In honor of Women’s History Month, I posted on Books in Bloom about a few picture book biographies that feature little-known women who defied the women’s role of their day. One of these women in particular stood out to me: Maria Sibylla Merian. In the picture book biography, I got the basic gist of her life. She lived in the late 1600’s, and she chose to study and draw butterflies at a time when people generally believed that butterflies came from the devil. It was common at the time for women to draw or paint flowers, but Merian blended art and science. She was so fascinated by the process of metamorphosis that was not satisfied with superstition. I was so fascinated that I went in search of more information. I learned that this woman, now all-but forgotten by history, has been referred to as the “Mother of Entomology.” She further defied cultural norms of her day by leaving her husband and traveling to Suriname as a ship’s naturalist. Kim Todd writes of Merian in Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis,
“The willpower needed to forge a path where none existed before must have been overwhelming. She gave a nod to expectations, but then sailed straight through them as though they were ripples and not tidal waves.”
This is exactly the sort of woman I want my daughter to know.
Look at some of Maria Merian’s art here. My fellow TCians can learn to create their own art in the style of Maria Merian at the Minnesota School of Botanical Art or be inspired by nature at the various gardens we have (The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul and the Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis to name just two).