Who was Maria Louisa (Tallant) Owen?

Maria L. Owen, 1901. P6603.

Maria Louisa (Tallant) Owen (1825–1913) was one of New England’s foremost botanists. Born on Nantucket, she taught school before marrying Dr. Varillas Owen in 1853 and moving to Springfield, Mass.

In her youth she began studying Nantucket’s plants, and in later life she visited the island during summers and continued her work, leading to the publication in 1888 of her book A Catalogue of Plants Growing without Cultivation in the County of Nantucket, Mass., the first systemic study of the island’s flowering plants. In the book, her entry for description of Barbarea vulgarus notes:

“First reported in 1883 by Mrs. Harriet Peirce, who noticed it as something new in a yard in Pearl St. opposite her sitting-room window, and at the age of eighty-nine no longer able to walk to it, sent a boy to get it for her.”

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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