WYSK: Scotland’s Botanical Babe, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Elizabeth Blackwell

In this WYSK, let me introduce you to one hella determined Scottish artist. Her story is inspiring and wild, and her hard work as a successful illustrator in the 1700’s is definitely worth the read. This is the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, Scotland’s botanical babe.

Elizabeth Blachrie was born some time in the early 1700s, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her father was a successful merchant, and she lived a relatively comfortable life; she was trained as an artist, and had a real talent for creating beautiful illustrations.

There’s not much written about Elizabeth’s early life, but her story picks up when she secretly marries her second cousin, Alexander Blackwell. Blackwell was an educated man, who ran a medical practice in Aberdeen, where he worked as a doctor – despite having no medical training. The couple stayed in Aberdeen while this questionable business was operating, but when Alexander’s qualifications were challenged, he and Elizabeth packed their things and moved over 500 miles away, to London.

Arriving in London, Alexander became associated with a publishing firm, and the couple began a new life together; enjoying luxuries, becoming parents to a son and daughter, William and Ann, and experiencing family life in the capital. Things seemed pretty good for the Blackwell’s.

With a little experience gained in the publishers, Alexander decided to set up his own business – neglecting the fact publishers had to have four years training and belong to a guild before they could trade. He was heavily fined by local authorities for flouting the rules, and between the penalties and his lavish spending, the Blackwell’s found themselves heavily in debt. The publishing business was closed down, and Alexander was sent to a debtor’s prison.

Desperate and essentially destitute, with her two children to take care of, Elizabeth found herself in dire straits. By a stroke of fate, she came across a physician’s book, which described and depicted plants from the New World and their medicinal properties. She had an idea, so crazy it just might work.

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La Loba, Inside All of Us; Sunday reading recommendations.

It’s Sunday! My favourite day of the week to relax in my PJs and read a book in bed. Since it’s my favourite day, I thought I’d share an excerpt from one of my favourite books, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s a collection of myths and legends from around the world, focusing on women, wilderness and nature, and how a parallel exists between them. An essential piece of literature for anyone interested in folklore and feminism, this book made an impact on my life several years ago, and to this day I often think about how we can all live our lives a little bit more like a Wolf Woman. If you enjoy the excerpt, you can find a PDF copy here, or you can buy the book (ebook and hardback) on Amazon and Kobo, linked below. Happy Sunday Haggis Friends!

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Tattooed ladies: Victorian society’s quiet love affair with body art.

Tattoo culture is so mainstream now, that it’s a bit of a task to find someone who doesn’t have one – men or women. Once seen as something predominantly masculine, today we regularly see women (myself included) with ink – but this isn’t something exclusively 90’s-2000’s. In fact, tattoos were relatively popular in the upper echelons of Victorian Society’s ladies, who used body art to become “more fascinating”.

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Isabella MacDuff: The Badass Countess of Buchan

Scotland is a country steeped in incredible history and mystical stories, although it’s perhaps most famous for its centuries-long struggle against England in its fight for independence.

Hollywood has touched on the stories of our heroes and kings (see; Mel Gibson’s borderline offensive accent and face paint, Chris Pine looking like a frozen snotter in a boat), however the women who fought for freedom alongside them are too often forgotten.

Take for example, the Countess of Buchan – a woman who rebelled against her sympathetic husband and in-laws, turned her back on her own family by taking a stand for Scottish Independence and single-handedly legitimized the crowning of King Robert the Bruce, before facing a nightmarish fate at the hands of the English. This is her story.

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