Glynis Ridley Guest Post and Giveaway
Glynis Ridley, author of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret. A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
Many thanks, Marcie, for inviting me to be your guest. Researching my book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, about the first woman to circumnavigate the world, I have a new appreciation of how fortunate women are today to be able to make their voices heard. My book tells the true story of an 18th century French peasant woman who disguised herself as a young man in order to join her lover, a renowned botanist, on the first French circumnavigation of the globe (1766-69). Because Jeanne Baret worked as her lover’s assistant – a sole woman in disguise among two ships’ crews of over 300 men - and because she didn’t want anyone to suspect her true identity, Baret undertook hard physical work, botanizing around Rio de Janeiro, through the Strait of Magellan, and on to Tahiti, Mauritius, and Madagascar. In freezing rain and sweltering heat, she bound her upper body with tightly wound strips of linen, hauled bulky field equipment from ship to shore, and finally helped collect over 6000 specimens on her journey.
It’s incredible that such a woman could have sunk into historical obscurity, but I realized as I researched the book just how difficult it was for Jeanne Baret and other women of the time to be acknowledged as having a serious contribution to make to science. For a start, even though Baret had enough understanding of botany to be of real assistance to her lover – the expedition’s official naturalist - many 18th century thinkers thought that botany was not a suitable subject for women to study. The ability to draw a flower was regarded as suitably feminine, but the ability to use the correct scientific terminology to describe that flower was regarded as unladylike. In The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, I show that a manuscript long attributed to Baret’s lover, Philibert Commerson, is actually hers – a 32 page handwritten listing a range of French native plants and the ailments they were thought to cure. Finding the notebook and seeing it attributed to Baret’s lover – when it is not even in his handwriting – was both exciting and sobering, emphasizing the extent to which Baret has been written out of history. But now it looks as though Baret may be getting some of the recognition that I think is her due. I don’t just mean my own book. After its publication, I was contacted by plant biologist Eric Tepe who had discovered a new species of Solanum (the genus that includes potatoes and tomatoes) in Ecuador and he proposed naming the new plant after Jeanne Baret: Solanum baretiae. So, finally, after nearly 250 years, Jeanne Baret who collected so many natural specimens will have something in the natural world to commemorate her name. Readers can find out more about this and join the conversation at www.facebook.com/authorglynisridley
Thanks to Crown Publishing Group I have two copies of this fantastic book to giveaway. I'm currently reading it and it's fascinating. This giveaway is for US addresses only. You must be at least 13 years old to enter. Please be sure to check out my giveaway rules before entering. Giveaway ends January 3, 2012. You must fill out the form below. If you have trouble viewing the form, click here.