Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Manual of Weeds

Book Cover: A Manual of Weeds by Ada Georgia (1914)

This summer, I quoted a passage from Manual of Weeds (1914) by Ada Georgia. I've found this book very useful, and I've been trying to find out more about the author, because women naturalists of that era were a rare and special breed, especially those associated with a "manly" and economically significant field like agriculture. It was rough enough in the 1970's when I tried to break into that world.

The Manual of Weeds was part of Liberty Hyde Bailey's "Rural Manuals" series, and the illustrations are a match to other taxonomic texts associated with Bailey, so I guessed at a Cornell Ag School connection of some sort, but my searching didn't turn up anything beyond an online copy of Ms. Georgia's book: A Manual of Weeds.

Last week, I found references to Ms. Georgia in A Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Ms. Comstock is an interesting (and much better documented) character herself. From this passage in the Acknowledgements, I infer that Ada Georgia was employed by the land-grant branch of Cornell University.

The Cornell University Nature-Study propaganda was essentially an agricultural movement in its inception and its aims; it was inaugurated as a direct aid to better methods of agriculture in New York State. During the years of agricultural depression 1891-1893, the Charities of New York City found it necessary to help many people who had come from the rural districts a condition hitherto unknown. The philanthropists managing the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor asked, "What is the matter with the land of New York State that it cannot support its own population? "....

For the many years during which New York State has intrusted this important work to Cornell University, the teaching of nature-study has gone steadily on in the University, in teachers' institutes, in State summer schools, through various publications and in correspondence courses. Many have assisted in this work, notably Dr. W. C. Thro, Dr. A. A. Allen, and Miss Ada Georgia....

The leaflets upon which this volume is based were published in the Home Nature-Study Course during the years 1903-1911, in limited editions and were soon out of print. It is to make these lessons available to the general public that this volume has been compiled.

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