Growing Wild
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Mary Elizabeth Barber (1818-1899), born in Britain, arrived in the Cape Colony in 1820 where she spent the rest of her life as a rolling stone, as she lived in and near Grahamstown, the diamond and gold fields, Pietermaritzburg, Malvern near Durban and on various farms in the eastern part of the Cape Colony. She has been perceived as 'the most advanced woman of her time', yet her legacy has attracted relatively little attention. She was the first woman ornithologist in South Africa, one of the first who propagated Darwin's theory of evolution, an early archaeologist, keen botanist and interested lepidopterist. In her scientific writing, she propagated a new gender order; positioned herself as a feminist avant la lettre without relying on difference models and at the same time made use of genuinely racist argumentation. This is the first publication of her edited scientific correspondence. The letters - transcribed by Alan Cohen, who has written a number of biographical articles on Barber and her brothers - are primarily addressed to the entomologist Roland Trimen, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London. Today, the letters are housed at the Royal Entomological Society in St Albans. This book also includes a critical introduction by historian Tanja Hammel who has published a number of articles and is about to publish a monograph on Mary Elizabeth Barber.



Publié par
Date de parution 30 octobre 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9783906927053
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 27 Mo

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Mary Elizabeth Barber| Growing Wild
Alan Cohen, Tanja Hammel, Jasmin Rindlisbacher (eds.) Mary Elizabeth Barber |Growing Wild The Correspondence of a Pioneering Woman Naturalist from the Cape
Basler Afrika Bibliographien | 2020
The authors thank the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft Basel for their financial contri-bution to this publication.
2020 © the authors © Basler Afrika Bibliographien Namibia Resource Centre — Southern Africa Library Klosterberg 23 PO Box 4001 Basel Switzerland
All rights reserved.
Cover: Kew Library, Arts and Archive (KLAA),Brachystelma barberiae, original illustration by Mary Barber (plate 5607), forCurtiss Botanical Magazine, 1866.
ISBN: 978-3-906927-04-6
ISSN 1660–9638
Barber’s Collaboration with African Experts
Barber’s Reception and the Collective Memory of the 1820 Settlers in
Makhanda (Grahamstown)
From Grahamstown to Makhanda
About This Edition
Biographical Register
Chronology of Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Life
Mary Elizabeth Barber to British entomologist Roland Trimen:
“[…] it is not the individual, but the scientific labour that should be taken into consideration, after all that you have done for science at the Cape, your many years of hard work and no pay, and the impetus that your writings and personal labours have given to many (especially among the rising generation) in all parts of the colony, has had a far greater influence than you are yourself aware of, teaching them the way to unfold the book of Nature, to learn, and admire the many interesting things by which they are surrounded, for you know that one branch of Natural History is interwo-ven with all the rest, grasp at one branch, and you will soon feel the demand to try to reach the others […]”
Royal Entomological Society Archive & Library, St Albans, England, Trimen Correspondence, Box 18, Letter 86.1, Highlands, 4 February 1872.
“[…] they have never thought me worthy of having [been] made a corresponding member, per-haps they do not care for having ladies amongst them, I have often thought that if I had been a man I should not [have] been excluded.”
Royal Entomological Society Archive & Library, St Albans, England, Trimen Correspondence, Box 18, Letter 115, Kruisfontein, 9 April 1882.
