Women’s History and the Language of Flowers


Since March is Women’s History Month, I thought it only fitting to write about some famous women among the flowers.

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Charlotte de Latour’s Le Langage des Fleurs in December 1819, was the beginning of the great proliferation of books about the Language of Flowers.

In fact, Latour’s book stimulated the publishing industry especially in France, England, and America, and also in Belgium, Germany and other European countries as well as in South America as Publishers from these countries produced hundreds of editions of language of flowers books during the nineteenth century. During its peak in America, the language of flowers attracted the attention of the most popular women writers and editors of the day, many of which are represented in the American floral dictionary.  

They include: 

Sarah Josepha Hale (best known for her poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” published in 1830 in her book Poems for Our Children.) edited Flora’s Interpreter in 1832 which continued in print through the 1860’s. Hale was also the editor of the Ladies’ Magazine in Boston from 1828 to 1836 and co-editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most widely read periodical in the United States from 1837 to 1877.

Catharine H. Waterman Esling wrote a long poem titled, “The Language of Flowers” which first appeared in 1839 in her own language of flowers book, Flora’s Lexicon. Lucy Hooper, an editor, novelist, poet, and playwright, included several of her flower poems in The Lady’s Book of Flowers and Poetry, first published in 1841.

Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet and friend of Edgar Allen Poe, first published The Poetry of Flowers and Flowers of Poetry in 1841. 

Sarah Carter Edgarton Mayo, author of several flower books, was associate editor of the Universalist monthly, The Ladies’ Repository in Boston from 1839 to 1842. Her language of flowers book, The Flower Vase, was first published in 1844.  

Caroline Matilda Kirkland,  wrote Poetry of Flowers , first published in 1848 continued to be in print at least until 1886. One of the more comprehensive books, its 522 pages contained an extensive dictionary and numerous flower poems. 

Source: Flowers, the Angels’ Alphabet : The Language and Poetry of Flowers by Susan Loy

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