Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Donald L. Opitz — Daughters of Ceres

In this episode of Perspectives, we speak with Donald L. Opitz. He is Keith S. Thomson Research Fellow at the Consortium, and Associate Professor at DePaul University.


Don's book project, "Daughters of Ceres: The Scientific Advancement of Women in Horticulture, 1870–1920" examines the confluence of two 19th century movements—one dedicated to the promotion of scientific agriculture, another to the advancement of women's education in science. These movements fueled international efforts to elevate women's position in the fields of horticulture and "the lighter branches" of agriculture. This new international movement organized to create new educational, employment, and civic opportunities for women in fields traditionally constructed as male bastions. "Daughters of Ceres" will sketch out more fully the professional and civic-oriented sides to the advancement of women's education in horticulture, accounting for the role of commercial industries, industrial associations, professional societies, garden clubs, philanthropic foundations, and educational and scientific institutions that, collectively, participated in an extensive network that undergirded this movement. The book will offer a new perspective on "women in science" with a repositioning of horticulture in the overall landscape of scientific disciplines.


Recorded on December 19, 2023.

Closed captioning available on YouTube.


Insights from the Collections

The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of women in science, horticulture and agriculture. See the Consortium search hub to find more.

Materials related to this topic include:

Cheltenham Nurseries, Catalog, Library Company of Philadelphia

Florence Yoch Papers, Huntington Library

Goldmark Family Papers, 1865-1975, Columbia University

Lowthorpe school of landscape architecture and horticulture for women, Groton, Massachusetts, 1914-1915, Library of Congress

Records of the Woman's National Farm and Garden Association, 1913-1980, Harvard University

Woman's National Farm and Garden Association bulletin, University of Pennsylvania

Wyck Association Collection, American Philosophical Society


Join a related Working Group for monthly discussions:

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Plants in Africa and the Global South

Women, Gender and Sexuality in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine


See also work from our fellows:

Joanna Behrman, A Comparative Analysis of Women’s Higher Education in Physics

Susan Brandt, Gifted Women and Skilled Practitioners: Gender and Healing Authority in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 1740-1830

Jessica Linker, "It is My Wish to Behold Ladies among my Hearers": Early American Women and Scientific Practice, 1720-1860

Emma Schroeder, Women's Transnational Technological Activism and the Origins of Ecological Domesticity, 1960-1989