When Gardens Replaced Children
Justor Daily By: Livia Gershon May 4, 2018
"Historian Robin Veder explains that the way we associate female nurturing with gardens goes back to the way ideas about gender & work changed in the mid-19C.
"Think about gardening, or tending houseplants, & you most likely think of a woman—perhaps a woman who has plenty of leisure time & loves taking care of living things. Historian Robin Veder explains that the way we associate female nurturing with raising flowers goes back the way ideas about gender & work changed in the mid-19C...
"Gardening manuals of the 19C described flowers taking “the place of children in bereaved homes” or in families where adult children had moved out. Wealthy households depended on skilled horticultural workers—either hired or enslaved—to care for their flowering plants. But middle-class homeowners were limited to their own amateur efforts. So professional horticulturists, who stood to benefit from new customers at their nurseries & greenhouses, began writing manuals, magazines, & columns.
"Before 1840 or so, Veder writes, most authors of gardening manuals assumed their readers were male. But from the 1850s through 1870s, there was a flurry of books about flower gardening & indoor floral decorations. Women’s magazines including Ladies Home Journal actually grew out of horticultural & agricultural publications’ efforts to reach a female audience.
"Gardening manuals written in this period described flowers taking “the place of children in bereaved homes” or in families where adult children had moved out.
"Prolific California gardener Mrs. Annie C. Brown explained in Ladies Home Journal in 1887 that her only daughter was now grown “so all my spare time is given to my flowers. They are to me as children…”
"Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote that a successful gardener treats her plants as children: “She loves them; she lives in them; she has in herself a plant-life & a plant-sympathy. She feels for them as if she herself were a plant...”
"In books & articles from this era, to buy a plant was to remove it from the cold world of market forces & transform it into an object of love...Veder writes that 19C gardening manuals drew on a long tradition of sentimental pastoralism—a tradition that “aestheticizes economically significant work by framing it as leisure.” Gardening, like parenting, clearly involves mental & physical labor, & both provide something of value to the household. But books & articles portrayed both activities as a natural extension of women’s being, rather than “work.”
To read about women's changing roles in the 2nd half of the 19th century. see:
Boorstin, Daniel. The Americans: The Democratic Experience. New York:Random House, 1973.
Clinton, Catherine. The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984.
Cott, Nancy. A Heritage of Her Own: Toward a New Social History of Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
Cott Nancy. History of Women in the United States, Part 6, Working the Land. New York: K. G. Saur, 1992.
Degler, Carl. At Odds: Women and the Family from Revolution to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Green, Harvey. The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.
Juster, Norton. So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America 1865-1895. New York: The Viking Press, 1979.
Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage Earning Women in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982
Mintz, Stephen and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan, 1988.
Ryan, Mary P. Womanhood in America front he Colonial Times to the Present. New York: F. Watts, 1983.
Smith-Rosenberg, Caroll. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Strasser, Susan. Never Done: A History of American Housework. New York Pantheon Books, 1982.
Welter, Barbara. Dimity Convictions : the American Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Athens : Ohio University Press, 1976.