This year’s Chelsea Flower Show has celebrated eight ‘Heroines of Horticulture,’ among them the Indian scientist Dr. Janaki Ammal, who struggled against the odds and especially male prejudice to make their mark.
Ammal, who was born in Kerala in south India in 1897, did cutting-edge research at RHS Wisley in Surrey from 1946-51 and was one of the leading botanists of her time. Magnolia kobus ‘Janaki Ammal’ is named in her honor.
As a young woman, she flourished only after she was forced to leave India, where her less-talented male colleagues would not allow her to rise. In marked contrast, in the UK, she was headhunted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
The RHS, which was founded in 1804 and had been putting on the Chelsea Flower Show for 101 years, felt that women were struggling to get recognition in the higher reaches of the profession. So this year, its director-general, Clare Matterson, decided to do something to correct the inequality that has long existed.
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