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The Influence of Women on the Southern Landscape Proceedings ofthe Tenth Conference on Restoring Southern Gardens and Landscapes Old Salem, Inc., 1997 213 pp. Paper, $12.94 Reviewed by Rachel V. Mills, a poet, painter, and teacher who lives in eastern North Carolina. Instead of consulting the profusion of rose catalogs cluttering the maübox, gardeners , expert and novice aHke, ought to be perusing a catalog of another sort: diis coUection ofpapers on how—and why—our gardens stiU grow. Prepared for the Tenth Conference on Restoring Southern Gardens and Landscapes, the essays by landscape speciaHsts, social scientists, garden keepers, and garden watchers (among them Hterary and visual artists) are focused on the way women have influenced the agriculture and horticulture of the South from as far back as an anthropologist/archeologist can fathom to the present. The coUection as a whole is an interesting exploration of the relationship women have always had to the land, as providers for their households, as seekers of sustenance for their own souls, and as designers of resourceful land uses. Taken individuaUy, the essays represent various disciplines, so that we see die subject from the perspectives of very different fields ofstudy. Best ofaU, the book itselfis nicely done. The design is expert: each page has wide margins, fuU running titles, and handsome print; on the first page of each essay, there are pretty underlays of horticultural sketches, and interesting photographs and prints Ulustrate the text throughout. A good part of the pleasure of the book derives from the fact that people who understood the value of natural growth, beauty, and design in our native landscape printed it with die same values in mind. The papers themselves have been organized logicaUy into an historical framework , beginning with the earHest known settlements in the country. After a brief introduction by Flora Ann Bynum, of the Old Salem gardening community, which helped to sponsor the conferences and pubHcation, and a short history of gardening at the Salem Academy and CoUege, the site ofthe conference, Valencia Libby, a professor of landscape architecture and horticulture at Temple University , attempts an overview of the intention behind this focus on women's influence . As part ofa larger effort to see that history is a much more balanced picture Reviews 91 of our past experiences and achievements than it has so been so far, Ms. Libby outlines the issues raised when research on women, as on any neglected subject, is attempted. Where do we find facts in subject areas for which women's accompHshments have not only gone unrewarded, but unrecorded? What is to be considered evidence in searches when there seems only homespun oral history to turn to? Who are to be considered audiorities, and what is die vaHdity by which we judge their credentials, when so many workers in the field have been seen, condescendingly, because of dieir race, social status, or gender, as "amateurs" rather than "professionals"? The work ofwomen on the land—always tireless, inventive , and resourceful, sometimes paid, sometimes commissioned, sometimes outstanding—has shaped die landscape ofdiis country in ways that have defined our patterns ofUving, and (particularly in these days when the terrain disappears at an alarming pace to the buUdozer's nihüism) which we have finaUy begun to appreciate as we go about trying to restore the rags oflost plantations and homesteads and grow new seed on die minuscule plots remaining. There is more than mere sentiment to our need for this information. GaU Wagner 's extremely interesting study of the archaeological evidence of farming by late-prehistoric women in the eastern part of the United States, for example, takes to task our bHthe assumptions about our beginnings. "Today," she says, we teU our chüdren about the important role that the sacred triad of maize, beans, and squash played in the Uves of eastern Indians. However, archaeology reveals that these crops were not important until relatively recendy, that over 7,000 years passed before they came together in the garden, and for most of prehistory, other now unknown and lost crops were the staffofUfe for eastern Indians. She explains clearly the technology ofarchaeology, which assists us in uncovering historic gardens—indeed, in helping...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 91-94
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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