earlier this week I discovered that June 1-5 is Women in Horticulture Week.
I can see a thread between the two sources of our understanding the garden as a cultural phenomenon: Victorian fiction where the garden takes center stage and the evolving role of women in the garden.
Katie Dubow, president, Garden Media Group, the primary sponsor of this special week, says, “Women play a crucial role in the horticulture industry—not only as entrepreneurs, growers, researchers, marketers and employees at all levels, but also as the largest consumers of home and garden products.”
Victorian Literature, Women, and the Garden
Victorian literature paints its own image of women and the garden.
We know that the nineteenth century was a time in which the influence of women was relegated to taking care of the family, and in terms of the garden, mostly tending to flowers.
Waters writes, “An assumption almost universal in Victorian literature: women, not men, have a natural and privileged affinity with flowers.”
Women were then even compared to flowers: beautiful and sensual, and there to bring a sense of feeling and emotion to taking care of the household.
Though women had a lot to do with running the household, they were not encouraged to seek any fulfillment outside the home.
By the end of the nineteenth century women were voicing their own frustration with that role.
Women wanted to be more self-determining.
Slowly that role of women emerged to provide women leadership roles in the field of horticulture.
It is a good idea to support, honor, and promote women professionals and their achievements during Women in Horticulture Week.
Today’s woman in the garden is quite different from her Victorian ancestor.
Here is Monet’s beautiful Victorian painting, “Woman in the Garden.”