Ynés Mexía, Late-Blooming Mexican-American Botanist

Pioneer in the Fight to Preserve Northern California’s Majestic Redwood Forests

A section of California Red Woods and botanist Ynés Mexía
Aside from her pioneering work to save the California Redwoods, Ynés Mexía traveled North and South America amassing a collection of plant specimens still used by scientists today.

One of the most successful botanists and female plant collectors of her time, Ynés Mexía didn’t begin her career until age 55. Assertive, brave, and not afraid to knock the stereotypes of racism, sexism and ageism on their heads, she was remarkable not just for the number of specimens she collected, but for the number of miles she traveled to collect them.

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The Woman Behind Granny Smith Apples: Maria Ann Smith

Her Legacy is the Third Most Popular Apple in America

Maria Ann Smith, a.k.a. Granny Smith with apples
In the mid-19th century, British emigrant to Australia Maria Ann Sherwood Smith was operating a family farm when she discovered a very crisp, very tasty green apple that she cultivated and began selling in the local market. Her product became known as the “Granny Smith” apple and went on to become one of the world’s most popular fruits.

Saying something is “as American as apple pie” might work if we’re talking baseball, blue jeans or rock ‘n’ roll. But the story behind one of America’s favorite pies — and one of our most beloved baking apples — isn’t American at all. It began almost 10,000 miles away, in a compost heap near a kitchen just outside Sydney, Australia, with an orchardist named Maria Ann Sherwood Smith. Today we know her as Granny Smith.

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Gertrude Benham: First Woman to Summit Mount Kilimanjaro

Early 20th Century Mountaineer Received Little Credit for Her Exploits

A long view of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.
The first female climber to reach the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Gertrude Benham should have been included in the record books, but few histories of Kilimanjaro even mention her name.

It was a classic case of “anything you can do, I can do better,” set in the magnificent Canadian Rockies in 1904 when Gertrude “Truda” Benham, at 36, set out to satisfy her wanderlust by climbing as many Rocky Mountain peaks as she could before summer’s end.

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A Legend of the Appalachian Trail She Helped Save: Emma Gatewood

Her first effort to conquer the Appalachian Trail was a failure that taught her lessons that brought her success as the first woman to ever accomplish the feat.

When, one hot day in July of 1954, Emma Gatewood told her grown kids she was “going for a walk,” she left out a few details. She expected the walk would take her from Maine to Georgia, cover 2,108.5 miles and go through 14 states.

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Rosalie Edge: Champion of Women’s Suffrage and Environmental Activism

Rosalie Edge at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Rosalie Edge was one of the most active and effective conservationists of the 20th century, with a particular interest in protecting wild birds from mass killings by agricultural and industrial interests.

If visitors to New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the Spring of 2018 felt the ground shift a little beneath their feet, it was probably just Mabel Rosalie Barrow Edge — once known as America’s most militant conservationist — rolling in her grave.

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Elizabeth Coleman White: Blueberry Queen of the Jersey Pines

Elizabeth Coleman White picking blueberries in 1920.
In the second decade of the 20th century, New Jersey Pinelands farmer Elizabeth Coleman White was the first to cultivate the blueberry on a commercial scale. Today, the U.S. industry she launched annually harvests 690 million pounds of berries from across half a million planted acres.

Hammonton, New Jersey, is the Blueberry Capital of the Garden State. Once upon a time, sixteen-year-old Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway was crowned Blueberry Pageant Princess. And we all know Fats Domino found his thrill on Blueberry Hill. But were it not for Elizabeth Coleman White, none of that would have happened.

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