Celebrating Influential Women

Gardening, Horticulture, IDEA

Back by popular demand, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we collected just a few of our staff’s picks for the women who most influenced them, personally and professionally. Read on and celebrate the vital role of women in American history. 

“Mexican painter Frida Kahlo’s work and life story is truly inspirational to me. Not only is her artwork vibrant and bold, perfectly suited to inspire the loveliest of plant palettes, but to this day is still revered across the globe for its thought-provoking and passionate portrayal of animals, native landscape scenes, self-portraits, and traditional Mexican artifacts. She is also well-known for challenging gender and sociopolitical norms amidst a life of pain and turmoil. For her perseverance in the face of adversity, her work will forever remain relevant and influential.” ~Jennifer D., Horticulture

“I resided with four women in Cameroon, Africa in 1999. I admire them working tirelessly in the coffee, corn, onion, and soy crops on land either owned by their husbands or the corporations that dictate what fertilizers, pesticides, and practices are applied. Not sure what has changed since then, but when I was there watching and learning from them, I appreciated how back-breaking the work was, yet there was so much joy because the land bonded the community of women. They sang, smiled, laughed, cried, and talked as equals while tending the crops. On the family allotments and business farms, there were some men working, but most of the farmers were women. After work hours, these same women cooked for their families, managed the home, had enough energy to sing and play music and frequently dance. The food we ate wasn’t the crops they farmed, because those were sold for market. Instead, we ate native, wild vegetation like manioc, taro, banana, plantains, and perennial spinach, sometimes with pork, beef, or smoked fish. Those women taught me more about pride, strength, and verve for life! When I garden, I share the connection of the land with them and feel closer to all people as much as to nature.” ~Irene B., Education

“The person I find inspiring is gardener and author Paige Dickey. I loved her book, Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again, all about leaving one beloved garden and the happy opportunities that come with being uprooted. ” ~Gretchen O., Administration


“A woman I find incredibly inspiring is Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959). She was a landscape architect (although she preferred the term ‘landscape gardener’) with a Maine connection and a home and clients in Maine. One of her most significant projects was working with John D. Rockefeller Jr. on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park. She helped preserve them and added roadside plantings consisting largely of plants native to the island, arranging them so that they looked like they had always grown there.” ~Lon A., Horticulture

“Dr. Grace Muna and Dr. Heather Bradshaw are two incredible mentors and scientists that I owe a lot to. Having had Dr. Muna as a research mentor in high school and then Dr. Bradshaw in college, I feel very lucky looking back on it now to have had strong female representation in my career journey in the sciences. They set the example of how to lead with confidence and care, how to know your worth, how to be inquisitive and curious and question everything – and do a whole lot of interesting research all along the way!” ~Bridget V., Education

“My Nana, Anastasia Serra Lareau, was a nature-lover, an artist, and a fierce woman ahead of her time. I always felt grateful to have so many years with my great-grandmother. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she taught me to garden in rocky soil and to make tortellini from scratch. She was a single mom who had a 35-year career at Milton Bradley; she was quick on her feet, easy to laugh, and relentlessly brave. Growing up, Nana was the one person in my family who knew the names of birds and flowers, who made time for arts and crafts, and who felt happiest in a cottage in the woods. I will always cherish our time together, and the lessons she taught me.” ~Michaela B, Philanthropy

Michaela & her nana