Jenny Rose Carey
Executive Director of the Ambler Arboretum, Temple University
Jenny Rose Carey has taught courses on landscape architecture and woody plants at Temple University, Ambler since 2003 since graduating summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in horticulture. A long-time active gardener, volunteer and horticultural consultant, Carey guides the maintenance and acquisitions for the university’s arboretum. Born in London, England, Carey earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Southampton University in 1981 and her graduate degree in education from Oxford University in 1982.
Much of her research focuses on historical Philadelphia gardens and women’s roles in the development of gardens and horticultural styles in the early 20th century. She is a frequent lecturer on a variety of horticulture topics ranging from trees to herbs. Carey is affiliated with such notable organizations as the Awbury Arboretum, the Herb Society of America, the Physic Garden at the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
She has received honors for her horticultural work, winning the Club Historic Preservation Certificate for ongoing research and implementation of a Victorian Garden and a “Secret Garden” designed as a bird and butterfly habitat, and meditative space from The Garden Club of America. Carey also received the Heckscher Bowl and Dorothy Falcon Platt Award for horticultural excellence from The Garden Club of Philadelphia.
Carey also is responsible for working with academic and administrative units to provide educational programs for the community in addition to supporting the curricula of the department of landscape architecture and horticulture and the use of the arboretum and its facilities across academic disciplines.
I was brought up in Kent, England, which is known for its gardens and am the granddaughter of a man who farmed with Shire horses. The Ambler campus of Temple University, which will be celebrating 100 years next year, is situated on the site of the old Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women. I live about a mile away from campus at a house called Northview. It is an interesting house because it was built as a summer home by Wilmer Atkinson, the founder and Editor of Farm Journal magazine for 40 years.
I will focus on the first 20 or 30 years of the 1900s. Wilmer had a 100-acre experimental farm about which he wrote in Farm Journal for many years. Wilmer and his wife, Anna, had three daughters — Emily, Elizabeth and Gertrude. In Wilmer’s autobiography, there is a whole chapter given to his daughters. By 1918, Farm Journal had one million subscribers across the country and Wilmer estimated that five million read the Journal. I have spent days looking through the 1918 issues of the magazine and find it fascinating. The publication was written for the whole family. Among its regular features was The Liberty Bell Birds Club which had more than 850,000 members in 1917 and was dedicated to protecting our feathered friends. This shows what a progressive era it was. One hundred years later we are still concerned about preserving bird habitat.
When one studies the textbooks on the progressive era, it was very top-down and focused on what was happening in Washington. However, a lot of this progressive-mindedness was also coming from the ground up. The women, who were not written about in a lot of the histories of the era actually were instrumental in changing society. Even looking at Farm Journal through 1918, we see women engaged in stump removal. Many of the concerns were the same as we have today — immigration and social, economic and environmental uncertainties. One thing that is very different is the battles raging over suffrage and temperance. There were actually more members of the temperance movement than there were of the suffrage movement.
The home and garden were referred to as the “woman’s sphere.” Women who wanted to change society sought to expand that sphere through teaching horticulture. By the end of that era, women were out in the garden with their rakes over their shoulders. People changed during a very short period of time. The women founded various organizations — the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women, some farm and garden clubs and The Women’s Land Army. The school, which is now Temple University’s Ambler Campus, was founded by Jane Bowne Haines. She dreamt of a place where earnest-minded women could live and dream where they should not be expected to do household work, spending the whole time learning from competent teachers to become competent workers. The students could be seen going up trees in their long dresses, pruning and doing greenhouse work. In 1914, the girls at the school went to the Farm Journal building and had a talk with Wilmer. He was on the advisory board, contributed money and there was a Wilmer Atkinson room at the school.
One of the criticisms leveled at women was they couldn’t do farming and gardening because they weren’t strong enough. Elizabeth Leighton Lee, the director of the school and the first woman to practice landscape architecture in Pennsylvania, said it isn’t so much the brawn as the brain that counts in making a live out of the soil. During this time period, what women wore as they did this work changed. The hemlines started coming up and for undergarments, women began wearing what were called “bifurcated meadow garments.” In the late 1800s, Wilmer and his wife went to Vineland, New Jersey and visited a peach farm run by a lady farmer who was wearing them. Not only did they teach horticulture but also agriculture at the school including dairy and orchard farming. Wilmer had most of his farm in orchards.
Garden clubs were also an important development. Elizabeth Price Martin of Rittenhouse Square and Chestnut Hill was a prominent civic leader and hands-in-the-ground gardener who was instrumental in founding the Garden Club of Philadelphia and the Garden Club of America in 1913. Another parallel organization founded in Ambler in 1914 was the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association. This organization was similar to the Garden Club of America but it was more practical because this group wanted women to be able to earn a living outside. They were promoting jobs that women could do in the farm and garden.
The women’s suffrage movement ties in because women felt enabled to found these organizations. Wilmer has a chapter in his autobiography about the suffrage movement and he talks about going to hear Lucretia Mott talk. He was a Quaker and knew these people through Quaker meetings. He was also president of the Pennsylvania Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage.
World War I changed so much of our society. Women became involved in victory gardens. In 1918, Wilmer wrote that “the real munitions plant is the farm.” A question on the minds of many was, “Should women do farm work?” Yet women were working in munitions plants handling artillery shells at the same time that this question was being asked. The Farm Journal published a photo of a farm wife driving the tractor and the copy said she was doing the work of two men and six horses. At the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for women, they taught courses on how to run a farm — a sort of surreptitious way to get women into business education. In the Philadelphia area in 1918, 920 girls were working on farms. There was a huge focus during World War I on growing food. Wilmer was doing his part, publishing the Biggle Books which were pocket-sized books, each devoted to a specific aspect of farming such as poultry, dairy and orchard keeping and they were designed to help people farm in a more progressive manner. The Farm Journal had a huge impact across the country.
At our house in Ambler we have what we call our Wilmer trees that he planted. He went to nurseries up and down the East Coast looking for trees to plant. Wilmer had a five-acre plot and we have almost the same size plot today. Since we have lived there, we have created our own gardens. We also have an experimental garden. It’s the dry garden, which hasn’t been watered in six years. The progress made in this period is summed up in this poem from the Farm Journal:
The girls are wearing overalls,
And yet no star from heaven falls,
When first I heard it I was shocked
It was a scheme I’ve always mocked
But when I saw its transform made
I felt my opposition fade.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.