Her Natural History: A Celebration of Women in Natural History

Her Natural History

Illustrations in this graphic by female scientific illustrators. Left to right: Maud Horman Fisher (Aid to the Identification of Insects, v. 2, 1882-90); Louise-Cécile Descamps-Sabouret (Revue Horticole, 1899); Emma Kissling (Poissons provenant des campagnes du yacht Princesse-Alice, 1911); Frances Reed (Illustrations of British mycology, ser. 1, 1847).

Women have made remarkable contributions to biodiversity research. From collecting specimens and serving as scientific illustrators to conducting and publishing research, authoring natural history books, and more, women have overcome many social and cultural obstacles and gender barriers to help further our understanding of the natural world. While the work of many remained unacknowledged or under-appreciated during their lifetimes, mounting initiatives to encourage and support women in the sciences have facilitated a growing recognition of the achievements of women in natural history — both past and present.

This Women’s History Month, we are excited to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women to natural history through an international social media campaign produced in collaboration with our partners — Her Natural History: A Celebration of Women in Natural History.

Kicking-off with an all-day social media blitz today, 8 March 2019 (International Women’s Day,) and continuing throughout the month, Her Natural History aims to increase awareness of and information about women in the biodiversity sciences.

Join the campaign by following #HerNaturalHistory on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and using the hashtag to share stories, collections, publications, artworks, archival materials, exhibits, and other resources highlighting women and their contributions to natural history. #HerNaturalHistory is also the #LibrariesOfInstagram challenge topic for March.

In addition to social media posts, BHL and our partners will be producing a series of blog posts, Facebook Live events, and citizen science opportunities throughout the month. We’ll also be highlighting women in the BHL collection with our Women in Natural History Book and Female Illustrators Flickr Collections, featuring publications, archival materials, and illustrations by female naturalists and artists.

Learn more about women in natural history and explore our campaign content and programming in the sections below. Visit the Her Natural History webpage for more information. We look forward to celebrating #HerNaturalHistory with you this month!

Her Natural History: Campaign Content and Programming


Social Media and Blog Posts

Women in Natural History Book and Image Collections

Facebook Live Events

Facebook Live: Maria Martin.
Presented by Field Museum.
Join Chief Curiosity Correspondent Emily Graslie in the Rare Books Room at the Field Museum with Field Librarians Gretchen Rings and Diana Duncan to explore the work of Maria Martin, one of the background painters for Audubon’s Bird’s of America.
When? Friday, 8 March 2019 at 11:00am ET
Where? Event Recording

A Curious Herbal Facebook Live.
Presented by Oak Spring Garden Foundation.
Go behind-the-scenes at Oak Spring Garden Library to explore Elizabeth Blackwell’s groundbreaking illustrated work on medical plants, A Curious Herbal. The Library has several printed editions of the work as well as 73 of the original manuscript paintings Blackwell did for the book.
When? Friday, 8 March 2019 at 2:00pm ET
Where? Event Recording

NYBG #HerNaturalHistory Live.
Presented by The New York Botanical Garden.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at some original botanical art, herbarium specimens, published works, manuscripts, and photographs by women in the natural sciences when The New York Botanical Garden goes behind-the-scenes in their Library & Herbarium.
When? Tuesday, 12 March 2019 at 12:30pm ET
Where? Event Recording

The Art & Life of Elizabeth Gould.
Presented by Smithsonian Libraries.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Natural History Rare Book Library at the Smithsonian Libraries as staff explore a selection of works by natural history illustrator Elizabeth Gould.
When? Friday, 22 March 2019 at 1:00pm ET
Where? Event Recording

NYBG’s #HerNaturalHistory in the Lab.
Presented by The New York Botanical Garden.
Join NYBG staff on Facebook to explore the work of some of the women scientists who devoted their lives to the study of plants. Viewers will have the chance to see scientific tools, microscope slides, preserved specimens, and published works shared in the Biodiversity Heritage Library by these outstanding women in botany.
When? Thursday, 28 March 2019 at 12:30pm ET
Where? Event Recording

Maria Sibylla Merian Facebook Live.
Presented by Oak Spring Garden Foundation.
April 2nd is 17th Century artist and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian’s birthday! Join the Oak Spring Garden Library by Facebook Live for a talk with Merian scholar Kay Etheridge about Merian’s work, influences, and the intersection of art and science.
When? Tuesday, 2 April 2019 at 1pm ET
Where? Event Recording

Citizen Science Opportunities

Women in Natural History Wikipedia Editing Workshop
Join us for the Women in Natural History Wikipedia Editing Workshop hosted by the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Smithsonian Libraries with support from Wikimedia DC. With the help of experienced Wikipedians, attendees will learn to edit Wikipedia and improve or create Wikipedia articles related to women in natural history, drawing on the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s free and extensive online collections as source materials. No editing experience is necessary.

When? 13 March 2019, 10am – 2pm ET
Where? In-person at Smithsonian Libraries (National Museum of Natural History Library, Washington, D.C.) and remotely

Registration Required:

More Information: Wikipedia Event Page

Attending in person? Laptops are required. Please bring your own. Wikimedia has two laptops to loan. Reserve one by emailing info@wikimediadc.org. This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so register today. Lunch will be provided.

Attending remotely? There will be an option to participate in the editing workshop remotely. For remote participants, the workshop will be live-streamed via YouTube Live here: https://s.si.edu/NHWomenWikiLive. Be sure to register to attend remotely

Transcription Challenge
Looking for a challenge? The Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Smithsonian Transcription Center are teaming up for a #HerNaturalHistory-themed transcription challenge. Beginning on 8 March, help a team of #volunpeers transcribe field notes from conservation biologist Devra Kleiman and botanist Cleofé Calderón. Dive into observations of golden lion tamarins with Kleiman, who worked at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park from 1972 to 2001. And head to South America with Calderón to collect grasses for Smithsonian’s Department of Botany.

Citizen Science at The New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden will be hosting two citizen science events around #HerNaturalHistory.

  • #HerNaturalHistory Flickr Workshop
    • When? 12 March, 2-4pm ET
    • Where? The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden
    • What? Would you like to make information about female artists and scientific illustrators more open and accessible to the world? Come to this workshop in the NYBG Library to transcribe text from illustrations that the Mertz Library has contributed to the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s collection.
    • RSVP here
  • #HerNaturalHistory — Editing Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons
    • When? 13 March, 11am-5pm ET
    • Where? The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden
    • What? Help create and enhance information in Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons related to the theme of Women in Natural History.
    • More information


Data USA. 2016. “Gender Composition.” Biological Scientists. Accessed on 12 February 2019. https://datausa.io/profile/soc/191020/#demographics.

Hart, Andrea. 2014. Images of Nature: Women Artists. London: Natural History Museum.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science. 2019. “About.” https://womeninscienceday.org/WISID_WP/about/.

S. L. Eddy, S. E. Brownell, M. P. Wenderoth. Gender Gaps in Achievement and Participation in Multiple Introductory Biology Classrooms. Cell Biology Education, 2014; 13 (3): 478 DOI: 10.1187/cbe.13-10-0204

Yong, Ed. 2019. The Women Who Contributed to Science but Were Buried in Footnotes. The Atlantic, February 11. Accessed on 12 February 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/womens-history-in-science-hidden-footnotes/582472/.

Avatar for Grace Costantino
Written by

Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.