Were these the start of women creating a space for themselves in the field of science? In the fields, gardens and rockpools…

My novel-in-progress, Fret, is partly inspired by real-life girls foraging for finds on the shores, the scientists of their day in the days when societies wouldn’t let them attend meetings but would happily take credit for their specimens and wise observations. These include Margaret Gatty, who collected seaweed on the Sussex shore in 1848, while convalescing and taking the sea air (she was suffering exhaustion as a consequence of frequent pregnancies.) While in Hastings, she met William Henry Harvey, a leading botanist specialising in algae, and became fascinated with marine biology. Margaret went on to write British Seaweeds, published in 1872, which would be consulted well into the 1950s. She also wrote popular tales for children, which she hoped would influence adult minds too, including Parables from Nature.

The herbarium pictured belonged to Emily Dickinson, compiled when she was a student at Amherst, and now in the collection at Harvard.