he Linnaean system encapsulated much of what made botany attractive to the enthusiasts. As its defenders constantly stressed, it was easy to learn and use and botany's tools were relatively cheap. These were qualities that made botany a high-status activity for women, an obvious cousin to flower-arranging, flower-painting and gardening. As the Young Lady's Book, a mid-century conduct manual, asserted, "there is something peculiarly adapted to feminine tenderness in the care of flowers".
The strong association between botany and women was undoubtedly another reason for its relatively low standing in the male-dominated councils of scientific societies like the BAAS. Ann B. Shteir has used such facts to argue that the process of "professionalising" botany in the nineteenth century created more "exclusionary relations between women and science culture" that resulted in women being "relegated to arenas of 'amateur' and 'popular' science". However, during the early decades of the century, neither the "amateur" nor the "professional" existed as stable categories; they emerged from the activities of men like Lindley and Joseph Hooker as they struggled to raise their status and that of their discipline.
The gradual rise of a recognisable profession of "scientist" together the slow transformation of botany into a science also led to working class devotees of plants being gradually excluded from the study. Anne Secord has shown that there were large numbers of artisan botanists who enthusiastically devoted themselves to the study of mosses and other hard-to-recognise plants in order to demonstrate how skilled they were. Such men initially met in pubs, but later in the century, formed field clubs who went out botanising together usually at weekends. However, as David Allen has shown, the rise of university-based laboratory botany in the latter decades of the century gradually relegated such activities to "amateur" status.
Last modified 8 March 2008