Lydia Becker mystery

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We have a bit of a mystery here in the Herbarium and were wondering if anybody out there can help us?

Many of you may have heard of a lady called Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827-1890).  She was born in Manchester and became a famous suffragette. She is best remembered for founding and publishing the Women’s Suffrage Journal between 1870 and 1890.  However,  most people don’t  know that Becker was also a botanist and astronomer: in 1864 she was awarded a gold medal by the Horticultural Society of South Kensington, and in the same year she published a small volume entitled Botany for Novices.

In the Herbarium we have some specimens that have been stamped  ‘Ex herb J Lydia Becker’ which denotes that they once belonged to the herbarium of J Lydia Becker.  The accession number (Kk398) indicates that the specimens came to the Manchester Museum from a collection belonging to Henry Hyde, donated in 1909.

What we are trying to find out is why there is a ‘J’ prefixing the Lydia Becker?  The dates and localities of when and where the specimens were collected fit in with them being collected by Lydia Ernestine Becker but why the ‘J’?

Also, does anybody know anymore about the British Botanical Competition, 1864, which is printed on the labels?

Finally, Henry Hyde.  Does anyone know anything about him?  On page 267 of the Whitelegge obituary in an earlier post, it states that Whitelegge had advanced Botany lessons from a Mr H Hyde from Manchester – my guess it is the same man.

Any help, suggestions or clues gratefully received…

4 thoughts on “Lydia Becker mystery

    Tom Humphrey said:
    December 9, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Hi Suzanne,

    There’s an article by Richard Middleton on the British Botanical Competition:

    (a link to Google’s cache of the page, as that version of the article doesn’t appear to be on-line any more)

    Something that caught my attention was that he states that the overall winner of the competition was a ‘Lydia E Barker’ of Accrington…



      Suzanne responded:
      December 9, 2009 at 10:19 pm

      Hi Tom

      It’s good to see you on here! For those of you who don’t know Tom, he is the brains behind Herbaria@Home (the link is on the Blogroll). If you are interested in helping with the mammoth task of documenting the archives of British herbaria, then take a look at Tom’s site.

      Thanks for the link about the Botanical Competition. I contacted Richard Middleton and he said that it was just a typo and Lydia “Barker” is our Lydia Becker. According to Richard’s article Lydia Becker was one of the 3 gold medalists!

      What I failed to mention in the post was that the reason we are interested in the Becker specimens at the moment is because of her connection with Darwin. We are going to include a specimen of hers in a Darwin themed Museum Comes To You box to take out to community groups in Manchester.


    Janis Antonovics said:
    July 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Could there be some confusion with John Leigh Becker, her uncle.

    Becker Jacki said:
    November 22, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I have an interewst in all this as I am a practising homeopath and my great great aunt Lydia Becker was friendly with Benjamin Disraeli and Charles
    Darwin both of whom though sceptical were enormously helped by the same homeopathic doctor and in this I am interested to know whether she ever used it herself
    My colleague is at the Natural History Museum- Vilma Bharatan in charge of the homeopathic plants collection and is herself a qualified homeopath

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