Monday, December 3, 2018

'Collecting Women', Exhibition Rosny Farm Art Centre, Rosny Tasmania 15 November till 9 December 2018

Collecting Women
Chantale Delrue

When I grew up, we seldom visited the doctor. My mother grew herbs for common ailments and I remember the books of the famous Dutch herbalist Mellie Uylderd and of Doctor Vogel took pride of place in her library. I learned basic herbalism from my mum and am still learning every day. Nature is forever fascinating!

Since the beginning of human history women have been gatherers. Traditionally women collected herbs and administered them through food and medicinal preparations. They had the knowledge of plants, which also gave them a certain power. Later the socalled ‘physical’ herb-women collected plants and sold them to quacks or apothecaries who in turn sold them at exorbitant prices. 

While learned men studied science and medicine at institutions, prohibited to women, it was often the women who had the practical knowledge of the properties of plants. Scientist such as Joseph Banks, Philibert Commerson and Frederick von Mueller, who got credit for their ‘discoveries’ and gave them Latin names, acknowledged that they got some of their knowledge from (unnamed !) women.

Herbal medicine is the oldest form of therapy. The largest percentage of the world’s population still depends on it.  In Western societies however, church and the College of Physicians had great influence and tried to ban the use of herbs. People became more and more reliant on medical institutions and as a result much of knowledge about the use herbs, traditionally transmitted orally by women, has been lost to the mainstream population.

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