Audubon of Botany

The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott - Marjorie G. Jones

Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley.

                While I live in the same city which Walcott spent much of her life and have been to the Smithsonian many times, I can honestly say that the name did not register with me.  I can say that after reading the book, I must have seen some of her paintings of plants (she was call the Audubon of Botany), but it never stuck.

 

                Shame really.

 

                Walcott was a Quaker who married for the first time in her fifties, angering her father who saw her as his permanent nurse. 

 

                That’s not the most fascinating thing about her however.

 

                Jones’ book is a short biography, more like an introduction to Walcott.   Yet, there is much here that will make any reader want to investigate further, not just about Walcott but about the other women who she sometimes met, and whom her father blamed for her betrayal.  It is almost as if these women, who explored the environment are their own club.  It’s quite interesting.

 

                Perhaps the iffiest part of the book is the section concerning Walcott’s view on Native Americans.  She was appointed a commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Walcott’s view on Native Americans, while sympathetic, was more in keeping with her times and is, at the very least, disturbing and disappointing to read today.  It is true Jones’ credit that she doesn’t try to whitewash this and even compares Walcott’s reaction to that of Estelle Brown, whose views are more in keeping with today.  She also examines why the views were different and why Walcott would not have supported someone such as Lydia Maria Child.