Virgins, Weeders and Queens - a History of Women Gardeners
A talk by Dr. Twigs Way. HPS 8 December 2018
This talk was based on the fascinating book by Dr. Way encompassing the role of women in gardening from Medieval Times to the present day. The Virgins, Weeders and Queens was added to the original title to make the book more saleable!
In the 1600's lower class women were allowed to grow food and medicinal herbs for money - 3p a day while men were paid 6p plus free herring and ale! If a husband who ran a Market Garden died, his wife could run it until a son could manage it. Mistress Tuggie who wrote The Book of Hours for women was just such a lady.
Queen Eleanor introduced hollyhocks and quinces and Queen Mary installed glasshouses at Hampton Court. She had a collection of exotic plants brought back by Captains from around the world. Princess Augusta continued her dead husband's work at Kew, building the Pagoda and Orangery and a collection of plants from around the world.
In the 1800s Aristocratic Ladies could nurture and water their gardens and conservatories. In the 1900s, Surplus Women whose husbands had died became Lady Gardeners. They were often daughters of professional parents and became Head Gardeners of Ladies' Estates.
After the war, ladies became more active. Gertrude Jekyll was the first female garden designer. Many were multi talented as was Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst. The Land Army changed the role of women gardeners and the clothes they could wear improved their life dramatically.
Dr. Way finished her talk with the inspiring story of Beth Chatto whose wonderful garden many of us will have visited.