Female Botanists

International Women’s Day 2010

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Today is International Women’s Day.  To mark the occasion the museum organised a short lunchtime tour and talk celebrating the pioneering work of some women associated with the Manchester Museum.

We met in the reception area of the Museum where Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes gave an introduction to the tour and talked about the history of women working in the Museum.  We then went upstairs to to the Manchester Gallery where the work of some of our pioneering female botanists is showcased.  Andrea Winn, Curator of Community Exhibitions, gave a great talk about why Lydia Becker, Kathleen Drew-Baker, Marie Stopes and Jessie Heywood were so important not just to the advancement of rights for women but also for their contribution to the advancement of science.

Finally we took the group up to the herbarium where I had laid out some more information and specimens collected by these women.  Here the group had the opportunity to see some specimens at close range and even handle some of the more robust objects.  The group seem fascinated and interested by the tour.  However, I was especially pleased when one Phd student told me how much she was inspired and motivated by the stories of these women.   I’m sure Jessie, Kathleen, Marie and Lydia would be delighted to know that their hard work is still having a positive effect on women of the 21st Century – thank you ladies!

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Herbarium Films 2

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Here are some more short videos shot in the herbarium.

This first clip is taken in what we refer to as the British corridor, although in truth it has more boxes of European flowering plants than British (we do have another corridor referred to as the European corridor which contains exclusively European flowering plants).

In this second clip Leander shows where the Leo Grindon and Algae collections are stored, and shows some examples of interesting specimens from those collections.

Specimen of the Day: 15/12/2009 – New Zealand Christmas Tree

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Metrosideros excelsa

Keeping with the Christmas theme, todays specimens are seeds from Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa/Metrosideros tomentosa) aka. the New Zealand Christmas Tree.

Brilliant crimson flowers cover this tree between November and January, peaking in mid to late December (summertime  in the southern hemisphere).  In New Zealand the native Pōhutukawa is under threat by the introduced common bushtail possum which strips the tree of its leaves.  The possum was introduced to New Zealand in the 1800s to establish a fur industry but it has now become a major pest.

These seeds are one of  many specimens collected in New Zealand by Miss Jessie Heywood (1852-1947).  Jessie regularly sent packages of specimens from New Zealand to the Manchester Museum.   As Jessie is one of my favourite collectors I’ll devote separate post to her story later on.

Specimen of the Day: 10/12/2009 – Azorella lycopoioides

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Manchester Museum specimen of Azorella lycopodioides collected by Eleanor Vallentin
Azorella lycopodioides in the Manchester Museum collection

On this day in 1909 (exactly 100 years ago) Eleanor Vallentin collected this specimen of Azorella lycopoioides in the Falkland Islands.  Find out more about Falkland Island plants here

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…