Master Thesis Exam: Stine Block Mattesen
Women in Danish botany, 1850-1920
Info about event
The purpose of this master thesis is to identify women in botany in Denmark in the period 1850-1920 and to investigate their lives and careers in relation to how they contributed to the discipline of botany. Biographical descriptions of seven botanists are made based on digital archival material ranging from journals, newspapers to university year books and additional historical material regarding the history of botany in Denmark. The seven botanists are Caroline Rosenberg (1810-1902), collector and expert on algae and mosses; Emma Hallas (1849-1926), natural history teacher and known for her publications and knowledge on algae; Birgitte Møller (1857-1934), teacher in natural history and author of two popular botanical Floras; Sabine Helms (1866-1929), collector and illustrator, known for her work with Australian vegetation; Elisabeth Tryde (1867-1912), teacher in natural history and author of a very popular Flora for school children; Agnete Seidelin (1874-1956), known for her publications and knowledge of algae and aquatic plants; and Jenny Hempel (1882-1975), the first woman to get a doctoral degree in botany in 1916, specializing in plant physiology and succulents.
The seven botanists’ different roles and ways of practicing science is compared, and different kinds of barriers and support are investigated. The women’s representation in the history of botany is discussed and perspectives regarding further studies are considered. The project highlights a diversity in the way women contributed to botany. They contributed as collectors, illustrators, popular writers, teachers, amateurs and professionals. Some spent their spare time doing scientific studies or writing popular books, collecting and preparing specimens while some studied and worked as assistants at the university of Copenhagen. All but one was active in the Danish Botanical Society. Women met barriers regarding access to the university until 1875, funding and work until 1921, as well as different opinions on their intellectual abilities. But the period 1850-1920 also increased the equality between men and women. The seven botanists met support in their scientific pursuits through personal relations and networks. Although the seven women were quite known and respected by their contemporary botanical colleagues, they are not part of the history of botany. Mentioning of them is mostly in relation to their male colleagues. This thesis makes visible the contributions the women made to botanical knowledge, and how they were able to contribute to science in the period as well. The thesis also offers perspectives on further studies such as different historical periods and geographical spaces, and further studies on networks amongst the women in science.
Supervisor: Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen