The Forgotten Botanist: Sara Plummer Lemmon’s Life of Science and Art

Wynne Brown. Bison, $27.95 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-1-496222-81-7
Poet Brown (Cave Creek Canyon) unearths the story of an unjustly obscure 19th-century pioneer in this superb account of the life of Sara Plummer Lemmon (1836–1923). A botanist, artist, teacher, and nurse, Lemmon was born in Maine, attended college in Massachusetts, then moved to New York City where she studied at Cooper Union. Suffering from pneumonia in 1869, she moved to California, where she started a book collection that eventually became Santa Barbara’s first public library. Her paintings of plants led to a founding membership in the Santa Barbara Society of Natural History in 1876. Through that group she met botanist John Lemmon, whom she married in 1880, and with whom she worked to catalog the plants of Arizona and California. Reproductions of Lemmon’s artwork allow readers to experience the fruit of her painstaking efforts and her talent firsthand, and Brown is so successful in facilitating engagement with a forgotten figure that many will be deeply saddened by Lemmon’s last years; the energetic woman, for whom idleness was akin to death, suffered from dementia and spent the years before her death in a hospital for the mentally ill. The result is a memorable account of an accomplished life. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/30/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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