Beatrix Potter and Beatrix Farrand were born just a decade apart; Potter was born in London, in 1866 and Farrand in New York City in 1872. Both women spent most of their lives building successful careers against all odds and, interestingly, credited much of their success in life to spending their formative years among nature and in gardens.
image courtesy of UC Berekely
On the other side of the Atlantic, Beatrix Potter's parents discouraged higher education for women, so young Beatrix was educated at home by a governess. However, she spent many childhood holidays in Northern England and rural Scotland where, like Beatrix Farrand, she developed an interest in nature and wild animals. She began to draw as a way to keep records of what she saw and, through her botanical drawings, she later became widely recognized as an expert in botany and mycology. She was the first to suggest that lichens were a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. Although she considered a scientific career in botany, she was rejected as a student at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew because she was a woman. And, even though she wrote technical and scientific papers on her studies of mycology, they had to be presented by men, because women were barred from attending scientific meetings.
Beatrix Farrand began a career in the male dominated field of landscape architecture at the age of 25. She first designed gardens for her neighbors in Bar Harbor, Maine and then, through some family connections, began to acquire a few commissions along the east coast. She was married in 1913, and in 1927 her husband accepted a job as the first Director of the Huntington Library, in California. During a time when women were expected to quickly settle into the role of "housewife," Beatrix Farrand defied convention by continuing to commute cross-country by train to work on design projects along the east coast.
|Beatrix Potter with her favorite dog Kep|
image courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Farrand was one of the founding members, and the only woman, of the American Society of Landscape Architects. During the last year's of her life, she devoted herself to establishing a center for the study of landscape design at Reef Point, Maine. Sadly, following a wildfire on the island and facing a lack of funding, she dismantled the project with many of the plants going to the Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. She died at the age of 86, at Mount Desert Island, in 1959. Beatrix Farrand designed over 200 gardens and, today, is considered to be one of the most influential American landscape architects, even though she always preferred to be called a "landscape gardener." Her contributions to landscape design and gardening can be felt all over Mount Desert Island, Maine and you can visit a few of her most famous private gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, DC, and Eolia, the home of Edward and Mary Stillman Harkness at Harkness Memorial Park, in Waterford, Ct.
Neither Beatrix Potter nor Beatrix Farrand knew anything about "equal access to education, training, science, or technonolgy" yet they would surely smile if they knew we were all promoting that theme on this 2011 International Women's Day.
|Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor, Maine|