Ndingema nasemthini nokuba kusesibondeni[I would climb a tree even if it had no branches], 1 as the Xhosa proverb goes. Mary Elizabeth Barber certainly climbed the tree of science with-out being able to rely on any branches in the form of women who had done so before her. This book is a testimony to that achievement. In contrast, we had many branches supporting us as we climbed the tree towards the publication of this book. The list of archivists and helpful persons whom we encountered while undertaking archi-val research in South Africa, Australia and Europe is long, so we will limit ourselves to the most important ones: We would like to thank Julia Buckley, Elaine Charwat, Liz de Wet, Tony Dold, Laurel C. Kriegler, Valerie McAtear, Angela Mitford-Barberton, John Parnell, Jeff Peires, Cornelius Thomas, Amy van Wezel, Fleur Way-Jones, Gcobisa Zomelele, the team at the Basler Afrika Bibliographien, and all the librarians whom we consulted. Our thanks must also go to the late Nerina Mathie for sending us copies of her three-volume work on Dr W. G. Atherstone and allowing us to quote from it. Paul Tanner-Tremaine has established an extremely useful website on the 1820 Settlers, which offered us a great deal of valuable information. We thank him for introducing us to Meryl Duncan, a Bowker descendant of whom we were previously ignorant and who has allowed us to use of some of her family photographs. We would also like to thank William Beinart, Melanie Eva Boehi, Saul Dubow, Jim Endersby, Rebekka Habermas, Priscilla Hall, Patrick Harries, Dag Henrichsen, Alan Lester, Julia Tischler and Christine Winter, who have all helped us over the years. Hammel’s student research assistant, Julia Tabea Streicher, and our wonderful editor, Patrick Grogan, were instrumental in the final months before publication. The publication was only possible due to generous funding of the Freie Akademische Gesellschaft Basel. Last but not least, we are grateful to Petra Kerckhoff for her enthusiasm, patience and guidance on the long path that this slowly evolving book — very similar to the slow growth of most trees — has taken.
Tony Dold, Michelle Cocks, “Izaci namaqhalo esiXhosa: Xhosa idioms and proverbs referring to plants”,Veld & Flora(June 2006), 88.
[G]rowing upon a sandy hill side, in an isolated spot of not more than 9 or 10 yards square, nearly all of them, 8 in number, were in blossom, & he searched the neighbourhood in vain, for more of them, none were to be found. How curiously a group or two of these little plants seem to stand alone in isolated spots, as if they were the last of their species quietly finish-2 ing their course in this world.
This is how the British-born, South Africa-based naturalist Mary Elizabeth Barber (née Bowker, 1818–1899) described the “curious little plant” on the cover of this book in a letter to the Irish botanist William Henry Harvey on 13 November 1864. The man collecting the plant was her brother and closest collaborator, James Henry Bowker, with whom she “always worked 3 together”.
Illustration 1: Left to right Mary Elizabeth Barber, probably Thomas Holden Bowker, and James Henry Bowker, ca. 1880, photographer not known, taken on a veranda with lilies, aloes as well as geological artefacts in the background. Barber sits with her beloved dog and James Henry with his butterfly net, which he would always carry with him.
Brachystelma barberiaeis one of at least nine botanical specimens and genera named after 4 Barber. She has been described as “probably the most advanced woman of her time in South
2 3
TCD, 806 Brachystelma barberiae MS. Kew Library, Arts and Archive (KLAA), Director’s Correspondence, Barber to Hooker, Vol. 189, Letter 116, Highlands, 24 July 1867. This species was also long known asAloe bainesiiafter the traveller, explorer and painter Thomas Baines, who in 1873 also collected a specimen in what is today the province of KwaZulu-Natal. However, according to the Interna-tional Code of Botanical Nomenclature, the plant was first namedAloe barberae,after Barber had sent specimens to William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, who named the plant after her in 1874. Today,Aloe barberaetakes precedence. See Leonard Eric Newton, “Aloe barberae”, in Urs Eggli, Leonard
5 Africa”. Yet her life and work — particularly as a botanist, entomologist and ornithologist — have fallen almost into oblivion. She arrived at the Cape in May 1820 at the age of two and grew up in the second richest floristic region in Southern Africa, on an extended farm named Tharfield near the Kleinemond River, about thirteen kilometres east of Port Alfred, on the 6 eastern frontier of the Cape Colony. She would spend the rest of her life at the Cape. Bar-ber, an autodidactic genius who taught herself to read and write when she was four, did not 7 enjoy formal education. Her father set up a farm school for all his children and those of his employees, which she presumably attended. Her parents’ enthusiasm for botany, natural his-8 tory and natural philosophy may have been infectious. Without having taken any art lessons and with little equipment, Barber would ultimately paint more than one hundred watercolours of plants, butterflies, birds, reptiles and landscapes as well as publish sixteen scientific arti-9 cles and a volume of poems. She corresponded with some of the most distinguished British experts in her fields, such as the entomologist Roland Trimen, the botanists William Henry Harvey and Joseph Dalton Hooker, and the ornithologist Edgar Leopold Layard. The Brit-ish botanical artist Marianne North was “delighted” when Barber entered her room one day while she was painting flowers in Grahamstown in 1883, having encountered Barber’s name — 10 “the great authority on all sorts of natural history” — repeatedly after her arrival at the Cape.
