Fanciful handmade wallpaper features unsung scientific heroines (and giant bugs)

growhousegrow.gifAt BKLYN DESIGNS this weekend I ran into Katie Deedy, whose handmade wallpaper featuring a Victorian woman walking giant bugs on a leash caught my eye. She explained that all of her wallpaper was "narrative-inspired" and this was her new line, which paid homage to under appreciated 19th century female scientists:
And while discoveries by men such as Darwin and Newton have made them household names, there are countless others whose scholarly work has been lost, forgotten or even usurped by other intellectuals. Our Spring 2010 wallpaper line highlights three such individuals, all of whom are women, whose phenomenal academic stories have fallen between the cracks of history. As female scientists in the nineteenth century, these women faced an oxymoronic distinction that their male counterparts eluded. Sexist barriers discouraged most young girls from the pursuit of an intellectual calling, yet our subjects persevered by challenging the status quo and developing their own route to recognized scholastic excellence. Each woman was largely self taught, and relied almost entirely on an innate passion for her respective field--something that makes their achievements all the more remarkable. Our bonnet is off to these unsung scientific heroines!
Grow House Grow

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  1. I was just reading about Beatrix Potter in the context of bedtime stories, and discovered that she was one of these unsung heroes. She was really into studying fungi, to the horror of her parents. Her paper to the Linnean Society had to be read by a man since she wasn’t allowed in the building!

  2. I was wondering, if each person in the design above is supposed to represent a different person. How do we tell who they are and how to tell them apart?

    The website shows just 9 patterns named:
    Ms. Treat
    Ms. Ward
    Mme. Jeanne
    Cattle Kate
    Aleister Crowley
    Captain Smith
    Christopher
    Nellie
    Cottontail

    Only the first 3 are female scientists. The insect design is named after Mary Ward.

  3. This is definitely inspired by “The Adventures of Madaline and Louisa”, a picture book my mother and then I had when we were young. I’m having a hard time finding it n the internet, but it was about Victorian girls’ adventures lassoing, leashing and other wise observing and capturing gigantic bugs.

    I my have the exact title a little wrong; if anyone else finds it please post for us. It is an amazing book, filled with the triumph of curiosity and experiential science over stuffy institutional learning.

  4. “As female scientists in the nineteenth century, these women faced an oxymoronic distinction that their male counterparts eluded. Sexist barriers discouraged most young girls from the pursuit of an intellectual calling, yet our subjects persevered by challenging the status quo and developing their own route to recognized scholastic excellence.”

    Some women even went as far as keeping the fact that they were women a deep, dark secret.

    http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2010/03/the-perfect-gentleman.html

  5. These designs could easily become two or three color stencil for street tagging. Very very nice!

  6. A bit too simple as graphical representation and doesn’t really work as wallpaper. From across the room, it would look a bit like green-blurred black dots. I know you folks don’t like others overly criticizing your blog posts, but as a professional designer from a daily newspaper, I must call a fail on this one. It reminds me of the work that advertising clients absolutely insist run unchanged because their 12-year-old nephew knows more about design than anybody else possibly ever could. I understand the inspiration completely, I just can’t see the application because. it. just. does. not. work. as. wallpaper.

  7. Sadly, this isn’t a ‘quaint’ story of our sexist past. My wife was one of the UK’s few top flight female indistrial electric generation engineers (her generator installation powers the Cardif Millenium Stadium). Yet right up until about six years ago – when she left the industry – she was paid less than her male counterparts, excluded from the ‘boys club’ of extra curricula activities and overlooked for promotion.

    She was often treated ‘like a secretary’ – despite being one of the longest serving in her department, even by those with less experience and qualifications.

    She finally ‘gave up’ and sought a more rewarding career teaching science to Sixth Form students (what I guess Americans might call High School)…

    One of her memories of her school days was that she was not allowed by her school to take Metal Work (engineering) as a subject as it was considered a ‘boy’s choice’ and only after a hard fight was allowed to take Technical Drawing as that wasn’t seen as being quite so ‘masculine’!

    I am hugly proud of my wife, she is a lot smarter and gifted than I am, and in her teaching is making a *real* difference to our society. With two teenage daughters I hope that we can *really* make some changes to male attitudes, and a big part of this is getting the message out just how much we owe to the unsung female innovators.

    Thanks Boing Boing for this post – I will show my wife!

  8. @anon#3: Pasley, L. and M.S., “The Adventures of Madeline and Louisa.” Illustrated by the authors. New York: Random House, 1980.

  9. @anon#3: Pasley, L. and M.S. “The Adventures of Madeline and Louisa.” Illustrated by the authors. New York: Random House, 1980.

  10. Reminds me of the wonderful film, “Angels and Insects.” I immediately thought of it.

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