Pioneering women gardeners

A look back at trailblazing women who worked in our Gardens.

Eleanor Morland, Gertrude Cope and Alice Hutchings, Kew gardeners by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

19th century

Eleanor Morland, Gertrude Cope and Alice Hutchings were employed as gardeners at Kew way back in 1898. It’s reported that they were asked to wear the same clothes as men (dour woollen bloomers) so they wouldn't ‘distract’ their male colleagues.  

 

RBG Kew staff photograph from 1916 by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

First World War

By 1902, the women gardeners had left Kew to work elsewhere. 
Then in 1914, the First World War broke out. Men from all walks of life joined the war effort and staff at Kew were no exception. Women were employed to replace male staff members.

Women at Kew by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Women horticulturists were given jobs initially for the upkeep of the Herbaceous Grounds, Rock Gardens and Flower Gardens. More women were employed to work in the glasshouses later. 

Women at Kew during the Second World War by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Second World War

After an interval of about 20 years, women were once again employed at Kew during the Second World War. In 1940, 14 women took staff jobs followed by 13 more the next year. 

Women working in the Rock Garden by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Most of the women from this small yet trailblazing group had trained with Kew earlier. A few others joined via the Auxiliary Territorial Services and the Women's Land Army.

Women gardeners put on their clogs ready for work, Second World War by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Wearing the 'battledress'

The women referred to their uniform which consisted of an apron and clogs as 'battledress'. The clogs were wooden-soled shoes with leather uppers. 

Women pruning trees at Kew by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Paving the way for women

These pioneering women paved the way for more female gardeners to enter the profession. We have a long way to go in this journey, but we welcome talented people from all backgrounds to be a part of our team at Kew.

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