Tag Archives: women

Women, Landscape, Environment – and Pests

TS writes: Just off to the 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities (@BerksConference) at Hofstra University, New York. The conference explicitly brings together history and feminist activism, and I am glad to see on the programme sessions that address women’s engagement with the environment.

Beyond Ecofeminism’ will explore ‘how women negotiate the relationship between space and identity through environmental justice organizing’, focusing on contemporary activism. ‘Invisible Death’ will use performance to draw attention to the biological destruction inherent in everyday pest control practices, and how women are implicated in these. Lindsay Garcia asks ‘Can we create a future that eliminates or minimizes animal death, creates healthy relationships and boundaries between pests and humans without reifying the oppressions of those who have been forced to live with pests due to circumstances out of their control?’

Both of these sessions are very present-centred, of course, and I will be asking whether their questions could be addressed through taking on board a longer chronological frame, bringing the knowledge of a ‘distant past’ to bear on present issues. This approach has been championed by Judith Bennett, whose own History Matters called for precisely this engagement between the medieval and the modern (although the environment did not feature greatly in that otherwise great book). Pests in the house and field, like weeds in the garden, are really only creatures ‘out of place’ – can pre-modern knowledge help us to cut down on chemical solutions in favour of working with nature? Watch this space….

Guest post – Pleasure in the Garden (1677)

HC is delighted to welcome a guest post from Dr Emily Cock, currently scoping some early modern gardening texts for us:
An alternative source of ‘pleasure’ in the garden popped up this week in the form of trick fountains in John Worlidge’s Systema Horti-Culturæ, or, The Art of Gardening in Three Books. This was first published 1669, and grew between editions from a straightforward husbandry manual to an extensive treatise on elaborate gardening.
In the 1677 edition, Worlidge provides ideas for a range of visual and aural tricks using “Water-works” and fountains, by which the garden owner could amuse himself and guests. Some used water pressure to make balls appear to hover in the air, or run over pipes to imitate a nightingale’s song. One set, however, with a Carry On-style sense of humour, is designed to startle ladies wandering through the gardens. In one trick, “Secret pipes may be under the Ground, the ends not appearing above it, that when any Ladies unawares or casually walk or stand over them by the turning of a stop-cock you may force the Water upright under their Coats to their sudden surprize” (sig. E5r). Another, which is illustrated below, features “A Statue of a Woman, that at the turning of a private Cock, shall cast Water out her Nipples into the Spectators Faces” (sig. E3r). While this may have amused the host, it is unlikely that the lady pictured felt similar pleasure!