Hidden Stories of Groundbreaking Women: Orchid Illustrators

Botanical illustration is both an art and a science. It emphasizes scientific accuracy, but also captures the magic of plants. The Smithsonian video below highlights three important women who were botanical illustrators. They painted precise details of orchid blooms, but often didn’t receive credit or professional respect. Sarah Drake, Blanche Ames, and Regina Olson Hughes lived in the not-too-distant past, when women were discouraged or prevented from becoming scientists. Their illustrations remain valuable scientific works today.

A British botanical illustrator, Nelly Roberts, worked for 56 years as the official orchid artist for the RHS. Next week on April 2nd at 2:00 pm, there will be a “Guided Walk and Nelly Roberts Tribute,” when a memorial will be placed on her unmarked grave in London. Learn more about Nelly Roberts from the Loughborough Road Histories Project.

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