Eric Newton (eds.),Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names(Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 2010), 22; “Bar-ber, Mrs F. W.”, in Hugh Francis Glen, Gerrit Germishuizen,Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa — Edition 2, Stre-litzia 26 (Pretoria: South African National Biodiversity Institute, 2010), 88. The British-South African entomologist Roland Trimen (1840–1916), best known forSouth African Butterflies(1887–89), also named at least two butterfly species after her:Oraidium barberaeandKedestesbarberae. With a wingspan of 10–15 mm for males and 12–18 mm for females,Oraidium barberaeis the smallest known butterfly. That Barber “discovered” this species illustrates the power of her observatory skills. 5 Glen, Germishuizen,Botanical Exploration of Southern Africa(2010), 88. 6 The farm Tharfield was named after Therfield, the old Bourchier (as the Bowker ancestors were known) family seat near Royston in Hertfordshire. Cohen, “Chapter 2: Early Days”,In a Quiet Way(manuscript of his unpublished biography on Barber, 2011), 16–17. 7 Thorpe, C. (1978), Tharfield: An Eastern Cape Farm. Port Alfred: Private Publication, 37. 8 The careers of women naturalists have often been explained with reference to their fathers’ influence(s). See e.g.: Sara Stidstone Gronim, “What Jane Knew: A Woman Botanist in the Eighteenth Century”,Journal of Women’s His-tory19:3 (2007), 34–35; Ann B. Shteir, “Botany in the Breakfast Room: Women and Early Nineteenth-Century Brit-ish Plant Study”, in Pnina G. Abir-Am, Dorinda Outram (eds.)Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives, Women in Sci-ence, 17891979(New Brunswick, London: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 34; Nancy G. Slack, “Nineteenth-Century American Women Botanists: Wives, Widows, and Work”, inUneasy Careers and Intimate Lives, 82; Paula Findlen, “A Forgotten Newtonian: Women and Science in the Italian Provinces”, in William Clark, Jan Golinski, Simon Schaffer (eds.),The Sciences in Enlightened Europe(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 313–349. Yet most women naturalists corresponded with scientists only after the death of their own fathers, as did Barber after her father’s death in 1838. See e.g.: Suzanne Le-May Sheffield,Revealing New Worlds. Three Victorian Women Naturalists(Lon-don, New York: Routledge, 2001). 9 Mary E. Barber, “Stapelias”,Kew Bulletin(1903), 17–19; Mary E. Barber,The Erythrina Tree and Other Verses(London: Rowland Ward, 1898); Mary E. Barber, “Locusts and Locust Birds”,Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society3 (1880), 193–218; Mary E. Barber, “On the Peculiar Colours of Animals in Relation to Habits of Life”,Transac-tions of the South African Philosophical Society4 (1878), 27–45; Mary E. Barber, “Notes on the Peculiar Habit and Changes which take place in the Larva and Pupa ofPapilio nireus”,Transactions of the Entomological Society,Part 4 (Dec. 1874), 519–521; Mary E. Barber, “The Commetje Veldt of Kaffraria”,Cape Monthly Magazine9 (1874), 125–127; Mary E. Barber, “The Dark Races of the Diamond-Fields”,Cape Monthly Magazine7 (1873), 378–381; Mary E. Barber, “On the Fertilization and Dissemination ofDuvernoia adhatodoites”,J. of Linnean Society (botany)11 (1871), 469– 472; Mary E. Barber, “In the Claims”,Cape Monthly Magazine4 (1871), 39–45; Mary E. Barber, “Night at Du Toit’s Pan [Notes from a Journal]”,Cape Monthly Magazine3 (1871), 331–333; Mary E. Barber, “The Aloe, its Habits and Culture”, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society2 (1870), 80–83; “‘Carnivorous and Insectivorous Plants’ [Abstract], by Mrs. Barber. Communicated by Dr. Hooker”,Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, (Session 1870–71), xxix.; Mary E. Barber, “On the Structure and Fertilisation ofLiparis bowkeri”,Journal of the Linnean Society (botany)10 (1869), 455–458; Mary E. Barber, “On Fascination”,Scientific Opinion2 (1869), 165–166. 10 North, M.,Recollections of A Happy Life, (New York/London, 1894) Vol. 2, 247.
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