I read a lot of biographies of women botanists in California and just reread the transcripts of the oral histories from the Bancroft, again. I keep referring back to the archival images of these epic scientists and wondering how. There are these specific details in my head that keep bouncing around – Alice Eastwood’s flower hats, Ella Dales Cantelow’s boots, Annetta Carter’s sweater. I keep circling back to this question of how fashion can structure opportunity in the field and lab. Botany uniforms. I am trying to imagine what being a woman botanist would have been like at different time periods in California. If I can’t understand how, personally, practically, logistically, plants were collected and studied in California in 1913 how can I expect my collections for 2013 to be comparable? I feel like I am leaping over a giant gap on the basic scientific method on how to collect plants, which hasn’t been uniform across time [see any field note book, ever]. Are species concepts the same across time for a given landscape with dramatic historical shifts and changes in protocol?
So to think about this I have been playing around with paper dolls. I am fascinated by Alice Eastwood’s bustle dress. How did Alice Eastwood carry her plant press tied up inside of her bustle? And ride a horse with this ensemble? I am guessing that the plant press was small field size – but specifically what size, before or after the Brandegee standardized herbarium sheet, and made out of what? What is the actual weight of an empty versus a full plant press? How did this work attached inside of a functional hiking and riding dress? And she also hiked ahead of the menfolk to cook dinner, and then stayed behind to clean up? Were her boots made of magical leather – and did she wash her socks every evening? What was her budget for clothes? How did access on foot, and by train, and then car change botany and the experience of women botanists in California? How did new technologies, innovations, and socio-economic expectations impact women botanists, and what are the effects on specimen collections?
The images are taken from the CAS Alice Eastwood archives, CalPhotos or Petersen’s magazine, all badly adobe’d. I want to have a full suite of outfits, with accessories [including plants described by botanists]. I know it is a weird idea but it is how I am starting to think about this. Also WILSON, C. G. 1955. Alice Eastwood’s wonderland; the adventures of a botanist. San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences.