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Special Issue 10 - The Door Was Opened. Pioneering Women at the Linnean Society of London and Their Continuing Legacy

Special Issue 10 - The Door Was Opened. Pioneering Women at the Linnean Society of London and Their Continuing Legacy

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This special issue celebrates the role of women within the Linnean Society.

Contributors give biographical accounts of some of those pioneering women, with some more detailed narratives clarifying the role of Marian Farquharson, whose relentless campaigning eventually turned the tide for women to be accepted as Fellows, but was initially rejected for Fellowship herself.  We also offer an enriched treatment for Ethel Sargant, clarifying her role as a mentor for Agnes Arber FRS (elected to Fellowship in 1908, with copious biographical information now available) as well as Marie Stopes, widely known for her involvement in sex education (alongside her controversial promotion of eugenics), but featured here to focus on her science. It also reviews the experiences of present-day women working in the field of natural sciences.

The 15 women elected to Fellowship on 15 December 1904 came from different backgrounds and educational achievements. Some were already forging professional careers and their lives have been reasonably well documented, others are only now emerging from obscurity; as research focusses more on achievements by women across many disciplines, a few still have only outline information. Some of the initial cohort of women Fellows are still shadowy ‘wives and daughters’, identified only as having an interest in botany, but may also benefit from closer attention in the future.

In reviewing a much wider group of women, elected before 1939, there are many that give us intriguing glimpses of their independence and pioneering spirit.



Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford FLS FZS (26 September 1865–c. 22 March 1937)

Professor Margaret Jane Benson FLS (20 June 1859–20 June 1936)

Mrs Catherine Crisp FLS (August 1846–2 January 1931)

Miss Alice ‘Alick’ Laura Embleton FLS (8 April 1877–14 March 1960)

Mrs Grace Coleridge Toynbee Frankland FLS FRMS (3 October 1858–5 October 1946)

Dame Dr Maria ‘May’ Matilda Ogilvie Gordon FLS (13 April 1864–24 June 1939)

Miss Gulielma Lister FLS (28 October 1860–18 May 1949)

Miss Annie Lorrain Smith FLS (25 October 1854–7 September 1937)

Miss Ethel Sargant FLS (28 October 1863–16 January 1918)

Miss Sarah Marianna Silver FLS (1879–1920, later Mrs Sinclair)

Mrs Constance Sladen FLS (July 1848–17 January 1906)

Mrs Mary Anne Stebbing FLS (11 September 1845–21 January 1927)

Miss Emma Louisa Turner FLS MBOU (9 June 1866–13 August 1940)

Dr Lilian Jane Veley FLS (19 February 1861–2 December 1936)

Miss Ellen Ann Willmott (19 August 1858–27 September 1934)


Compiled and edited by Gina Douglas Hon FLS and Leonie Berwick

Special Issue No. 10 of The Linnean Newsletter and Proceedings of The Linnean Society of London


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