by Fiona Davison - £20.00 Little Toller Books (2023)
hardback ISBN 13: 9781915068217 | ISBN 10: 1915068215
‘Gardening, taken up as a hobby when all the laborious work can be done by a man, is delightful, but as a life’s work for a woman, it is almost an impossible thing.’ Sir Joseph Hooker, 1817-1911.
While working as Head of Libraries and Exhibitions at the Royal Horticultural Society, Fiona Davison came across a cache of letters from a young gardener who was denied a scholarship by the RHS on the grounds that she was female. Intrigued by what happened to young Olive, Fiona began to research the wider story of early female professional gardeners and discovered a group of pioneers who battled derision and prejudice to change expectations of what women gardeners could do.
An Almost Impossible Thing follows six women gardeners in the years before the First World War, and examines their lives in the context of suffragism, collectivism and Empire. Although gardens are often seen as a refuge, a place to escape from the troubles of the modern world, this book reminds us of a period when British gardens were an arena for radical and far-reaching experiments. A time when a group of convention-busting women were gardening with purpose and quietly changing the world.
‘Fiona Davison… has written an engaging, thought-provoking account of “quiet revolutionaries hidden in plain sight”: the unmarried sisters and daughters who, in the dog days of the nineteenth century and beyond, chose to dedicate their lives to horticulture… Delightful, quirky and very human details animate Davison’s well-researched narrative.’ Matthew Dennison, The Daily Telegraph
Praise for Fiona Davison:
‘Delightful.’ Daily Mail, ‘this excellent page-turner.’ Sunday Telegraph, ‘original… fascinating.’ Gardens Illustrated, ‘a revealing insight.’ Literary Review.
(Price & availability last checked: November 2023)
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