Domesticated Botany

Popular botanical books, written in dialogue or letter form, presented botany as a suitably activity for women within the domestic sphere. Typically, these books featured a mother teaching her child to identify plants according to the – simple – classification system of Linnaeus, and the botanising occurred in familiar settings near to the house. This presentation allowed botany to be seen as a continuation of feminine virtues and motherly duties – and praised as an "antidote to levity and idleness" (taking women away from the more dangerous pleasures of novel reading). While making botanical knowledge accessible in an "easy and familiar manner," these books also reaffirmed normative gender characteristics and provided women with a model to imitate: the female botanist could cultivate "mild and retiring" female virtues and still embrace the ideal of rationality and science.

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