For women in particular, the plant-hunting phenomenon (including the Victorian Fern Craze) became a hugely popular & socially favoured pastime. It allowed women some aesthetic & scientific pursuit otherwise denied. Although it was considered a leisure activity rather than a ‘career’, they did contribute to the advancement of study & understanding of botanical nature through handmade, mounted & illustrated albums, most notably of seaweed, algae, fern & wildflowers. These books were one-of-a-kind and often with little regard for Linnaean specimen order or categorisation.
Considering this fieldwork was taking place in the countryside & at the seashore, it was mostly conducted by the educated middle-class who had leisure time for ramblings & combing their locale.
As research for my next book, Biography of a Bowerbird, I spent an afternoon pouring over & conversing about women’s works at the Caroline Simpson Library: pressed fern albums, scrapbooks & handmade albums containing cursive handwritten poems, sketches portraits, watercolour flowers, pressed flowers & other musings. A variety of seaweed collecting manuals as well as the very personal albums are reflective of the time & creator. All housed at the resourceful library where I enjoy the treasures that unfold with the help of librarians, Matthew & Michael.