Plant Talk

Women’s History Month: Jamaica Kincaid

Posted in History & People on March 4, 2020, by Matt Newman

Photo of Kincaid in Vermont in the 1990s

Portrait of author Jamaica Kincaid, Vermont, 1990s.

As part of Women’s History Month at NYBG, we’re spotlighting women in the world of plants. This week, meet Jamaica Kincaid, an accomplished gardener and award-winning Caribbean-American writer best known for her evocative portrayals of family relationships, interwoven with themes of the colonial legacy, gender, race, and class.

It was when Kincaid was gifted garden tools and seeds for her second Mother’s Day that she believes she “became a gardener.”

“I seemed to be overtaken by my own childhood in Antigua and the spirit of my mother, who was not so much a gardener in the way I would become, because she did not have the luxury of growing things just for their beauty. She grew mostly things she has eaten and liked the taste of them. I went back to her, I suppose, and from there, because of the way I am, I became interested in the origins of the flowers I was growing. I had Latin as a child, and my favorite subjects have always been botany, history, and geography, and plants contained those three things—overwhelming, really—plants contain the world.”

As one of the 75 women profiled in author Jennifer Jewell’s new book, “The Earth in Her Hands,” Kincaid will be joining Jewell here at NYBG on March 13 for a discussion that will delve into the many ways in which women in horticulture—from botanists and landscape architects to artists and activists—profoundly impact the world today. Grab your tickets for this special event, and join us before the talk to mingle with some of the other figures profiled in the book, including NYBG’s own Associate VP for Exhibitions Karen Daubmann, author Marta McDowell, landscape photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo, and other impactful women in horticulture.

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