Ambler explores women’s history
with Philly Flower Show exhibit
Photo by James Duffy
Sherri de Rouville and Bria Franklin, senior landscape architecture majors, examine tulips in preparation for their inclusion in the 2005 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit.
When Temple University Ambler learned that the Philadelphia Flower Show’s 2005 theme would be “America the Beautiful,” exhibit planners decided the timing was perfect to honor the 20th century’s pioneering women — who broke ground in more ways than one.
They will commemorate the drive and determination of “Progressive Women in Horticulture: A Driving Force in Philadelphia — 1904 to 1924” at the Philadelphia Flower Show from Sunday, March 6, through Sunday, March 13.
Since January, students, faculty and volunteers have worked hard to prepare Temple’s exhibit, and according to Sue Pringle, a horticulture senior, they are excited about giving Flower Show visitors a chance to learn about a piece of history of which they might not be familiar.
In a span of just 20 years — 1904 to 1924 — a group of progressive women, no longer willing to be trapped in established roles such as teacher or nurse, created four organizations whose impact was immediate and enduring.
The Garden Club of Philadelphia was founded in 1904, followed by the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1910, the Garden Club of America in 1913, and the Woman’s Farm and Garden Association in 1914. Their founding members would shape the future of public and private horticulture for years to come.
One name found on each founding member list is that of Jane Bowne Haines, who, with Emma Ambler Lukens Thompson, bought a patch of land in Ambler and set about making history. The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women opened its doors to its first students in 1911, and its credo — that hands-on learning was essential — is still exemplified today in every horticulture and landscape architecture class offered today in the Ambler College, the direct descendant of the Horticulture School. The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women officially merged with Temple University in 1958.
“This was the starting-off point of a movement that gave women other options. They didn’t have to be housewives or teachers or governesses,” said Pringle, who is a member of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler Advisory Committee, which is spearheading this year’s exhibit. “Horticulture allowed them to get dirty, to work in the mud, to climb trees — and they were no less the women for it. They were brave enough to change the status quo.
Because of them, I’m able to come back to school now if I want to; I’m able to try different things without anyone telling me that I can or can’t do it.”
Ambler’s Flower Show exhibit will include three fully realized “garden vignettes” — gardens that signify the achievements of the Garden Club of Philadelphia, the Garden Club of America, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women and the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. The display will include a colonial revival garden, a greenhouse and a war garden (later called victory gardens), which visitors will be able to walk through while learning about the historical significance behind each.
“Our students have been heavily involved in the research and propagation of plants that are accurate for the gardens of the time. The victory garden, for example, is comprised entirely of heirloom vegetables,” assistant horticulture professor Sinclair Adam said. “There has been a resurgence of interest in recent years in plants and vegetables that can be grown successfully without chemical help. The exhibit is providing a series of new experiences and challenges for our students and will provide an important history lesson for visitors as well.”
The ties between the women who formed the four organizations being celebrated at this year’s Flower Show were exceedingly strong, according to Jenny Carey, a horticulture graduate who is coordinating the historical component of the exhibit.
“Jane [Bowne] Haines was a social reformer at a time when there wasn’t very much available for women,” Carey said. “She felt that horticulture and agriculture would be considered socially acceptable jobs for young, educated women and that they could provide them with a better future. They looked at the world in terms of what we were doing to it — cutting down trees, spoiling the waterways — and what we could do to make it better. We have their foresight to thank for many of the green spaces, the open space and arboreta that we enjoy in the Philadelphia region today that otherwise might never have been preserved.”
For more information on Temple Ambler’s 2005 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit, call
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