Sam George
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‘Unveiling the mysteries of vegetation’
Botany and the feminine
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This chapter attempts to unveil some of the underlying processes whereby the discourse of botany becomes implicated in concerns over women's education, and cultivation in general, and becomes itself feminised. In the Systema naturae of 1735, Carl Linnaeus abandoned Joseph Fitton deTournefort's purely formal system of classification and founded the Sexual System based on the number, form and position of the stamens, together with the pistils. Priscilla Wakefield's An Introduction to Botany describes the Linnaean system of plant classification in a series of letters. The emphasis on 'proper' feminine roles in botanical texts demonstrates that, while popular translations from Linnaeus such as those by Wakefield and Jean-Jacques Rousseau led women out of the labyrinth of ignorance and local knowledge, they were still bound by the cords of propriety.

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Botany, sexuality and women’s writing 1760–1830

From modest shoot to forward plant


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